The Gulf Club

Junior redevelopment

Rayhan Thomas reminisces as the Al Naboodah Trophy is revived

By Kent Gray
The Omega Dubai Desert Classic mightn’t have gone exactly to plan for Rayhan Thomas but that he got to peg it up in the European Tour event at all has a lot to do with the Al Naboodah Trophy.

The UAE PGA par-3 junior series has been revived after a seven-year hiatus courtesy of a collective of five clubs and Thomas, as the two-time defending champion from the last edition in 2011, was on hand at Arabian Ranches for the re-launch.

“When I was growing up the Al Naboodah was the biggest thing going around for us juniors,” said the 18-year-old teen who missed the Desert Classic cut at Emirates G.C. but savoured the consolation prize of a practice round with eventual runner-up Rory McIlroy.

“I remember we’d all carpool and get to Al Ain and to Ras Al Khaimah and try to play all these par 3 events. It’ll start with one hour practice sessions before the round and was just very intense, a great atmosphere to be around playing competitive golf. I think competition is just the biggest thing you can do for experience. To put yourself in pressure situations even at that young age, we took it very seriously but it was also a great amount of fun, and I think it was a huge pillar in my game right now to have that type of competition at an early age.”

Malcolm Young (Arabian Ranches), Luke Plump (UAE PGA), Sven Nielsen (Trump Dubai), Jack Woods (Dubai Creek), Jonathan Craddock (Emirates G.C.) and Fraser McGlashan (Al Ain) have taken it upon themselves, with the backing of their respective clubs, to develop the next generation.

Five events on the region’s perfectly suited par 3 courses will make up the series, opening at Trump on Feb. 24. Thereafter Al Ain (March 16 or 17, TBC), Arabian Ranches (April 7) and Dubai Creek (April 28) will host the tournaments before the grand final at Emirates G.C. on May 12.

The strokeplay events are open to “par 3 ready” juniors up to the age of 16 (there will be two divisions) and the Al Naboodah Trophy has been dusted off for the timely resurgence of the series. More than 115 players registered for the last series in 2011 and Young is hopeful the now clearer stepping stone between the junior development programmes at individual clubs to EGF Order of Merit events and beyond will entice even greater support.

“The ultimate goal would be to produce more golfers of the calibre of Rayhan Thomas,” said Young.

“The first series has produced a lot of juniors that are now in the higher levels of junior golf in the country and we’ve got two kids that are going to college in the U.S. already, as well as Rayhan of course. These were the first events they played in terms of proper competition at that development phase which is very important.”

Plumb also hopes to see the series grow.

“The reason we’re all here in the region is to grow the game and to grow golf,” said the Trump Dubai-based UAE PGA CEO. “The EGF obviously have a junior OOM on 18 hole courses but there’s nothing like this in the region that allows young aspiring players with no handicaps that are in the development programs to actually play competitive golf on par 3 courses. I think its a great platform for them to go onto junior order of merit, then on to order of merit and then to Dubai trophy and onwards.”


Kent Gray

Editor of Golf Digest Middle East. Has written about golf since 1989 and owned a suspect short game even longer.

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