Troon International Division president Mark Chapleski, Al Zorah G.C. General Manager Phillip Henderson, MENA Tour chairman Mohamed Juma Buamaim, Sturehed, Al Zorah Business Development Manager Salim Fleyfal and Tour patron Darren Clarke at the Tour Championship prize-giving.
By Kent Gray
Henric Sturehed has been knocking on victory’s door for weeks and when he finally burst through Thursday, the view had exciting European, Asian and Sunshine Tour views.
The 27-year-old Swede waltz to a nine-stroke victory in the MENA Tour Championship at Al Zorah with a closing 69 to collect the circuit’s flagship title and the season’s richest cheque courtesy of an impressive -21 total.
The $18,000 took his season’s earnings to exactly two greenbacks over $30,000 and saw Sturehed leap-frog five places up to second in the order-of-merit behind champion Jamie Elson.
He’d started the working week almost certain of a place in the final stage of Sunshine Tour Q-School in South African and ended it with much more than a honking great pay cheque.
As well as a full card on the South African tour, Sturehed is now contemplating starts in January’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic and a second European Tour event, next September’s KLM Open at the Dutch. He also has a full Asian Development Tour card for 2018 but mightn’t need it – there’s also a free pass to the final stage of Asian Tour Q-School to consider.
“I’m absolutely delighted with my first win on the MENA Tour,” said Sturehed who became the the fourth Swede to win a MENA Tour event after Per Barth, Christofer Blomstrand and Fredrik From.
“I felt really comfortable out there, like I was in control of my game. It was my first season on the MENA Tour and I really enjoyed the whole experience. There are many good players out there and it was fun competing with them. I have made many new good friends and hope to return next year.”
Jake Shepherd, a two-time winner on the tour, went bogey-free in a closing six-under 66 to finish second at Al Zorah on -12, two clear of fellow Englishman Andrew Marshall and Adam Sagar.
Elson returned a level-par 72 to join fellow Englishmen Joe Heraty and Luke Joy in a three-way tie for fifth on -9, 279 , good enough for him to seal the prestigious Order of Merit title ahead of Sturehed.
As well as season earnings of $32,695, Elson becomes the first MENA Tour player to win a PGA Tour start at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational at Colonial C.C. in May after also teeing it up in the Desert Classic and the European Tour’s Trophee Hassan II in Morocco in April. The 36-year-old Englishman also has all the Sunshine, and full and developmental Asian Tour privileges as Sturehed to ponder.
In the final wash-up in Ajman, you had to feel for Luke Joy whose frustrating season – hampered by a bout of malaria contracted during the MENA Tour’s South African swing – ended in more disappointment.
By the equivalent of a measly $121, he dropped to third in the OOM which denies the Yas Links-attached Englishman and return to the KLM Open. Here’s hoping he makes hay at the Desert Classic after being DQ’d for innocently signing an incorrect score card last January. He also has full Sunshine Tour status for 2018 although the illness in Pretoria may make a Asian Development Tour pass more appealing.
Todd Clements, meanwhile, signed for a 68 to win the amateur division on -5 283 . It was the English Amateur Champion’s sixth successive title and saw him crowned runaway amateur OOM champion from Sam Hobday.