KUWAIT CITY — Supremely accurate off the tee and clinical with the putter, young Robert MacIntyre held off a spirited challenge from England’s Luke Joy to land his first MENA Tour title at the Sahara Kuwait Golf Championship on Wednesday.
Playing in his very second event as a professional, the 21-year-old Scotsman closed with a tidy five-under 65 to reach 14-under for the tournament, beating Joy by two shots, the victory underlining his smooth transition into the paid ranks.
One behind at the start, MacIntyre caught fire on the back nine, picking up three birdies in a row after the making the turn at two-under as his challengers eventually faded, one after another.
Perennial contender Joy mixed four birdies with a bogey in his final round 67 that left the two-time MENA Tour winner alone in second place on 12-under for the second week in a row and sixth overall.
A shot further back was a four-man group consisting of overnight leader Stuart Archibald, Max Smith, Joshua White, all of England, and Scotland’s Daniel Hendry, one clear of the English duo Adam Sagar and Jordan Garnish.
It was MacIntyre, who showed maturity beyond his years to dominate the second edition of the event in Kuwait, making him the 12th first-time winner this season in a reflection of winds of change blowing at the MENA Tour.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish. Absolutely delighted with my efforts, a memorable week for me, indeed,” said the Scotsman after receiving the winner’s trophy from Yousef Abdulaziz Al Qatami and Wael Abdulrahman Al Welayti, both members of the Sahara Kuwait’s golf advisory committee.
“It’s a nice golf course with narrow fairways. You needed to be accurate off the tee and I drove the ball well all week, creating some good scoring opportunities. I holed putts when I needed to and that was the key to my success,” said MacIntyre, who became the fourth Scotsman after Paul Doherty, Clarke Lutton and David Law to win a MENA Tour event.
“I played golf the way as I used to as an amateur and never let the pressure of turning pro affect my game,” said MacIntyre who credited his coach David with all the hard work he put in, in honing his competitive edge.
“I was fun playing on the MENA Tour. The competition is great and so is the atmosphere and look forward to playing more events next season,” said MacIntyre, who is now 22-under for the last four rounds he has played on the MENA Tour.
England’s Todd Clements comfortably kept up his prime form to win the amateur division for the fifth time in a row on five-under 205, a good two shots ahead of Switzerland’s Dubai-based prodigy Michael Harradine, a stunning achievement virtually assuring him of the Order of Merit title.
Meanwhile, defending champion Joe Heraty produced a birdie-birdie finish to move into a four-way tie for 30th on level-par along with fellow Englishman Zane Scotland, a 10-time winner on the tour.
Elsewhere, Morocco’s Yassine Touhami finished a tie for 18th on three-under 207 after carding a final round 70, a good four strokes ahead of fellow countryman Ahmed Marjan as Saudi Arabia’s Othman Almulla settled for tied 48 after closing with a 73.
The MENA Tour will travel to Ajman for the first time for the $100,000 Tour Championship to be held at Al Zorah Golf Club from October 23 to 26. Featuring an exclusive field, the season-ending event will see the top 50 professionals and the 10 leading amateurs from their respective Orders of Merit vie for the honours in the 72-hole event.
An initiative of the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, the MENA Tour was created in 2011 with the aim of developing golf in the region. It is affiliated to R&A, the worldwide golf governing body based in the home of golf, St Andrews, and the Arab Golf Federation and enjoys the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) status.
A guaranteed spot on the PGA Tour’s 2018 DEAN & DELUCA Invitational (for the MENA Tour champion), multiple European Tour starts, including the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Hassan II Trophy, Maybank Championship Malaysia, and the KLM Open, are some of the added incentives that await MENA Tour members, in addition to playing privileges on the Sunshine Tour, and exemptions into the Final Stage of the Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour Q-Schools.