When Rayhan Thomas tees it up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic this month at Emirates Golf Club, don’t expect the 18-year-old amateur to be overwhelmed. He’s quite the confident kid.
“I have as much confidence as the best player in the world, that’s for sure,” Thomas said. “I don’t show it, but I do.”
The self-belief is understandable. Thomas already has a considerable resume in professional events.
Born in India but a resident of Dubai, Thomas finished T-60 last year at Emirates and has played four times on the European Tour. His most impressive accomplishments against the pros, though, have come on the Mena Tour, which stages events in the Middle East and North Africa and which Thomas has played since he was 13.
Thomas first turned heads in 2016 when, at 16 years old, he won the Dubai Creek Open, one of his five top-10s on the Mena Tour that year. Last September he was T-2 in his title defense at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club (Thomas’ home course since 2014), making more headlines by rattling off nine consecutive birdies in a second-round, 10-under 61. That tied a record in Official World Golf Ranking events that was previously set by Mark Calcavecchia at the 2009 Canadian Open.
“Rayhan is a huge talent, obviously,” said 2011 British Open winner Darren Clarke, who teed it up with Thomas that day. “The way he was playing, this is the worst he could have shot. … Rayhan’s game is trending in the right direction, and I think he has a great future ahead of him.”
Thomas’ gifted ballstriking – his iron play and driving are unmatched by most of his peers – and strong body long have caught the attention of college coaches. It’s not uncommon for an international talent of Thomas’ quality to skip college and turn pro. But Thomas, who is home-schooled, reiterated to Golfweek last year at Sage Valley that he wants to go to college. (His sister, Sasha, attends Cal.) Last month Thomas decided where he will play college golf: Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys, ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, are loaded with talent but are set to lose several notable players before Thomas is tentatively scheduled to enroll in Fall 2019, including Kristoffer Ventura, Zach Bauchou and Hayden Wood.
Thomas, who also was a semifinalist at last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur, is ranked 19th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. By the time he arrives in Stillwater, that impressive resume is likely to be even more remarkable.
While confident, Thomas is also grounded.
“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself and put too much pressure (on myself),” Thomas told Livemint, an Indian website. “I’ll just try to play the best golf I can, and if that gets me on to the first tee at the Masters, that’s good.” Gwk