UAE duo make strong start at Abu Dhabi Challenge

Bradley Bawden, John Parry, Nicolai Kristensen and Sebastian Friedrichsen all posted seven under par rounds of 63 to share a one-shot lead heading into day two of the Abu Dhabi Challenge, with UAE duo Joshua Grenville-Wood and Rayan Ahmed hot on their tails.

Englishman Bawden carded four consecutive birdies in his opening five holes, before adding two more gains at the par four 16th and par five 18th to make the turn at six under par. Two birdies and a bogey on the back nine saw him finish the day in a tie for the lead.

“I’m very happy with my round today,” he said.

“I played particularly well this afternoon as the wind picked up and the greens were firm. It became trickier throughout the day but I was able to put the ball in the right spots and hole a few putts which was pleasing.

“I need to keep doing what I’m doing and following the same process. I’ve been working hard on trying to be consistent throughout tournaments and hopefully I can convert my good start and be successful this week.”

The leading quartet are one shot clear of eight players at six under par, including Grenville-Wood, who carded five consecutive birdies on the front nine, his back nine, as he seeks a maiden victory on the Challenge Tour.

“It was good out there today,” said Grenville-Wood.

“I got off to a pretty slow start to be fair, I had to scramble a lit bit at the first two holes, had some good lag putts and two putts to make par on those two.

“I just stayed patient, as I knew all the birdies were on the front nine, so I hung in there before making a really good birdie on 16 and then got things going on the front nine.

“I felt like I couldn’t miss with those five birdies in a row. I was hitting it so close; it was great.”

Two shots behind the UAE’s No.1 professional golfer is Ahmed, who won Individual Gold and Team Gold for the UAE at last month’s GCC Golf Championship.

The UAE Boys 18 & Under National Team player is playing on an invite from the Emirates Golf Federation, with the governing body of golf in the UAE receiving 30 invites courtesy of their long-term partnership with the European Tour group, which aims to develop golf in the UAE for at least the next decade.

The 17-year-old amateur seized the opportunity to its fullest, carding an impressive four under par 66 to sit just three shots off the lead in tied 24th.

“It doesn’t get much better than that, it was a great start,” said Ahmed, who shot a sublime 63 at this week’s host venue when playing the JAGA International Series last week.

“I was holing everything when I shot that 63 last week. I wasn’t holing as much today, but I was just trying to take it a hole at a time, I wasn’t thinking of previous rounds here.

“Obviously the course is playing longer, but as long as you play your game it doesn’t make a huge difference.

“I’ve gained some distance off the tee with my new driver, so I was matching the Challenge Tour guys off the tee, hitting an average of around 310 yards I think it would be fair to say.”

Ahmed was joined in the field by eight of his fellow UAE National Team peers, including the country’s No.1 amateur golfer, Ahmad Skaik, who was delighted to see more players representing the UAE in elite level tournaments.

 

“It’s really good,” said Skaik, who shot 74.

“A few years back I was the only player from the UAE playing in DP World Tour events, so it’s good to see other players from the country competing at this level.

“Having these invitations is a great way to help frow the game in the country, get more players competing and more eyes on UAE golf, which hopefully leads to even more support from organisations.”

Round two will get under way at 6:30am local time tomorrow, with Bawden set to tee it up at 8:20am alongside Norwegian Andreas Halvorsen and Irishman Ronan Mullarney, while Kristensen heads out at 1:10pm alongside Scotland’s Euan Walker and the Ireland’s Gary Hurley.

Golf fans are encouraged to come along to the Abu Dhabi Challenge and next week’s UAE Challenge, which are supported by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Arena, Phoenix Capital and Al Laith to see Ahmed, Grenville-Wood and the stars of tomorrow in action with entry free of charge and no ticket required.

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