Teenage golfer Rayhan Thomas to compete at Indian Open

golf icon 520New Delhi: Dubai-based Indian amateur golfer Rayhan Thomas will get his first taste of a pro tournament in his homeland when he tees off at the Hero Indian Open next month in Gurugram.

The 17-year-old, who is the highest ranked Indian amateur in the world at No.94, is one of the four amateurs who have been given a spot in the National Open, the Hero Indian Open 2017.

Apart from Rayhan Thomas, the Indian Golf Union (IGU) has given its other three spots to US-based Rigel Fernandes, Yuvraj Sandhu and Yashas Chandra, all of whom are in their 20s.

The tournament will be held from March 9 to 12, with an enhanced prize purse of $1.75 million and, for the first time, will be held at the challenging Gary Player layout at the DLF Golf and Country Club.

"It is a dream come true for me," said Thomas, who recently teed off at the Dubai Desert Classic and made the cut whilst playing alongside some of the biggest names in the game.

He played the first two rounds in the company of two Indian Open champions, the 2015 winner Anirban Lahiri and 2016 champion S.S.P. Chawrasia. Both of them had high praise for the young Indian.

In 2016, Rayhan also won a professional tournament in the Middle East on the MENA Tour, whilst playing as an amateur. He was in Top-10 in four other events and that helped him break into Top-100 of the World Amateur rankings.

Among the three other amateurs who have been given spots, Fernandes is studying in an American university. Fernandes, 20, who grew up in Dubai and is now pursuing a degree at the University of South Florida while playing golf, was also very excited about coming to India for the Hero Indian Open 2017.

"I have always wanted to play this tournament and it is indeed something I am looking forward to it," said Fernandes.

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Both Thomas and Fernandes were part of the Indian team that played at the 2016 Asian Amateur Championships in Incheon, South Korea.

The other two Indian amateurs to feature at the Hero Indian Open 2017 are Yuvraj Sandhu, 20, and Yashas Chandra, 22.

All the top Indians and World No. 25 Rafa Cabrera-Bello will be seen in action at the Hero Indian Open 2017, India's biggest golfing event, which is now in its third year on the European Tour and is co-sanctioned with the Asian tour.