RIYADH, 16 September 2005 — The British team took a 4-2 lead after the first day of the Saudi-British International Golf Challenge at the Dirab Golf Club course yesterday here.
Reinforced by players from the Preston Golf Club, Britain scored a near sweep of the morning four ball better ball matches to surge ahead as the pairs of long-hitting Clark Windross and Steve Bowden and James Paye-Gavin Southern scored decisive victories. In the afternoon foursomes, the inspirational pair of Ali Belhareth and Sattam Al-Gosaibi hammered out a massive 5 and 3 victory over the top-seeded duo of James Pye and Tony Cowperthwaite to put the Saudi national golf team back into the thick of the fight in the alternate shot event.
Pye, the top player from the visiting five-man team with a + 1 handicap, and Cowperthwaite were simply outplayed by the Saudi tandem. Al-Gosaibi carried the load of the day hitting birdies on the second and sixth holes that Belhareth set up to put them three holes up. They never looked back from there and closed out the match with a par on the 15th.
“We killed them. We just played our game despite the fact that were up against a very good tandem,” said the sweat-soaked Belhareth after the match. Al-Gosaibi, whose silky-smooth touch around the greens impressed Pye, highlighted the skillful display of shotmaking by both teams when he eagled the par-4 350 yards 12th.
After hitting a three-wood on the tee, Gosaibi was left with 130 yards to the hole. He pulled out a nine-iron and fired at the flag. The shot carried on the side of the fairway, the ball landing a few feet from the hole then disappearing into the cup for the eagle two.
Keith Alston and Gavin Southern leveled matters in the afternoon matches with a 3 and 2 victory over Al Al-Sahli and Faraj Shammiri before the last match of the day ended tied between Spence Hawthorn-Ron Thompson and Mohammad Al-Khaldi-Omar Hariri. The sides were even at 1.5-1.5 in the foursomes. Windross and Bowden got the ball rolling with a 4 and 3 triumph over Belhareth and Shammari. Paye and Southern then put away Al-Khaldi and Al-Gosaibi who made the eagle in this match that ended 3 and 2.
Al-Sahli, another promising Saudi player, and Hariri avoided a morning shutout for the hosts when they halved the match with Alston and Cowperthwaite. Two down going into today’s deciding six singles matches, Saudi Golf Committee Chairman and team patron Khaled Abunayyan was hopeful the team will recover and keep their perfect record at their home course.
“The pressure will be on the British. It’s gonna be an interesting final day tomorrow,” said Abunayyan. The dual contest is the fourth between the teams although the Saudis visited Preston Golf Club for a similar match in July this year. The Ryder Cup-style matchplay event is part of the government-to-government cooperation program in the field of sports signed in 1987.
Today’s final matches will enjoy a full video coverage by Noel A. Alipoyo of OR Madarat, an affiliate of Dubai Television as arranged by Dirab Golf and Recreation Center Golf Division Manager Bouchaib El-Jadiani.