RIYADH: CHITO P. MANUEL
Published — Saturday 8 December 2012
Last update 7 December 2012 11:38 pm
Already a legend in this part of the golf world, Nasser Yacoub reminded everyone he is not done yet at 50 when he successfully defended his title in the 4th Saudi Oger Amateur Golf Championship 2012 at Dirab Golf & Country Club.
Yacoub's victory came little more than a week after the Bahraini golf star won the individual trophy in the Pan-Arab Championship in his home country to add to his long list of achievements in both the GCC and Arab levels.
On an overcast windless day Yacoub closed with a 3-over 75 for a two-day winning total of 146. He shot a 1-under 71 on the first day of the 36-hole competition where prizes had been scaled down to fifth place for Best Gross and Best Net and a junior division was added to attract young Saudi players.
"I would love to be back next year God-willing and defend my title," said Yacoub after his decisive victory.
First round leader Yacoub was chased all day by 2009 winner Korean taekwondo master M. S. Kim but it turned out Yacoub had not been challenged at all as Kim was deemed to have lost his amateur status when he competed in the American Express-Dirab Golf Championship that was part of the professional MENA Tour last October and therefore not eligible to win a prize.
In this scenario a playoff was no longer required although Kim tied Yacoub for first place with a level par 72 at the end of yesterday's second round when the Bahraini bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes.
With none from the rest of those in the leaderboard unable to mount a final day charge the tournament became a virtual match play, albeit moot and academic, between Yacoub and Kim.
Three down at the start of the day, Kim put pressure on Yacoub when he closed to within one after Yacoub missed a par putt from 5 feet and Kim had his birdie try slid past the No. 6 hole.
Kim had a chance to tie when his up-and-down on 8 after a monster drive rested inches of the cup but Yacoub responded, sinking a 30-footer for birdie following a great recovery shot from under a tree just off the fairway on the right.
The veteran Korean golfer cashed in on his second chance on the par 5 9th. He hit his third shot to eight feet and made the birdie putt while Yacoub two putted from 30 feet for par.
The two players were tied until Yacoub regained a two-stroke cushion after Kim bogeyed 12 and 13, a 550-yard par 5 hole, where he mishit his second shot and the ball landed on the rough to the right. He then hit out and chipped only to miss a four-four putt.
A distant second in the Best Gross category was another Bahraini, Khaled S. Al Aathem, who added a 76 to a first round score of 77 for a 153 total. One stroke back in third place was Saudi national team player Abdulrahaman Almansour, who totaled 154 after a 79 yesterday. Rounding out the first five winners were Mohammad Alnami 156 (79-77) and Morgan Mead 157 (74-83).
Winning first place in the Best Net category was Rahna Irfan Mahmood on 144 (74-70). Second place went to Moroccan Dr. Hanfi 145 (74-71) on countback, third to Richard Salisbury 145 (65-80), fourth to New Zealander Julian Bennett 146 (72-74) and fifth to Alistair McIlroy 146 (70-76).
After posting the shot of the day, eagle two on No. 6, Thursday 14-year old Filipino, Christer "Rem" Sibug, made up 10 shots on the final day to win the Junior Division crown on 140 (75-65). Kim's son Jan Han took second place on 146 (66-80) and Saudi Saud Abdullah was third on 155 (74-81).
Winners in the Ladies Division were Mi Jung Yoo 140 (73-67), Claire Watts 151 (71-80) and Liz Kennedy 152 (75-77).
Also awarded were special prizes for men's and ladies longest drive Nabeel Mohammmed (first and final day) Sile McIlroy (first day) and Liz Kennedy (second day), and closest to pin Hamad Al Aathem (first day) and Sonny Acance (second day).
Khaled Abunayyan, president of Saudi Golf Federation and owner of Dirab golf course, Saudi Oger Ltd. Vice chairman Sheikh Ouday Al Shaikh, and Nasser Uddin Siddiqui, chairman Dirab Golf Committee, attended the prize distribution ceremony.