Michael Fitzpatrick Straight From Airport To Golf Course & Near To Top At Al Badia.

Former US Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick went straight from Dubai Airport to the Al Badia Golf Course and then to near the top of the leader board in his maiden MENA Tour event.

The Sheffield-born Fitzpatrick had come from finishing eighth in the European Challenge Tour’s 10th anniversary Kazakhstan Open to arrive in the UAE just hours before his tee time.

However Fitzpatrick shrugged off any jet lag igns of panic as he opened with a solid one-under-par 71 at the Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open.  It left the Englishman four shots adrift of leaders Jake Shepherd of England, Paul Doherty of Scotland and Spain’s Patrick Simard, who all shot matching five-under 67s on a hot and humid day.

“I have come here with the sole purpose of enjoying my golf which I did today,” said Fitzpatrick.  “The weather was nice, though it was a bit warm out there. The course is really nice.”

England's Matthew Fitzpatrick teeing off in his first MENA Tour event earlier today at Al Badia GC in Dubai.

England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick teeing off in his first MENA Tour event earlier today at Al Badia GC in Dubai.

Fitzpatrick had become the first golfer since Bobby Jones in 1930 to concurrently hold the low amateur medals for the Open Championship and US Open.

“I started off pretty well, going three under after five holes, but four-putted the par-3, 11th but then I didn’t hole that many putts as I would have liked to. On the whole, I enjoyed my day,” said the Englishman, who birdied the 18th.

Defending champion Zane Scotland, who was paired with Fitzpatrick, returned a level par.

“It was quite boring out there, just one bogey and one birdie and that says it all,” said Scotland.

An eagle finish propelled Al Musharrekh to the top of the tree at two-under 70 in the MENA Division for the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundations Award, which recognises the performance of the top three region’s professionals and amateurs from their respective divisions in each event.

The UAE’s only professional, who made a confident birdie-birdie start, double-bogeyed the par-5 fifth, but ended the round with a flourish, hitting his 3-wood approach on the 18th 256 yards to about 15 feet from cup and holed the long eagle putt without any fuss.

“That 3-wood was probably the best shot I ever struck in a MENA Golf Tour event. Though I did drop some shots midway through my round, overall, I played really well and feeling quite confident heading into the second round,” said Al Musharrekh who finished in a tie for 14th at last week’s Dubai Creek Open.

The Moroccan duo of Faycal Serghini and Ahmed Marjan shot an identical level to share the second place in the MENA Division, one shot ahead of compatriot Younes El Hassani.

Elsewhere, the winner of last week’s Dubai Creek Open, Luke Joy, carded a bogey-free 70 and Joshua White, the current Order of Merit leader, settled for a 73 while Wales’ Stephen Dodd, a two-time winner on the MENA Golf Tour, slipped to five-over 77.

Meanwhile, a golf a clinic for young enthusiasts was held at the Driving Range of Al Badia Golf, featuring instructions and exhibitions by leading MENA Golf Tour professionals which included James Housby (England), Tyler Hogarty (South Africa) and Ahmed-Reda Rhazali (Morocco).

Leading first round scores (par 72):-

67 – Jake Shepherd (England), Paul Doherty (Scotland), Patrick Simard (Spain)

68 – Gary Munro (England), Bernhard Neumann (Germany)

69 – Yasin Ali (England)

70 – Ahmed Al Musharrekh (UAE), Stuart Archibald (England), Danie Pretorius (South Africa), Luke Joy (England), Ben Williams (New Zealand), Jeremy Kavanagh (England), Aaron Leitmannstetter (Germany)

71 – Cyril Suk (Czech Republic), Fraser McKenna (Scotland), Jose Bondia Gil (Spain), Mathew Fitzpatrick (England), Purna Sharma (Nepal)

70 – Michael Harradine (amateur-Switzerland), Ahmed Marjan (Morocco), Faycal Serghini (Morocco), Lee Corfield (England), Santiago Puigmoltó (Spain), Chris McDonnell (England), Zane Scotland (England), Roberto Rodriguez Cacho (Mexico)

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