Dubai-born golfer Rayhan Thomas (Ind) started his campaign in the $2 million International Series – Morocco on the Asian Tour with a four under par 69. The 24-year-old, who is competing on an invitation, plans to return to Dubai after the event to finalize his US visa requirements. Rayhan recently concluded his golf scholarship at Oklahoma University and participated in the PGA Tour of Americas Qualifying School, securing a conditional status card, and a Korn Ferry Tour event where he successfully made the cut, turning professional on June 1st.

Beginning his round on hole 10, Rayhan recorded just one bogey on hole 14. He scored birdies on holes 12 and 15, followed by an impressive eagle on the par four 17th hole, which measures 287 yards. Maintaining a steady performance off the tee, Thomas parred his way through the remaining holes after his final birdie on hole 1, expressing satisfaction with his performance, which left him three strokes behind the leaders.

“I felt pretty good out there, I drove the ball well and took my opportunities when I had them,” Rayhan shared with Khaleej Times after his round. “I did all the basics very well, and I kept everything in front of me which was nice. I felt good, I have been seeing some real progress over the last couple of months and it was great to go out there and shoot a decent number. I did (leave a few behind) but for the best part I got a lot out of my round and I am pretty happy with it overall.

Rayhan acknowledges that he won’t alter his strategy significantly for the second round. “Pick good targets and be aggressive, and wherever the ball goes, it goes,” he stated. “Hopefully I can keep playing the way I’m playing, make some birdies and hopefully have a chance on Sunday.” Rayhan achieved 14 of 18 greens in regulation with 29 putts. Leading the field are John Catlin (US), the current leader of the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, and New Zealand’s rising star Kazuma Kobori, both shooting seven under-par 66’s.

Earlier in the week, Rayhan expressed his excitement: “It’s great to have the opportunity to play with these guys for bigger purses. I think all professional golfers are always grateful for the opportunity to play for a bigger purse. The Asian Tour’s International Series is a great addition and I also think it brings in a lot of players from the west and east who really want to play and get into these events.

“College golf right now is as competitive as it’s ever been,” Rayhan added. “To be able to put myself in that position was huge and I learned a lot from Oklahoma State and the team. It’s been great for my golf game. “It’s a lot of fun to be able to compete against guys that have such big resumes. It will be good to see how I stack up against them and work out what I need to get better at,” he continued. “I haven’t played the course before - it’s a fantastic golf course that offers a great test. I think it’s a ball-striking paradise, so you’ve got to drive it well and hit your irons well to leave yourself in the right spot on the putting greens as they’re pretty tough as well.” The defending champion Jazz Janewattananond from Thailand fired a 73 with Dubai Golfen Visa recipient Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind), on 70. This week’s event is the eighth of the season on the Asian Tour and the third of 10 stops on The International Series.