Jordan’s AYLA Golf Championship

A new destination sees Jordan’s first ever Professional Golf Tournament…

This week saw the MENA tour head to Aqaba, Jordan for their very first Pro Golf tournament and what a tournament it turned out to be! It began with a chartered flight specifically for all the tour players from Dubai early last week, which was a cool start (it felt like being in the movie “War dogs”).  The week consisted of a par 3 tournament, a Pro-am (which I was lucky enough to play in), opening and closing dinners and a 3 day tournament.  Ayla proper went all out for this tournament and we were all looked after so well, they set the bar high as it would be great if each and every MENA tour event was like this.

So before we were heading to Jordan, I heard about a place called Petra.  I didn’t really know much about it until someone told me it was one of 7 wonders of the world.  We had to go visit it and thats exactly what we did.  As soon as we landed early in the morning on the first day, after maybe 3 hours sleep through the night, we dumped the bags at the hotel and got a local taxi guy to take us, me, James, Sam, Matt the yank and cheeseburger Eddy.  The journey was a couple of hours and we passed some cool places like Wadi Rum, which is where they filmed The Martian and some Star Wars Movies, the landscape was definitely like it was from another planet.

We got there and didn’t know really what to expect, I thought it was just an old building carved into a big rock and how wrong was I.  Matt and Eddy bought a couple of cowboy hats in true Indiana Jones fashion and we set off on the trail.  We rode horseback for the first 15 minutes which was cool and then walked through a huge gorge called The Siq which was amazing.  I was already starting to be blown away at how amazing this place was.  After another 25 minutes walk, the giant structure carved into the sandstone began to appear around the corner of the end of The Siq, it was called The Treasury.  I was well and truly mind blown.

Pictures and words just cannot do it justice.  Completely mesmerised.  We couldn’t get inside of it as it has been closed off since the 90s, when a local guy approached and offered to take us to a secret view.  This secret view was probably 500ft up and above The Treasury looking down.  We turned into rock climbers for the day and the local guy lead us off on a beaten path.  We had to scale and jump across canyons and up and down soft sandstone rocks.  Looking back, it wasn’t the cleverest thing to do just before a tournament but f*** it, were in Petra, one of the wonders of the World!! We reached the top and it looked like the guy lived there in a tented shelter hanging off the edge of this cliff.  I thrived off the adrenaline rush that we took to climb this thing but the view from the top was just break taking.  We stood next to the edge and took it all in for a good 20 minutes.  Truly mind blowing.

The task of climbing back down to get back on the trail seemed daunting, so he told us we could go another way;up and across the mountain side.  Our final destination was at the Monastery towards the end of the city and there was numerous ways we could get there.  He guided us for another 5 minutes even further up the mountain and told us to continue and follow the rocks.  Our adventure began, we were off the beaten path climbing probably for another 30 minutes until we reached the top and overlooked the whole ancient city.  It was just stunning, the fact that we had just climbed this mean feat on hardly any sleep to see such a sight was incredible.  We continued to hike and followed the trail back into civilisation, were the remains of the sculptures into the rock stayed so well preserved. Everywhere you looked was just amazing.  How people lived here was hard to believe but to create and build what they did over 2000 years ago is just insane.

We continued to hike up through the winding gorges and eventually reached the top to be met with another feat of amazement, the Monastery.  Another overpowering structure carved into the rock stood out in the desert sun.  We were knackered and sat down with some drinks to just take it all in.  It was cool to do this with a great bunch of lads but it was ever cooler that I could Skype my Dad and Janice from the top, technology these days haha.  I climbed a rock away from everyone and called them and showed them where I was.  It felt special to share a little glimpse of what I get to see and do with them as they have supported me so much the past year.  As the sun started to set we began the long walk back to the car.  In total we worked out from our phones we walked 18km and scaled 72 floors in the space of 5 and a half hours.  What a truly special day and one I’ll never forget.  If you get the chance, this place should be number one on your bucket list.  I wish I could post all my pictures and tell you more about this place but again, it just can’t do it justice.  A reminder of how incredible the human race really is.

Before the Tournament, we had a par 3 contest between the players on their par 3 course which was brilliant.  Some of the holes were just as good as on the main course, ranging from 60 yards up to 180 yards.  I think the curse of the winning the par 3 tournament at The Masters follows suit here too.  I played with Benji David who shot -3 comfortably and won himself an International ticket anywhere in the world; sadly he went onto miss the cut in the main event.

The day before the tournament I played in the Pro-Am (for those who don’t know, its a team event with one professional and 3 amateurs [of any standard of ability].  Our team was called “Gone with the Wind”, and that we definitely were! It blew a hooley and Jamal and Dawood my two playing partners struggled to get past most ladies tees.  We didn’t play great as a team, and despite nearly being blown over in the five and a half hour round we had good fun!

Round 1, the following day turned out to be windier than the Pro-Am, which I didn’t think was possible.  For sure some holes into wind, the shorter hitters couldn’t reach the fairways.  I was either hitting driver 200 yards or 400 yards, it was crazy!  The slightest of unintentional spin on the ball would send it off in a direction out of control.  The key to strong wind is to slow the swing right down.  A slower swing takes the speed out of the shot and also the spin.  It sounds easier than it is, especially when you’ve got a 4 iron in your hand for a 150 yard par 3 over water! NOT!  I played solid and managed my self well.  I knew the wind would separate the men from the boys and anything around level par would be near the top of the leaderboard.  I hit the ball great but struggled the figure out the greens.  They were slick and with sneaky breaks, and fooled me on numerous occasions.  Short putts became difficult as the wind affected the stroke and also the ball.  A straight putt with a cross wind could move in the direction of the wind.  I enjoyed the challenge and it made it fun in some places!  I finished +2 over par, a fraction disappointed as I believed I could have shot under par especially after  I drove the green on two par 4s and 3 putted them both… No damage done and still in touching distance of the leader.

Round 2 saw the wind calm down, it became a 1 club wind now and I knew I could take advantage of the easier conditions while the rest of the field were still coming to terms with the ridiculous winds the previous day.  I played super solid again, I feel like I’m in great control of my golf ball at the minute, and I gave my self plenty of birdie chances.  I didn’t convert as many as I probably should have but thats golf for you! I kept composed and shot -3 to get back into the mix of the leaders.  Theres no better feeling in tournament golf aside winning, than being in the mix on the last day! The thrill of the chase, is like being in a car race but instead of driving your playing chess.  Every move you make could gain you an advantage or make you crash and burn.

Round 3 was underway and it was flat calm.  A complete contrast the previous 3 days! A low score was out there and being only 5 shots back, I was within touching distance.  At the start of the week I called what the winning score would be -7.  If I could control my ball and keep it in play and give myself chances like I had been doing I could catch the leaders if not overtake them.  I got off to a super slow start and nothing was really happening for me, I didn’t hit it great or hit it close but what i did do was not hit in the shit.  I got to the 13th hole and was only 1 under, so many opportunities missed and still not much happening.  I hit in the wasteland on 13, and it ended up under a bush with no recovery shot possible.  After a few minutes of trying to figure out how I could get it out in the hear of the pressure, my playing partner did a good guy thing and told me I could still take a penalty drop, basically telling me to stop fu**ing about take the drop.  I dropped it in the wasteland and hit a 2 iron from 230 just right of the green to the safe spot.  I played a nice recovery shot to 6 ft and holed the putt for a crazy par 5 save.  I thanked him as he didn’t have to do what he did.  The next hole was a drivable par 4 with trouble everywhere except straight.  I stood on the tee for a few extra seconds and told myself, “right, stop waiting for things to happen, this is your opportunity to give it a go, face your fears and go for it with zero f***s”.  I ripped it 380 yards on the front edge of the green and made a nice two putt birdie.  15 was another drivable hole but this had more trouble; water all up the right and a deep bunker up the left side.  I said the same thing to myself and hit this one so hard, straight towards the green.  The wind started drifting it towards the water but it had a good bounce into the centre of the green. Another two putt for birdie.  I parred 16 and made another good birdie on 17.  On 18 I crushed it down the middle at least 380 yards, and only had 120 yards into the par 5, (two days earlier I hit driver, 2 iron, 8 iron into the same hole).  I hit the best shot I hit all day into the 18th green.  Its guarded by water on the right side and the pin was tucked right.  I flighted it perfect and it spun up to 5 feet just under the hole.  I had holed out well from 5ft all day and couldn’t have an easier putt. I was 5 under for the tournament at this point and I just remember briefly saying to myself it didn’t really matter if I missed it, it would be a tap in birdie.  WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!  I did my full routine and hit it too soft and missed low.  What a prick! I shrieked in disbelief as only after it missed, I realised what I had done.  I walked off and said to Lee my playing partner, that putt will have cost me a lot of money!  It turned out to cost me not getting into the playoff with a minimum pick up of $5,000.  No one would have beaten me in the playoff, I would have sealed the deal but I got in my own way before I even knew it.  Another expensive lesson learnt but it won’t happen again!

After the round it was hard for me to be happy as I knew what I just missed out on.  It wasn’t the fact I missed the putt, it was the fact I didn’t give it my 100% effort like I had all week.  Another bitter pill to swallow but again another solid week with plenty of positives, and with it being my birthday, a few celebratory drinks were definitely consumed.  I finished 3rd on -6 and didn’t really play good golf which is promising.  Yes the field wasn’t as strong as it usually was but you still have to go out there and beat the same good players.  I was also happy I earned my self some world ranking points which puts me back just outside the 1000 in the world mark.

Final Leaderboard

Im feeling good about my game.  And next week were back in Kuwait where I won last year on a course that suits me very well.  Im going to take a few days break as its been 4 weeks of tournaments in a row, and then get straight back into, come Sunday.  Im super exited as with only 2 events left, and with Tour champs in a couple of weeks for double money, anything could happen, so watch this space.

I just want to say another Thank you to those who have helped and continuously donated after each blog.  Your help goes a long long way, and I think it has taken the edge of the pressure of money worries I had 4 weeks ago, so again a massive thank you!

Until next time comment below your thoughts, have a fab week and keep swinging

Joe


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