A CONFIDENT Harry Ellis returns to the MENA Tour seeking his first career win as a professional at the Royal Golf Club Bahrain Open, which starts Monday.
The 24-year-old, from Southampton, played five events in the 2019 season and was inside the top-12 in all of them.
Those consistent displays over the past few months included back-to-back second place finishes in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.
The former Amateur Champion missed the first three tournaments of 2020 because he was playing on the European Challenge Tour events in South Africa, where he finished tied fourth in the RAM Cape Town Open.
“It’s pretty amazing what happens when you have a bit of confidence in the system,” said Ellis – the youngest-ever winner of the Amateur and English Amateur, three years ago after he won the latter in 2017 at Royal St George’s, aged just 21.
“I feel a lot calmer and I feel in pretty sound place mentally. I am able to hit the shots I want to on the golf course,” revealed Ellis, a member at Wentworth.
“My team and I have put in a lot of hard work and we know it will take some time, but we have built a solid foundation.
“I am in a good golf-playing mode, which is nice not having to work on too many things. It’s a case of putting the rounds together and the results will come hopefully.”
Ellis played the Royal Golf Club Bahrain Open last year and was tied seventh. Interestingly, his 73 in the second round was the last time he was over-par on the MENA Tour – his last 10 rounds have all been in the 60s.
“It would be lovely to keep the streak going, but it is not something I am thinking too much about,” said the former Meon Valley G&CC junior.
“Obviously, it is always healthy for your position on the leaderboard, or your psyche, if you keep shooting in the 60s,” said Ellis, who is coached by Kristian Baker, who took Ross Fisher to the European Tour and his first victory, and has recently fronted the takeover of Sunningdale Heath, the old Sunningdale Ladies Club.
Ellis added: “This week, the course is set up so well that it is possible, but I am just trying to go out and be the best that I can be.
“We will see what happens, but I’d definitely like to be in contention.”
Ellis will have plenty of competition, with Berkshire’s current Journey to Jordan leader David Langley in great form after winning in Jordan and finishing second last week in Ghala.
The Hampshire man shot the lights out to help Hampshire beat Langley’s B.B.&O. team to reach the English County Finals in 2016, when David’s county hosted the South East Qualifer at Reading’s Calcot Park.
Ellis won the Peter Benka Trophy for the lowest 36-hole score – a feat matched by Langley two years later when B.B.&O. reached the English finals by winning at Orsett, in Essex.
Runner-up Rutherford ready to go
FORMER European Tour player Jamie Rutherford is also returning to the MENA Tour this week.
The former Engladnd amateur international took a two-week break after his scorching finish at Ayla Golf Club, where he finished runner-up to Langley.
“I went back home for a couple of weeks, did some work with my coach and practiced as much as I could because the weather is so bad in England right now,” said Rutherford, who turned pro in 2013.
“It is great to come back to Royal Golf Club where I was fourth last year. I just love the challenge of this golf course.
“It is fairly generous off the tee, but you have got to really precise with your irons with how slopy the greens are and all the sections they can put the flag in.
“You’ve got to be in control of your distance and where you put your ball on the green. That, I feel, is a strength of mine.”
Rutherford – who like Ellis was also a promising footballer – fractured his spine in a car accident in 2016, but recovered well enough to earn his European Tour card at that year’s Qualifying School, in Spain.
After losing his card having played 16 events, along with 13 more on the Challenge Tour, Rutherford spent 2018 on the satellite tour and returning to the EuroPro Tour in 2019, four years after his first pro win.
Lindrick’s Bailey Gill, the champion last week at the Ghala Open in Muscat, and South Africa’s MG Keyser, the reigning Journey to Jordan champion, will miss the tournament but for very good reasons.
Gill got into this week’s Oman Open on the European Tour, courtesy of his win at Ghala, while Keyser qualified for next week’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, also on the European Tour, by winning the qualifiers in Doha.
Reigning champion Robin Roussell has also graduated to the European Tour and will also miss the event.
•For first round scores in the Royal Golf Club Bahrain Open click here.