GLOUCESTERSHIRE’S Mitch Waite has been trending in the right direction in recent weeks on the MENA Tour.
And the former England international provided more evidence of where his game is headed by taking sole possession on top of the leaderboard on a windy opening day at the $75,000 Journey to Jordan No. 2, on Monday.
The 24-year-old from Bristol made a three-putt bogey on his final hole – but five birdies before that ensured an opening card of 68 to lead on four-under par at Ayla Golf Club.
The 2018 Hampshire Hog winner holds a one-shot lead over playing partner Benjamin David and Curtis Knipes – both from Essex – and Surrey-based Scot Ryan Lumsden, from Royal Wimbledon.
Waite said: “I have not played too well around here, so I had a slightly different mindset this week to go and shoot the best that I possibly can.
“I am lucky I played with good guys – David and Sloman – and they played well as well,” added Waite, who finished tied 37th in the Journey to Jordan No. 2 last year.
“I had a decent start today, went a bit quite in the middle and kept playing well on the back nine.
“I hit two good shots into the 18th but ended up with a bogey,” said last year’s EuroPro Tour member Waite, who secured his MENA Tour card by finishing 10th at January’s Qualifying School B, in Jordan.
“It’s just one of those things, and I have got to take the positives from this. I was five-under par through 17 and shot a 68 which was a good round.”
The Felton Golf Club member started working with coach Liam James, based at The Belfry while his friend Will Donald is his mental coach.
“I have come out this year with a better mental frame and probably better technically,” said Mitch, who was largely unknown before his win at North Hants – the home club of Justin Rose – just two years ago.
“I did not have any status and just played on invites in 2019. But it was a slow year and I did not get going,” said Waite, who rocketed up the England rankings two years ago.
He was picked for Great Britain & Ireland against Europe, in the St Andrews Trophy, in Finland, and featured on the winning England team at the Home Internationals at Conwy GC.
That lead to his selection alongside Hoylake’s Matthew Jordan, who is on the European Tour in 2020 after his maiden win on the Challenge Tour last year, and Staffordshire’s Gian-Marco Petrozzi for the Eisenhower Trophy where he played alongside the likes of PGA Tour winner Viktor Hovland and Denmark twins Rasmus and Nicholai Hjøgaard.
Waite revealed: “I have worked on all departments of the game and very much looking forward to what 2020 has in store.”
Waite, who turned pro late in 2018 after finishing runner-up at the European Amateur, and was a semi-finalist at The Amateur Championship, has had a good start to the year.
He played the three Sunshine Tour events in South Africa that were co-sanctioned by the Challenge Tour on invites.
The South West pro made all three cuts and was tied seventh in Cape Town.
Mitch, who first found his liking to South Africa on a winter warm weather trip with former Gloucestershire team-mate Joe Long in 2017, now sits 13th in the Challenge Tour Race to Mallorca Rankings.
He is three spots behind fellow MENA player Harry Ellis, from Hampshire, who was fourth in Cape Town.
“It would be nice to get a playing status on Challenge Tour,” said Waite. “Obviously, I want to win and getting it on the MENA Tour would be great.
“But these are things you cannot rush. I look at Hague, Langley and Bailey Gill and they have all gone and won events in their first few weeks as a pro.
“And here I am, have been a pro for more than a year and still haven’t got my first win.
“I can get down upon myself, or I can keep doing the right things and stay patient knowing that my week will come.”
English quartet in chasing pack
THERE are plenty of former England internationals in the chasing pack at Ayla Golf Club.
Somerset’s Walker Cup player Tom Sloman, the third player in Waite’s group, shot 70 to be tied fifth alongside Sweden’s Ake Nilsson on two-under.
Middlesex’s Pavan Sagoo, Hertfordshire’s Jamie Rutherford, Dorset’s Luke Joy and Filip Lundell, winner of MENA’s Qualifying School B at Ayla, were tied seventh at one-under after carding 71s.
In the race between David Langley and David Hague to secure the Trophee Hassan II start on the European Tour, Yorkshireman Hague was slightly ahead of his rival – even though both players had a start to forget.
Hague, from Malton & Norton GC, opened with a 75 and Berkshire’s Langley, from Castle Royle GC, shot 77.
India’s Arjun Gupta was the best-placed amateur in the field, tied 20th after a 74.
•To follow live scoring in the second round of Journey to Jordan No. 2, click here.