Aaron Rai has this week won the Hong Kong Open of the golf European Tour; an unbelievable achievement for a man who once showed us his emerging golfing skills on the course as a small five-year old boy here at Patshull Park.
As his boyhood club, many of the golf members have known him since he was a child and witnessed his progress. We have keenly kept tabs on him as he’s flown around the world, winning many international titles.
Aaron is currently 122nd in the Official World Golf Ranking with three Challenge Tour wins and one European Tour win, with just this past month collecting over € 535,706 in winnings.
Where did it all begin?
Many of our Senior golfers can still remember the first time that Aaron and his father Amrik came to visit. Norman Ball, one of our long-standing Senior golf members, recalls, “when Amrik carried Aaron in the first night [he’d] ever played here as [he’d] gotten tired.”
Amrik says, “We brought Aaron to Patshull Park as a five-year old boy. They must have come out to watch him play a few holes, but they got so engrossed with him that they ended up watching him play twelve holes. After that, we went into the Clubhouse to talk about membership, and there was a crèche in the corner with some toys, and he just quietly went over and started playing with the toys. The person who watched him play said that it was amazing to think that he was man-like on the golf course, and yet, he’s just a little kid.
Watch our video below of Aaron and Amrik playing here at Patshull Park.
The European Tour
The 23-year-old from Wolverhampton held off fellow Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick to secure an impressive one-shot victory at the Hong Kong Open this weekend. Aaron Rai became the 12th Englishman to win on the European Tour in the calendar year, kicking off the 2019 season in true style in Hong Kong.
It earned him just over a quarter of a million pounds in prize money, and cemented his place as one of golf’s up-and-coming stars.
“It’s incredible,” said Rai. “It definitely hasn’t sunk in just yet. I’ll probably need a few days for that to happen.
“It’s incredible to win on any Tour, let alone The European Tour and let alone the Hong Kong Open.
“It’s an incredible course, incredible event, very well supported. The crowds have been amazing. I’m just very grateful.”
Rai broke the course record in the second round with a nine-under-par 61, and went into the final day with a six-shot lead.
But five-time European Tour winner Fitzpatrick had cut that lead to just one shot with seven birdies in his first 16 holes to set up a tense finale.
Fitzpatrick then bogeyed the 17th to give Rai a two-shot cushion with one hole remaining, and despite carding a bogey at the last, the former Wolverhampton Grammar School pupil closed on 17 under par with a final round of 69 to take the title.
“Matt played incredibly all day,” said Rai. “It was tough but again, I really just tried to play the course as much as possible, rather than Matt, or anyone else who was playing well.
“I luckily managed to do that for most of the way around. It’s tough considering the situation but I’m very pleased.”
Rai won three Challenge Tour events last year but this is his first European Tour title at just his 46th appearance.
It opens up the 2019 Race to Dubai in stunning style, and the golfer raised in Perton said the pressure on the final round felt different to anything else he has experienced.
“It felt a little bit different,” he admitted. “It’s nice having wins in the past which help you kind of in what expect in a sense, but it did feel a little bit different today in terms of just how big it is and the attention of people.
“Also playing with two real world class players in Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.
“I’ll have to re-evaluate myself before I can give you a good answer of what I learned, but I think just staying even more patient, really getting further into your own game, compared to just being aware of what the other guys are doing.
“I think the more you play against world class players like that, you kind of expect that they will never make it easy.”
Sheffield-born Fitzpatrick’s sensational 64 saw him finish alone in second on 16 under par.
“Obviously it was disappointing on the 17th,” he said. “Such a simple bogey. But I gave it a good go. It was always going to be tough to beat him.
“The last two days he’s been very solid and not given anything away, which made my life more difficult.”
Aaron Rai wins the 2018 Hong Kong Open on the European Tour
Why does Aaron play with two gloves?
“It started when I was eight years old, so 15 years ago now,” he told the European Tour. “I just happened to be given these two gloves – the guy who actually makes them sent a pair over – and I got into the habit of wearing them.
“Then, a few weeks down the line, my dad forgot to put the two gloves in the bag so I had to play with one. It was terrible. I couldn’t play, I couldn’t feel the grip, so I’ve always stuck with the two gloves ever since.”
From everyone at Patshull Park, we would like to congratulate Aaron on his best year to date as a PGA Professional, and wish him the very best of luck for the future.
Credit: National Club Golfer,