DHAHRAN — The Saudi Aramco Invitational Tournament has always been a special event for Othman Al-Mulla.
After taking up the game of golf as a 14-year-old in Dhahran, Al-Mulla had ample opportunity to witness some of the best players in the Middle East region vie for the prestigious crown in the historic event.
Now the 28-year-old can consider himself one of those top players after claiming his second SAIT title at Rolling Hills Golf Club. Al-Mulla recorded rounds of 79 and 77 to claim a one-stroke victory in the 49th annual tournament over the Nov. 7-8 weekend.
“Having grown up in Aramco and learning the game here, this tournament was always something we looked forward to,” says Al-Mulla. “As one of the oldest tournaments in the region, it also always attracted the best field of players.”
This year was no different as 90 of the best golfers from throughout the Middle East teed it up in the 36-hole event. Al-Mulla was two strokes off the lead after carding a 79 in the opening round that was played in blustery conditions, but a 77 on the second day allowed him to prevail with a 156 total.
“The course played extremely tough with the weather conditions,” he said. “The greens were the fastest they have ever been, which I don’t mind. It was a really good test of golf.”
There were several lead changes over the course of the final round, as Al-Mulla battled to overtake first-round leader Nasser Yacoob Saleh Al-Mubarak of Bahrain and his clubmate Abdullah Sultan Al-Hakem, who had opened with scores of 77 and 78 respectively.
Al-Mulla went to the final hole tied for the lead with Al-Hakem, with Mubarak just one shot back. Al-Mulla’s brilliant approach shot to the green on 18 landed just eight feet from the hole. Al-Hakem missed his par putt to fall one shot out of the lead with a bogey, and when Al-Mubarak missed a birdie putt and had to settle for par, Al-Mulla had the luxury of two-putting for the win.
Al-Mulla, who currently plays to a zero handicap after getting his start as a youngster on the sand courses in the area, said the SAIT tournament has been on his mind since he moved back to Saudi Arabia in May after studying in the United States. He says his win in the 2008 SAIT tournament provided him with a huge boost of confidence about his game.
“That sparked a really good run of form for me winning multiple tournaments regionally,” said Al-Mulla, whose list of impressive wins includes the Qatar Amateur Open and the GCC championship.
Al-Mulla credited his parents, who have provided “the best support system” for his rapid development in the game.
He is now settling into his relatively new role as an analyst with Saudi Aramco’s Contract Review & Cost Compliance Department in Dhahran after completing a finance degree at the University of Houston.
“This has been a big year for me,” he says. “I graduated from college and got married in May. Then I started work for Saudi Aramco in June.”
And then, of course, he added a second SAIT title to his golf trophy collection.
A big year indeed.