The second edition of the MENA Golf Tour will have six events, five in the UAE and one in Saudi Arabia, organisers of the region’s only full-fledged tour announced on Wednesday.
The Tour, boasting a combined prize fund of $325,000 which is a good $100,000 more than that of the inaugural year, kicks off at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht on September 24, 2012 while the season-ending MENA Tour Championship will be held at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club from November 5.
The top three professionals and the leading amateur on their respective Orders of Merit will be invited to compete in the 2013 Omega Dubai Desert Classic in continuation of the tour’s policy to substantially enhance the careers of its members.
A new initiative by the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, the tour featured four stops – all in the UAE – in the opening season and they remain on board this year as well, but the added feature of this year’s tour is the inclusion of two more events, one each in Dubai and Saudi Arabia (Dirab Golf and Country Club).
Each tournament will be a minimum of 54 holes stroke-play event with the top 50 plus ties going forward to the final round.
“We have had many queries from different countries in the region wishing to be part of the tour, but we needed to take into consideration several logistics before finalising the schedule,” Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Golf Tour, told newsmen at Emirates Golf Club in the presence of HH Shaikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, president of the Arab Golf Federation.
“Also, we know a lot of guys who will be playing on the tour are not that financially strong and hence we needed to find ways of minimising their expenses. We are moving step by step,” he said.
“The MENA Golf Tour is unique in the sense that it’s open to amateurs as well. One of our major aims is to develop these amateurs who represent their countries, and they are the ones who could play a role in bringing more people in the game.
“The first edition of the tour was quite a success in every sense of the word. The fact that it attracted players from 28 countries showed the tour was well received globally. The region was also well represented with the Moroccans leading the entries with 11 players.
“The highlights of the Tour, produced and edited by Dubai-based Taj Television network, reached over 390 millions of homes in Europe, Australasia, Africa and Middle East, Central and South America, North America and Asia Pacific through the Golfing World programme. It also generated hundreds of print and online articles and I would like to place on record our sincere thanks to media for their support.”
Affiliated to R&A — the worldwide golf governing body based at St Andrews — and the Arab Golf Federation, the tour received a big boost when the Asian Tour gave exemptions into final stage of the Qualifying Rounds to the top three professionals, reflecting on the bonding that the two tour organisers share in taking the game forward.
“The exemptions were an added bonus for the players. We do hope and expect other tours to come forward and be part of this initiative in some way or other since a lot of kids from overseas want to come over and play. If the positive feedback from the players is an indication, we can expect an even bigger response this year,” added Mr Buamaim.
Shaikh Fahim, who is the chairman of the Emirates Golf Federation, lauded the MENA Golf Tour, saying it has positioned the region on the sporting map as an emerging market to drive golf tourism and has benefitted players from other countries as well to break through on the big stage.
“No doubt, there is still a lot of room for the game to grow, but with MENA Golf Tour providing the perfect springboard to emerging players, I can see a very bright future for the game in the region,” he added.
The MENA Golf Tour schedule (provisional):
September 24 to 26 – At Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. Prize fund $50,000 (tournament title to be confirmed)
October 1 to October 3 – The Abu Dhabi GOLF CITIZEN Open at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club. Prize money: $50,000.
October 8 to 10 – The Ras Al Khaimah Classic at Tower Links Golf Club. Prize money $50,000.
October 15 to 17 – The Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open at Al Badia Golf Club. Prize money: $50,000.
October 22 to 24 – At Dirab Golf and Country Club, Saudi Arabia. Prize money $50,000 (tournament title to be confirmed).
November 5 to 7 – The MENA Tour Championship at Al Ain Equestrian Shooting & Golf Club. Prize money 75,000.