Oman’s rapidly growing reputation as a golf destination will take centre-stage when the Sultanate plays host to the MENA Golf Tour’s inaugural Ghala Valley Open, starting on Monday.
Supported by the Oman Golf Committee, the $50,000 event will provide both professionals and amateurs one last chance to consolidate their positions in their respective Orders of Merit before the next week’s season-ending MENA Championship, which will see the top 40 professionals and the top 15 amateurs contest for honours.
With the tour reaching its business end, the level of excitement has racheted up a notch ahead of the ninth and the penultimate event on the tour this season where a collection of international players will join the region’s top talent in what promises to be an absorbing contest at the picturesque course at the foot of the Hajar Mountain range.
His Highness Sayyid Taimur bin Assad Al Said, president of the Ghala Valley Golf Club, welcomed the MENA Golf Tour initiative in the Sultanate, saying: “It will provide fresh impetus to its growing reputation as a major golf destination and help showcase our golfing facilities to the world.
“We are delighted to be part of the MENA Golf Tour as we support all initiatives which target overall development of the game in the region,” he told newsmen on Sunday. “The tour has done a great job in creating a competitive environment for the region’s players to grow and excel on the international stage.
“I am sure the presence of a competent international field, especially the region’s top talent, will motivate local talent to take their game even more seriously and strive for excellence,” he said.
Mundhir Al Barwani, chairman of the Oman Golf Committee, said: “Ghala Valley is the only golf course in Oman that offers free golf to all juniors, as part of the development programme.
“It is also one of the courses used by of the Oman National Golf Team and hence it makes a perfect sense to have a major event here which targets the overall development of the game in the region. We support the MENA tour and wish all the participant enjoyable game,” he said.
Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the tour, thanked the Ghala Valley Golf Club for their enthusiastic support in hosting the event which be believed will become a popular and permanent stop on the Tour.
“Oman, which is well known for its striking landscape, has made great strides in putting together solid infrastructure for golf and hosting of a Tour event here strongly endorses the Sultanate’s commitment to broadening the base of golfers in the Arab world.
“The primary aim of the tour is to provide emerging players, especially from the region, a platform to play against a top-class international field so that they benefit from their experience. With the tour covering a vast expanse of the region, they have a new window of opportunity to enhance their careers.
“We look forward to working with the Oman Golf Committe with the mutual goal of putting the region’s golf on the world’s sporting map.”
England’s Zane Scotland is, at present, leading the Order of Merit for professionals with $50,229 in earnings from the first eight events on the tour while the Moroccan duo of Mustapha El Maouas (208 points) and Ahmed Marjan (165) top the amateur division.
Launched by the ShaikhMaktoum Golf Foundation in 2011, the MENA Golf Tour is affiliated to the R&A and the Arab Golf Federation. Each tournament — a minimum 54-hole stroke-play event — carries World Ranking points and $50,000 in prize money while the season-ending MENA Tour Championship has a prize fund of $75,000
The top three professionals and the leading amateur from their respective orders of merit get invites to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the longest-running European Tour event in the region.
Order of Merit standings after the Qatar Classic:
1. Zane Scotland (England) $50,229
2. Stephen Dodd (Wales) $29,215
3. Ian Keenan (England) $17,618
4. Trevor Marshall (New Zealand) $13,430
5. David Law (Scotland) $13,404
6. Lee Corfield (England) $12,321
7. Tommy Mou (US) $10,702
8. Duncan Stewart (Scotland) $10,405
9. Daniel Owen (England) $10,191
10. Younes El Hassani (Morocco) $9,448
1. Mustapha El Maouas (Morocco) 208 points
2. Ahmed Marjan (Morocco) 165
3. James Allan (England) 153
4. Michael Harradine (Switzerland) 143
5. Jean-Michel Hall (England) 141