Three-time European Tour winner Stephen Dodd has signed up for the MENA Golf Tour, adding significant strength and depth to the tour events that get under way with the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club Open on September 24. The seasoned Welshman will join a growing army of emerging players from in and around the region in the field as he attempts to rediscover the form he showed in winning the Nissan Irish Open and the Volvo China Open, both in 2005, and the Smurfit Kappa European Open a year later.
Just when it appeared his career is on cruise control, somewhere along the road Dodd, who also finished a credible runner-up South Africa’s Ernie Els at the 2005 Omega Dubai Desert Classic, abruptly hit a bump.
Since that stumble, the experienced Welshman has featured in many tournaments but without making that many cuts and his notable achievement being a victory in the Welsh National PGA Professional Championship in October 2011.
The 46-year-old veteran has now turned his focus on the MENA Golf Tour, a new initiative of the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, in a bid to regain the self-belief in his game and return to the rigours of the European Tour.
Named Welsh Sports personality of the Year in 1989 a year before turning professional, Dodd isn’t the only experienced European player who is taking the MENA Golf Tour route to put his career back on track.
He will be joined by Zane Scotland, a former European Tour player and winner of the Abu Dhabi Golf Citizen Open (the opening event of the MENA Golf Tour in 2011), Ross Bain, an Asian Tour veteran, Yasin Ali, once considered England’s finest potential golfer, and Anton Haig, the winner of the Johnnie Walker Classic in March 2007, who have all entered the fray, believing a standout performance will stand them in good stead as they search for the spark to lift their game.
“It’s great see European Tour stalwarts like Stephen and others look up to the MENA Tour for making a comeback. Their entries basically confirm what we have been saying all along that it’s a tour complete tour in itself with the prime aim of creating a competitive environment for Arab talent,” said Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Golf Tour.
“The level of competition will certainly go up a notch with this heady mix of experienced and emerging players. It will be interesting to see how the region’s talent fare again such a competent field. Whatever the outcome, exposure to these tour events will certainly motivate them to put in extra efforts in their game. Which is what we want to see,” he added.
Meanwhile, entries are pouring in thick and fast for the Tour events which are open to both professionals and amateurs from any part of the world. As of September 4, a total of 441 players, including 106 amateurs, had registered for this year’s tour which will have six events, including one in Saudi Arabia.
The top three professionals and the leading amateur from their respective Orders of Merit will receive special invitations to compete in the 2013 Omega Dubai Desert Classic. In addition, the top amateur will be awarded with the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation scholarship.
The all-expenses-paid scholarship will see the leading amateur return to Dubai for a five-week intensive training stint to fine tune his skills in the run to the European Tour event, promoted and organised by golf in DUBAi, at the Emirates Golf Club from January 31 to February 3, 2013.
Affiliated to R&A and the Arab Golf Federation, the MENA Golf Tour is backed by Omega and Mercedes-Benz and boasts a combined prize fund of $325,000.