The top three players on the Mena Golf Tour have been given exemptions into the final stage of qualifying for the Asian Tour.
Jake Shepherd, Peter Richardson and Sean McNamara, the top money-winners in the four-tournament Mena Tour that made its debut in the UAE this year, will compete in qualifying school from January 18-21 at Springfield Royal Country Club and Imperial Lakeview in Thailand. The top 40 golfers will earn playing rights for the 2012 Asian Tour.
"It will be an honour to play on the Asian Tour, and we are grateful to them for the first-stage exemption," Shepherd said.
He topped the Mena money list with earnings of US$17,749 (Dh65,200) on the tour, which was created to help develop the games of golfers who do not qualify for the major tours.
The three golfers also received invitations to play in the 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February.
"Playing on the Mena Golf Tour has opened up a wide opportunities which we never dreamed of," Shepherd said. "The exposure to the final stage competition [in Thailand] will also help us fine-tune our game ahead of the European Tour event in Dubai."
Mohamed Juma Buamaim, the chairman of the Mena Tour, said the invitations to the Asian Tour qualifying would add more excitement to the Mena Tour.
"Our Tour events are open to both professionals and amateurs and, therefore, have a unique appeal to it," he said.
"Money is one thing. They offer an opportunity to play golf at the highest level [the Dubai Desert Classic] and now this first stage exemption on the Asian Tour Q-School is an added bonus."
He said golfers will not be short on incentives when the second edition of the Mena Tour is launched in March or April next year.
"Our tour has the potential to launch the careers of regional and international stars," Buamaim said.
"With time it will contribute to enhancing the overall development of golf in the region. That's the ultimate aim."