ABU DHABI // Three players who came though the UAE's Junior Golf Development Programme (JDP) will tee off today in the inaugural Middle East and North African (Mena) Tour as professionals.
Mohamed Juma Buamaim, the chairman of the Mena Golf Tour, believes the progress of Joel Neale, who this week became the third JDP player after Andy Andrews and Christopher Davis to turn professional, is testament to work that goes on behind the scenes.
A field of 72 players, including 15 amateurs, will be tested at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi over the next three days.
The cut will be made after 36 holes with the top 50 and ties making it to the final round.
The fact 24 live in the UAE, of which five are amateurs, has delighted the organisers.
"I have a great sense of satisfaction that the JDP, that I started during my stint with the UAE Golf Association [now the Emirates Golf Federation], is yielding results that everyone can see," Buamaim said.
"The players need opportunities to take their game to the next level, and that's one big reason that led to the creation of the Mena Tour. They have the platform now and it's up to them how they exploit it."
Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, the chairman of the Arab Golf Federation, will officially launch the tour at 11am today at the Abu Dhabi Golf Citizen Open, the first of four tournaments.
Adrian Flaherty, the commissioner of the Mena Tour, hopes that golf at grass-roots level in the UAE will be boosted even further by this innovation.
"Golf in the UAE is recognised because of the courses we have and competitions that are here, but we need to make sure that this Tour helps the players who stay in this country to progress," he said.
"It has taken 40 years to get here, if you want to go back to when sand golf started.
"Over time, golfers emerged from the UAE, and then places such as Bahrain, the big events then arrived, and now, eventually, we have been able to launch a Mena tour for all the best players in this area and beyond."
The top three professionals and the leading amateur from the Mena Tour's Order of Merit will receive invitations to compete in the 2012 Dubai Desert Classic.
"These are the early days, but with time the top players on the Mena Golf Tour will get invitations to play on other tours as well. The organisers of the King Hassan II Trophy in Morocco have already agreed to reserve a couple of spots for them," Buamaim said.
"We are in talks with officials of the Asian Tour and Indian Tour and they have indicated their desire to invite the leading Mena Golf Tour players to their respective events in the near future.
"Organisers of the European Tour events in Abu Dhabi and Doha may also come on board to contribute their bit in the development of the game in the region."