x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

A huge sense of anticipation for Mena Tour

Andy Andrews of the UAE, Nabil Abdul of Australia and Shafiq Masih of Pakistan will make history tomorrow morning as the first group to tee off at the newly-created Mena Tour.

Miki Mirza is one of the UAE amateurs who cannot wait for the start of Monday's Mena Tour at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi.
Miki Mirza is one of the UAE amateurs who cannot wait for the start of Monday's Mena Tour at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi.

Andy Andrews, the UAE resident, Australia's Nabil Abdul and Pakistan's Shafiq Masih will make history Monday morning. They will be the first golfers off the tee at the first tournament of the newly-created Middle East and North Africa (Mena) Tour.

The threesome will tee off at 7.30am at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, the site of the first of the four events in the inaugural season.

A total of 72 golfers will compete in the opening event, including 24 from the UAE. Morocco will have the next-largest contingent with 11 golfers, followed by the United Kingdom with eight and Pakistan with six.

Andrews, 23, is one of four players from the UAE's junior development programme who have turned professional. He said he is thrilled to be in the first group.

"It's pretty cool, kicking it off," said Andrews, a Sri Lankan who has lived in the UAE all his life. "I'm excited."

Andrews lives in Sharjah, plays regularly at the Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club, and said he has been a member at the Dubai Creek Golf Club "for as long as I can remember".

Andrews, who also competes on the Asian Development Tour, added: "I'm glad they finally got a tour launched here. I turned pro in February, and I've just been trying to find a place to play. It will be good to compete at this level and get a few of these events under my belt."

The Mena Tour was created to provide golfers in the region a "next step" between amateur tournaments and possible spots on the European Tour and other professional tours.

The top three pros and the leading amateur will receive invitations to play in next year's Dubai Desert Classic.

"There is a huge sense of anticipation ahead of the tour, as it will give us a good opportunity to test our skills against the professionals on a more competitive level," said Miki Mirza, an amateur who holds the Emirates Golf Federation's order-of-merit title.

Another of the country's top amateurs, Michael Harradine, is also in the field. The winner of the Sheikh Rashid Trophy last year, Harradine said he relishes the prospect of competing against seasoned professionals.

"The tour will help in bringing some new people into the game, and amateur golf will be much higher as they will be playing against professionals on a proper tour," he said.

The large Moroccan contingent will be led by Younes El Hassani, a professional who has competed in the Dubai Desert Classic on a sponsor's invitation.

"I think it's a great opportunity for us to showcase the rising standards of the game in Morocco," El Hassani said.

"It's definitely important for people from other countries to see us and know we are playing golf."

MENA TOUR FACTS

Tournaments sites and dates: Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, Monday-Wednesday; Tower Links Golf Club in Ras Al Khaimah, October 3-5; Al Badia Golf Club in Dubai, October 10-12; Al Ain Equestrian Shooting and Golf Club, October 17-19.

Prize money: US$225,000 (Dh826,000) for the four tournaments combined, with a minimum of $50,000 per tournament.

Format: 54-hole stroke play for the first three tournaments. The leading 60 players after three events will qualify for the final tournament.