x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Mena Tour sets its sights on foreign lands

Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt on the shortlist of preferred destinations for tournaments.

Ahmed Marjan will play the Dubai Desert Classic after finishing as top amateur on the Mena Tour.
Ahmed Marjan will play the Dubai Desert Classic after finishing as top amateur on the Mena Tour.

AL AIN // The Mena Tour will be staged in at least two countries outside of the UAE when it takes place next year, according to the organisers.

This inaugural golf tour, which took in four events in the UAE over the past four weeks, finished in Al Ain on Wednesday with Jake Shepherd, the Englishman, winning the Tour championship and overall order of merit.

Adrian Flaherty, the Tour commissioner, rated the success of the tournament at "eight out of 10" and said plans to improve and expand the Tour have been provisionally made.

Mohamed Juma Buamaim, the chairman of the Tour, expects the entry field to increase threefold next year.

"I think it was case that we almost had to get the first year out of the way so our message could get out there," Buamaim said.

"I have no doubt that next year we will have two, maybe even three times the amount of people wanting play."

Shepherd, Peter Richardson and Sean McNamara received automatic qualification for next year's Dubai Desert Classic after finishing in the top three in the order of merit.

Morocco's Ahmed Marjan will also rub shoulders with some of the world's leading players after finishing as the top amateur. Buamaim hopes next year's Tour could also carry the lure of a place in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

"I don't think we will get any places this time, but that might change for the second Tour, and more European Tour events will follow," Buamaim said. "I'm certain of that."

Buamaim did promise, however, the Tour will be expanded next year. "We will definitely be taking the events outside the UAE; maybe two in Morocco, one in Tunisia and Egypt," he said. "We shall see."

Despite the regional title of the Tour, the four events were all held in the UAE – at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, Tower Links at Ras Al Khaimah, Dubai's Al Badia Club and the Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club.

"We have learned a lot," Buamaim said. "There was always going to be things we didn't know and that was the reason for holding the first four events in the UAE. It was a logistical decision and the right one."

Flaherty was pleased that players travelled from Kenya, Brunei, Pakistan and the US to compete in the events, which all carried a prize fund of US$50,000 (Dh183,660).

"The best thing has been the international flavour of the tour, especially the 15-strong contingent from Morocco," Flaherty said. "We have also had players from the UK, Canada, the US, Australia and, of course, the UAE-based guys as well.

"We have 84 fully-paid-up Tour members already and another 85 players have registered. For the first year, those are terrific figures. All four courses have been fantastic, that's been a huge help. They have presented the players with different challenges. The venues really are top-class."



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