x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Joel Neale decides to take pro swings now

Joel Neale decided to turn professional before the Mena Tour began last month while he was still able to afford to take his chance at the big time.

Joel Neale is looking to improve his game when he takes to the links in Monday's Ras Al Khaimah Classic at the Tower Links Golf Club.
Joel Neale is looking to improve his game when he takes to the links in Monday's Ras Al Khaimah Classic at the Tower Links Golf Club.

Joel Neale decided to turn professional before the Mena Tour began last month, while he was still able to afford to take his chance at the big time.

The 20-year-old Englishman, who has lived in the UAE almost all his life, knows that not every good amateur makes the step up and immediately becomes rich and successful. Most pro golfers struggle to pay their bills as they tour around the world trying to make cuts. Neale is not married, has no children and lives with his parents in Dubai, so he has cut down on the risk factor while chasing his dream.

"While I have no overheads, I thought it would be a great opportunity to turn pro for the Mena Tour. I also have plans to go to Asian Qualifying School in January, so these tournaments will give me great experience before I head there," he said. "Making it as a professional golfer is difficult and maybe not everyone realises that.

"There are people who put their mortgages at risk while trying to make it out there, and that's when it can get really stressful.

"It's a good job, don't get me wrong, but there is a lot more pressure than you would think trying to make it when paying the bills and supporting your family.

"That is why I thought this was the time to do it, when I don't have those responsibilities. I'm still getting my dinners made at my parents house. Not everyone is Rory McIlroy, unfortunately. We don't all turn pro and there is a million-dollar sponsorship deal waiting for us."

Neale finished in 22nd position at last week's Abu Dhabi Golf Citizen Open when rounds of 71, 78 and 74 left him at seven-over-par for the inaugural Mena Tour event, which was won by Zane Scotland. Now he and the other players head to the Ras Al Khaimah Classic, which will be held at the Tower Links Golf Club from Monday until Wednesday.

Mohamed Juma Buamaim, the chairman of the Mena Tour, said that the success of the first event far exceeded his expectations.

"It was nice to [see] a great sense of camaraderie among players. I would like to thank all players for their support. They have sent a powerful message to the world of golf that the tour is here for good," he said.

Neale is looking to improve on last week's performance.

"I will need to take small stepping stones, but getting to the European Tour is in my thoughts. Playing this Mena Tour is an ideal opportunity to test myself, and I'll try to use this as a feeder into the Asian Tour," he said. "The Mena Tour is perfect for the likes of me. I have two tournaments in Bahrain before the end of the year and playing against good pros over these four weeks is great preparation, especially as the courses are such a great test."

The Facts

Who can play: The Tour is open to professional and amateur golfers from any part of the world.

Remaining tournament sites and dates: Tower Links Golf 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.

Also at stake: The top three professionals and the leading amateur from the Order of Merit will receive invitations to compete in the 2012 Dubai Desert Classic and, possibly, other European Tour events in the region.

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

ncameron@thenational.ae


Follow The National Sport on @SprtNationalUAE & Neil Cameron on @NeilCameron5