The Mena Golf Tour, the region's premier developmental circuit, continues to go from strength to strength with organisers revealing an expansion of its schedule this year.
Mena Golf Tour event set to expand to 11 events for 2013
DUBAI // Mohamed Juma Buamaim, the chairman of the Mena Golf Tour, has delivered on his promise to expand the competition for its third season after yesterday announcing the addition of five events.
The 2013 schedule, beginning in March and concluding in November, will feature 11 tournaments in total, including new trips to Morocco - 23 players represented the country in the last Mena campaign - Qatar and Oman, while Saudi Arabia has added an extra tournament following the success of the inaugural American Express Dirab Golf Championship.
There could be a further swelling of the roster, with Buamaim revealing talks have taken place regarding a tournament in Egypt.
In a clear sign of its development, the tour, introduced in 2011 by the Sheikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, has created a board of trustees, too, with Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, the head of the Arab Golf Federation, seated alongside representatives from Egypt and Saudi.
"The idea behind this is just to have other people advising us, rather than think we know everything," said Buamaim. "We think it's the right way forward. You need to get that advice from other people. And we have very experienced guys on this board."
The tour, a largely self-funded entity, has maintained the prize fund per tournament at US$50,000 (Dh183,640), although the season-ending Tour Championship in Al Ain will again be set at $75,000.
The Saudi event was the only sponsored entry in 2012, but Buamaim said this season will see an injection of revenue from other sources. For example, the Tour Championship is now funded by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council. A title sponsor could follow.
"We are looking and the [board] are going to have a look," Buamaim said. "So we are finding the funds for it. I think it will happen as, whoever becomes the title sponsor, they are in every home in this part of the world, which has over 400 million people in the Mena region. So that's a big market for, say, a bank, soft drinks or whatever kind of company.
"We are following the route of our partner in this tour, the European Tour. Every country has a right to host a tournament; they can find sponsors for it. We go there and have them run it."
The tour, open to both professionals and amateurs, attracted more than 400 registered entrants last year, and will once more attempt to limit each field to around 120 players.
The carrot for many of the participants remains the spots offered for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic - Mena's top three professionals and the lead amateur gain entry - and Buamaim said the other European Tour events in the region, including the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, will also provide places.
"I have them on the board," he said. "I don't think Qatar will have a problem with at least one. Morocco, we already have. So it's only Abu Dhabi and that will come."
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