x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Middle East likely to get a tour to call its own

A new Middle East golf tour is likely to be launched either next year or in 2012 and could involve as many as six tournaments for the region's leading amateur and professional players.

DUBAI // A new Middle East golf tour is likely to be launched either next year or in 2012 and could involve as many as six tournaments for the region's leading amateur and professional players.

The project has been pursued by Mohamed Juma Buamaim, the vice-chairman and chief executive of Golf in Dubai, who organise the Dubai Desert Classic and the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters each year for European Tour players and their women counterparts.

Buamaim, reports "nothing but positive" responses from those he and his associates have approached and is "95 per cent certain" that the Tour will be launched in the near future.

"We have had meetings with the Arab Golf Federation who liked the idea," Boumaim said, "and all the Gulf nations are in favour. We also met with officials of the R & A [the sport's governing body] in the summer and they are definitely supporting the plan.

"It is clearly in their interest to encourage the development of such projects as they strive to improve the quality of the amateur side of the game."

Boumaim warned, however, that there are "certain logistical matters" to be overcome before the plan can be given the go-ahead. "What might work in the UAE does not necessarily work in Egypt or Morocco," he said.

Nevertheless, he remains hopeful of an imminent launch. "If it starts next year, it will probably be just one tournament to enable us to establish an order of merit," said Boumaim.

"Then in 2012 we would have possibly five events in various member countries in the Middle East and North Africa federation, leading up to a grand final."

Boumaim emphasised that the main aim was to improve the standard of golf in the region - and that had to start at the amateur level. "I know what it takes to change the kids we have here from amateurs to professionals," he said. "I have taken them around the world to play in competitions and they invariably let you down because they just don't have it.

"It's OK to get to plus two handicap in the UAE but if you then play at the National Course in Abu Dhabi and shoot 15-over par in a professional tournament that handicap becomes irrelevant.

"It is a joke. I'm sorry to have to say that. It's embarrassing for officials also. We as officials have not prepared them properly so we should share some of the blame.

"Apart from Morocco, the Arab world cannot step up to the level required to make the grade as professionals. We are all hoping that this proposed new tour will help them rise to that level."

The new tour could also benefit existing professionals who find themselves on the wrong side of the cut-off line for the Desert Swing tournaments.

"If we could offer maybe three qualifying places to each of those Desert Swing events [Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Dubai and possibly Bahrain] to players who finish at the top of our Middle East Tour leaderboards then we are bound to attract some well-known names.

"We would target these guys and try to persuade them to play in our events. That will have another advantageous spin off, because it will provide the local players with the chance to assess themselves alongside professional figures."

wjohnson@thenational.ae