Coinciding with golf’s return to the Olympic Games this year after more than a century, the landmark decision, taken during a governing board’s meeting held on the sidelines of the 2016 Masters Tournament in Augusta, will provide a fresh energy boost for the development of sport across the board in the region.
With the ranking system coming into effect at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic, starting on May 2 at Tower Links Golf Club, the MENA Golf Tour has become the 19th Eligible Golf Tour from around the world in what is seen as validation of the vast potential of the tour in the region.
“We are really delighted about this recognition, a major step forward for a tour which aims to maximise the region’s enormous potential for golf. The tour is now complete in every sense of the word, one that will open the door to new horizons,” said Darren Clarke, the Patron of the tour.
“The MENA region is an increasingly important market for the game as a lot of fresh talent coming up through the ranks over the last few years. With each tour event carrying world ranking points, the momentum will only pick up pace,” said Clarke, the 2016 European Ryder Cup captain.
“From my experience I can tell this tour is the fastest growing professional golf tour in the world. With all the prize money, new destinations and OWGR points, I think this is going to go in one direction,” he added.
Terming it a new sunrise for golf in the region, Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Golf Tour, said: “With OWGR points on offer, the MENA Golf Tour members, especially from the region, can hope to target qualification to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo as a more realistic goal. For any sportsperson there is no bigger honour than having the opportunity to represent your country,” he said.
“With a population of close to 400 million, golf in the region certainly has the potential to grow even bigger. Support from the corporate world will be crucial put things on cruise control,” he said.
“At the end of the day, all we want is to try and stimulate growth of golf in the Arab world and entice new talent to the sport,” he said.
The MENA Golf Tour has also entered into a new partnership with the Sunshine Tour this season which will see its five top professionals on the Order of Merit earn playing privileges on the South Africa-based tour.
Selwyn Nathan, Commissioner of Sunshine Tour, said: “We are very excited with our association with the MENA Tour, which, I am confident, will benefit our members and help further stimulate the growth of golf. I congratulate them on being awarded the awarded world ranking status they deserved.
“We look forward to welcoming the tour in Johannesburg next month and hope their members will enjoy the city’s unique position as a diverse and high quality golfing destination.”
The sanctioning of world ranking points is the latest addition to a raft of incentives offered on tour that includes multiple European Tour starts, including the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Hassan II Trophy and the Maybank Championship Malaysia in addition to playing privileges on the Sunshine Tour and exemptions into the Final Stage of the Asian Tour Q-School for the leading three professionals are some of the added incentives for the MENA Golf Tour members.
Held under the auspices of the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation and affiliated to the Arab Golf Federation and the R&A, the MENA Golf Tour has grown from strength to strength boasting 20 events in the 2016 season, marking a major step forward from inaugural season in 2011 when it featured four events.
Joseph Andrade, the former Captain of Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, has put himself in prime position to win the Indian Golfers Society’s (IGS) inaugural Golfer of the Year award ahead of the Summer Open, the fourth and final event of the season.
Andrade has racked up 2,916 points in the first three events, helped by consistent performances in all three tournaments, closely followed by Ashok Sindhu (2,683) and Kush Sama (2,587).
The fifth edition of the Summer Open gets underway at Emirates Golf Club on Thursday, April 21, with a 12:45 shotgun start. With 2,000 points up for grabs for the champion and 1,600 for the runner-up, a host of players are within striking distance of Andrade.
The introduction of the Golfer of the Year, which is presented to the winner of the Order of Merit title, is one of the major highlights of the new IGS season, aimed at keeping the competition interesting throughout the four events.
The Summer Open, which has already been fully subscribed, will follow the individual stableford format with three-fourth of the course handicap. Prizes will be presented to the top three in the two divisions.
The top-40 players from the Order of Merit will be eligible to compete in the ‘Race to Scotland’ tournament, which will be held at Jumeirah Golf Estates in May.
With Bentley as the main sponsor of the society, the IGS events are supported by Nexus, Chivas, Chesterton, Midcom, Al Dhahra Kohinoor and AIPL.
Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club (SGSC) have unveiled their brand-new Academy building and are confident it will give a big boost to summer coaching programmes in the northern emirates.
The well-equipped building has two swing studios, both opening out onto the driving range and can be used as air-conditioned bays during the summer. Both swing rooms are fitted out with state-of-the-art video analysis software, accompanied by Trackman Radar technology, to give members and students a full overview of their golf game.
The Academy forms the ground level of the impressive new building, with upper floors to be rented out as offices. The adjoining driving range now has a ‘lounge’ feeling, with the Twisted Olive restaurant forming one part of the building and providing outdoor dining area with a view of the driving range.
Scott Graham, Head Professional, SGSC said each swing room has its own identity to go with the video and Trackman software.
“The Altitude Studio, which is sponsored by Altitude Gym, boasts a fully-equipped functional training space that enables clients and coach to promote desired swing kinematics through strength and conditioning methods,” said Graham.
“As well as the gym space, the main feature of the Altitude Studio is the True Golf virtual simulator. Using this software, you can practice as if you were on the range, take a trip to Scotland to play 18 holes round The Old Course in St Andrews or fly west to Torrey Pines for a quick nine holes from the championship tees.
“Giving accurate readings and ball flight, the virtual simulator is a great way to play some of your dream courses with friends in air-conditioned comforts.
“The second swing room is known as the Ping Studio and has been designed to assist the golfer who is looking for some sound technical advice. Whether it be with their putting stroke on the four hole Huxley Putting Surface, tracking weight dispersion throughout the swing on Body Trak or general club fitting instruction. The Ping Studio offers a holistic golf lesson for the pupil who is trying to progress their game to the next level.”
Apart from the driving range, there is a short-game practice area for which the green has been enhanced, and the putting green.
Graham, who is assisted by Lee JH Lee and Mark Ruddy, added: “This is really a big new change for us and for Sharjah. It not only makes our own operation very efficient, but also gives our clients a great place to practice and enhance their skills during the summer months.”