Former Team Europe Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke will compete in the Dubai Creek Open starting Monday, in a significant boost for the MENA Tour.
Now in its sixth year, the event at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club continues to gather strength, and the presence of Clarke, a patron of the MENA Tour, will be one of the many storylines leading into the week.
The 49-year-old who won the Open Championship in 2011 is grouped with reigning champion Rayhan Thomas and Sweden’s Fredrik From, with the trio going out at 11am.
Of the many stars on show, much attention will fall on the shoulders of 17-year-old Dubai-based Thomas, who has climbed to 50th in the world amateur rankings. Should he defend his title, will become the second player after Zane Scotland to win the tournament on two separate occasions.
Speaking of Rayhan’s spectacular rise, Clarke said: “Rayhan is a special talent. What he has achieved and the way he is going it is very easy to heap pressure on him. He’s got a huge future in front of him.
“To win here last year in the way he did, that’s another marker in his career and I’ll certainly be watching what lines he’ll be taking off the tees this week.”
He added: “All the people looking in can see what Rayhan has achieved and then hopefully follow in his footsteps.”
In the third year of his role as patron, Clarke provides strategic input into the planning, implementation and management of the Tour’s programmes.
“With a lot of fresh talent coming through the ranks, the MENA Tour is headed in the right direction and now has an increasingly cosmopolitan feel as reflected in the roll of honour which has seen 46 different winners from 19 countries,” said the Ulsterman, who was also instrumental in attaining Official World Golf Ranking recognition for the tour last year.
“The next step to take the MENA Tour forward is some local support from the UAE to realise how special this tour is.
“The UAE needs more support, from word of mouth around the world to more financial backing. These events are expensive to run.
“The players are being tested on proper courses which can only be a good thing. I think the MENA Tour has made golf – from a professional point of view – more attractive for guys to play in the UAE.”
Christopher May, CEO of Dubai Golf, said: “We look forward to welcoming players from different nationalities on the MENA Tour. With the great Darren in the field, the event has taken on a special significance. I am sure the script will have some exciting twists and turns.”
“Our golf course operations team have spared no pain in ensuring the (par-71) course is in great condition for the big week,” he added.