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.
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