MENA Tour returns for autumn schedule with Abu Dhabi Open

Sport360 staff 09:59 07/10/2019
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The stunning Yas Links hosts the Abu Dhabi Open this week.

Arena Middle East & Asia will bring the MENA Tour under one roof as umbrella sponsors of the world’s most exciting development tour.

Following an agreement with Arena Middle East & Asia, the Tour is now called the MENA Tour by Arena.

Returning to the world schedule after a year of restructuring, the MENA Tour features 10 tournaments in 2019 – five of which, apart from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic Shootout and two stages of the Qualifying School, were played earlier in the year and five are being played currently as part of the autumn schedule. The Abu Dhabi Open by Arena, to be played this week at Yas Links, is the seventh leg of the season.

The number of tournaments is expected to grow in the coming years and the MENA Tour continues to provide Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points, thus making it a perfect pathway for ambitious young professionals to reach the bigger tours, and also for the players from the region to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Commenting on the sponsorship, Paul Berger, CEO of Arena Middle East & Asia, said: “Arena has been an integral part of the growth of golf in the Middle East, having provided infrastructure to almost every big tournament here since their inception.

“Golf forms a major part of our portfolio and the MENA Tour gives us a great opportunity to visit some of the leading golf courses and countries in the region. We are also very confident that our partnership with the tour will help play a massive role in nurturing a home-grown champion very soon.”

As part of the sponsorship, Arena will also have the naming rights to three tournaments in the autumn schedule – in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Ras Al Khaimah.

With sustainability a major part of their new initiatives, Arena Middle East & Asia have helped the tour introduce a new ‘No single-use plastic bottles’ policy starting from Abu Dhabi. Arena will give each player a steel water bottle and put up refill stations throughout the golf course.

David Spencer, tour advisor, added: “The MENA Tour is committed to become the most preferred development tour in the world. We have enhanced the prize fund of each tournament, increased the playing opportunities for our members and streamlined the schedule.

“There are many more plans in the pipeline, but these do need corporate support. The partnership with Arena and their vision for the region makes it all possible. We are truly thankful to Paul Berger and his team for the faith that they have shown in us.”

The Greg Norman-designed Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba and Jordan have been named as the destination partners of the tour. The Order of Merit on the tour is now called ‘Journey To Jordan’. Ayla hosted the Qualifying School and two $100,000 events, and will also be the host venue of the season-ending Tour Championship.

Several incentives and playing opportunities have been lined up for the members this year. The top-two professionals and the leading amateur in their respective Journey to Jordan rankings will get a spot in the 2020 Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

The leading professional from a separate money list counted over the last five tournaments of the season also gets into the oldest European Tour event in the region when it returns to the iconic Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club in January.

The tour gave out various spots to players based on their winnings and standing on the Order of Merit to established European, Asian and European Challenge Tour events.

For the first four tournaments on the autumn schedule, another separate money list called the ‘Penultimate Four’ will see the winner getting a chance to play back-to-back Asian Tour events in New Delhi (Panasonic Open India) and Bangkok (Thailand Open).

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Shane Breen wins two-star Longines Grand Prix at President of the UAE Showjumping Cup

Sport360 staff 17:57 23/02/2019
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Team Z7 rider, Shane Breen and his horse, Laith combined claim victory in the Dh127,000 two-star Longines Grand Prix at the President of the UAE Showjumping Cup presented by Longines on Friday evening.

Breen and Laith cut a swathe through the UAE’s Grand Prix classes in 2018, claiming the four-star Longines Al Shira’aa Grand Prix and the five-star Dubai Showjumping Championship. But injury then sidelined the 12-year-old stallion with Breen only bringing him back to competition at the start of the year.

Laith, a multiple five-star winning horse may only just be on the comeback trail yet the formidable pair wasted no time in returning to their winning ways.

Completing an imperious first-round clear, five seconds faster than the time allowed, Breen and Laith proceeded to fly round the jump-off course, toppling the in-form Tina Lund from the head of the leaderboard with their time of 39.31sec.

Denmark’s Lund and Indiana van Klapscheut finished in second place with a time of 41.28sec, while France’s Frederic David and Ecuador Van Roosakker were third with 43.88sec.

“It’s fantastic to have Laith back again,” said Breen. “He was laid off last year and it’s only our third show back. It’s an amazing feeling and he’s a great horse.”

Breen, one of seven riders to go through to the jump-off, watched Lund’s round just before he went into the arena.

“Tina was just before me which was good, so I was able to watch what she did,” he said. “My horse is very quick and careful so we could shave some time off. We have had a great time here in the UAE.”

Lund may have missed out on victory in the big class of the day, but she has rarely been out of the money this season and her strong run of form continued into day three when she steered Celvita Z to victory in the Abu Dhabi Sports Council Classic.

Her final round time of 52.01sec was good enough to drop previous leader, Frederic David and Levita vd Bisschop of France, down into second with his time of 55.40sec. Saudi Arabia’s Sulaiman Alanbar filled third position on Quintella in a time of 57.96sec.

“Celvita is a horse I have had for two years now,” said Lund. “I bought her as a five year old, she’s seven now and she’s been amazing.”

“She won the big Young Horse final a month ago and now I want to move her up a little and she needs to start jumping a little higher. She’s fast and she’s clever and I hope she’s scopey. Time will tell.”

The UAE’s Youth Olympic Games silver medalist, Omar Al Marzooqi claimed the Al Shira’aa Junior Stakes on Coral Beach Z, winning in a time of 55.41 sec. Second was Ali Hamad Al Kirbi on Catch The Wind II, who stopped the clock at 56.18 sec while Abdulla Ahmed Al Ameen Alshurafa was third on Dagonetta in 56.82sec.

“I was a bit fast today but I didn’t go so crazy,” said Al Marzooqi. “I was the first to go in the jump-off so I couldn’t watch any other rounds, but she is a very quick mare and very careful and I am very lucky to ride her.”

Thirteen-year-old Saif Abdulla Mohammed Al Shamsi was the winner of the first class of the day, the UAE Equestrian Federation Children’s Stakes on Dezapamillion Mas with a clear round in a time of 55.50sec. Only five riders competed in the 115cm class which saw the runner-up spot go to Abdullah Hamid Ali Al Kirbi and Lover des Patis in a time of 56.49sec. Layth Ghrayeb and Quapitola SR Z were third with their time of 58.12sec.

Al Shamsi, who has only been riding for a year was delighted with his round: “My horse is very good but she’s quite fast and she stops sometimes so I have to be careful,” he said. Al Shamsi will return to the arena on Saturday in the two phase UAE Equestrian Federation Children’s Cup.

The UAE leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup will be held at Al Forsan International Sports Resort on Saturday as the concluding class of the four-day President of the UAE Showjumping Cup presented by Longines. Organised by the UAE Equestrian and Racing Federation, in conjunction with world governing body, the FEI, the top two Middle Eastern teams will qualify for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final in Barcelona in October.

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Strongest field announced for 2019 Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open

Sport360 staff 16:47 07/01/2019
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Aditi Ashok is the defending Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open champion.

Abu Dhabi Sports Council is announcing the strongest field to date for the 2019 Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open, the first ever women’s professional golf tournament to be staged in the emirate.

Held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, the Ladies European Tour (LET) event returns to Abu Dhabi for a third time to the award-winning Saadiyat Beach Golf Club from January 10-13.

Kicking off both the 2019 LET calendar as well as Abu Dhabi’s 2019 golf season, the FBM Ladies Open also begins a fortnight of thrilling golf action in the UAE capital, preceding both the fourth hosting of the Gary Player Invitational, set for January 13, as well as the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, from January 16-19.

Under a new format, the FBM Ladies Open will also be the first tour-sanctioned, entirely pro-am tournament to be held in the UAE.

Defending champion Aditi Ashok will be joined by Beth Allen, who won the inaugural FBM Ladies Open in 2016, British star Charley Hull, as well as Becky Brewerton, Catriona Matthew, Becky Morgan, Anne Van Dam, Caroline Hedwall, Astrid Vayson De Pradenne, Jenny Haglund, Meghan Maclaren, Camille Chevalier and Florentyna Parker.

Beth Allen won in Abu Dhabi in 2016.

Beth Allen won in Abu Dhabi in 2016.

Solheim Cup team members Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Emily Kristine Pedersen are also on the list to tee off in Abu Dhabi.

His Excellency Aref Hamad Al Awani, general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said: “The Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open continues Abu Dhabi’s rich tradition of not only hosting world-class sporting events but also of providing a global stage to talented female athletes.

“We, at the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, believe strongly in the power of sports to foster collaboration, leadership and confidence and the FBM Ladies Open is an exemplary showcase of talent, fortitude and teamwork.”

Under the new format, 56 professional golfers will join forces with 56 amateurs to form team pairings. While all teams will compete on day one and day two of the tournament, day three will see only the top 15 teams advance for their chance to secure a podium finish.

The top LET pros will still battle it out for the individual title, which was won by American golfer Allen in 2016 and India’s star Ashok in 2017.

Along with on course action, the event will also salute the skill and spirit of the UAE Special Olympics golf team with a golf clinic, led by a selection of top LET professionals to enable ‘determined ones’ to sharpen their skills and discuss tactics and strategy with the world’s leading golfers.

The female pros are also scheduled to come together to coach young UAE-based female golfers as part of its #ThisGirlGolfsUAE activation, that seeks to encourage the sport among girls in the emirate and beyond.

The tournament is hoping to inspire Emirati ladies to take up golf.

The tournament is hoping to inspire Emirati ladies to take up golf.

“I am really looking forward to playing in Abu Dhabi on such a beautiful golf course, as well as in an exciting new event format,” said England’s Hull, who is set to make her Abu Dhabi debut at the tournament.

“It’s a big year for us with the Solheim Cup taking place in September at Gleneagles, so I want to get a strong start to the new season on the Ladies European Tour and this is the ideal opportunity.

“Also, as someone who has always encouraged more young girls to play golf, I am excited to be part of a tournament that has championed the sport passionately in this region both among young female golfers and older athletes.”

Spectators can catch the action for free. For further details, visit www.fbmladiesopen.com or follow Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open on Facebook and @FBMLadiesOpen on Twitter and Instagram.

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