Hundreds of golfers took part in the event at Dubai Sports City’s Els Club as they aimed to raise money and awareness for the cause backed by legendary golfer Ernie Els.
Els created the charity in 2009 after his son Ben was diagnosed with Autism and has gone on to raise thousands of pounds initially aimed at funding an Autism Center of Excellence.
You can find out more about the charity and donate via the Els for Autism website, here.
Craig Hinton aims to end his run of near misses on the MENA Golf Tour at the Mountain Creek Open by Golf Citizen, the first Tour event in Thailand, which starts on Monday.
Like many in the field, the Englishman may not have played on the only Seve Ballesteros-designed course in the country before, but his four runner-up finishes on the Tour has proved he can flourish in a foreign environment.
The 27-year-old from Thame had his chances to get over the line at last week’s Ras Al Khaimah Classic, but was left to rue another near miss when he lost in a three-way playoff, extending his wait for his maiden title on the Tour since joining in 2013.
“However painful my near-misses have been, I have tried to stay positive. My game is right up there and I believe I have that consistency where I could win any time,” said Hinton, who is fourth on the MENA Golf Tour Order of Merit.
“I’m playing really well and it would be nice if I can keep the momentum going.”
The Englishman will join a strong field led by his compatriot Lee Corfield, a four-time winner on the Tour. Other notables in the field include the Scottish duo of Paul Doherty and Clarke Lutton, Sweden’s Per Barth and England’s Scott Campbell, all former winners on the Tour, while Changtai Sudsom and Krisawat Thongkon of Thailand will spearhead the local challenge.
Scotland’s Ben Alexander, who signed off with a 68 to finish runner-up in the amateur division last week, will be hoping to go one better this time around and consolidate his position on the Order of Merit.
For that to happen, he will have to see off the challenge of India’s Rayhan Thomas, who made a triumphant return to the MENA Golf Tour, winning the amateur division title at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic, his first event of the new season.
He becomes the third golfer after UAE’s Ahmed Al Musharrekh and Morocco’s Ahmed Marjan to receive the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation support aimed at recognising and promoting young talent in the region, who have achieved creditable results on the MENA Golf Tour, regardless of their nationality.
Both Al Musharrekh and Marjan have since turned professional, with the latter becoming the first MENA national to win a MENA Golf Tour event, a feat he achieved at the 2014 Ras Al Khaimah Classic in a sign of the times in an ever-changing world.
“It’s great honour to have the support of the foundation, one that will take my confidence to a whole new level. Getting recognized and noticed for our work is something we all relish,” said Thomas, who was crowned number one golfer in the UAE after topping the Emirates Golf Federation’s Order of Merit in 2015.
“From my experience on the MENA Golf Tour, I can tell that I can compete with professionals. My game is in better shape than last year. I am striking the ball better. Playing on the tour has allowed me to better my course management skills.
“This (support) is certainly the best thing that could have happened to me now, when I am ready to plunge into serious golf training for a fulfilling golf career.”
The 16-year-old prodigy, who was born and brought up in Dubai, has won virtually every amateur title up for grabs on the domestic circuit.
And Thomas nearly broke through for his maiden victory on the MENA Golf Tour at the 2015 Dubai Creek Open before losing out in a three-man playoff.
“Our aim is to encourage and nurture young talent who have shown great promise by racking up some really good performances on the MENA Golf Tour,” said Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice-chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi.
“Rayhan’s achievements speak volumes about his drive to be a golfing star. If he has been acknowledged as an extraordinary talent on the (MENA) tour, it is because of hard work and total dedication to the game. He brings special energy to any event he plays.
“I wish him the very the best and hope he has a great future ahead of him.”