October 3, 2014 4:17 pm

Khalfan Al Kaabi, a Board member of the Emirates Golf Federation, is flanked by Paul Booth, director of Club Operations at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, and Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Golf Tour

DUBAI, Oct 3 — The MENA Golf Tour will reach a significant milestone this week when the ASCORP GOLF CITIZEN Abu Dhabi Open becomes the 25th tournament to be played in its three-year history.

The journey to unearth new talent on the region’s fairways began at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club on September 26, 2011, and it is quite a coincidence that the venue of the inaugural tournament will create a notable landmark in a sign of the growing strength of the tour.

Spearheaded by England’s Zane Scotland, who boasts six victories,the tour’s the roll of honour features a total of 16 winners from seven countries with Wales’ Stephen Dodd (three) and England’s Lee Corfield (two) being the other two who own more than one title.

The English players enjoy a lion’s share of wins, accounting for 15 in the last 24 events, but with new faces signing up for the tour and each event being oversubscribed, it will be interesting to see how the script unfold when the ASCORP GOLF CITIZEN Abu Dhabi Open gets under way on Monday.

Defending champion Dodd will headline the 124-players field that includes England’s in-form Luke Joy, who currently leads the Order of Merit standings with $15,000 in earnings after winning the Dubai Creek Open and finishing second at last week’s Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open.

The ace duo will be joined by Scotland, who is also a golf in DUBAi ambassador, Jake Shepherd, Joshua White and Lee Corfied and Pakistan’s Shafiq Masih, all former winners of the tour in what promises to be a close affair.

England’s James Allan, the current Order of Merit leader in the amateur division, will be hoping to consolidate his lead, but the talented youngster will have his work cut out with the likes of compatriots Craig Vance, James Yeomans and Switzerland’s Michael Harradine enjoying a good form.

The presence of a strong six-member contingent from Morocco, led by promising AyoubLguirati, will further intensify battle for honours in the amateur division.

A hard-fought contest is on the cards in the MENA Division for the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation Award that honours the performance of the region’s top three professionals and amateurs in each event.

Fresh from winning the division at last week’s event in Dubai, Morocco’s Younes El Hassani will require another strong finish he aims to catch up with compatriot FaycalSerghini on the Order of Merit for MENA players as Ahmed Marjanis lurking not too far behind.

With many intriguing battles in prospect, the week headed for an exciting affair befitting the landmark occasion.

Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Golf Tour, said: “How times flies. It seems like only yesterday when we announced the tour. Reaching the 25-tournament mark gives us tremendous satisfaction and a sense of achievement, but the job is half done.

“The number of players on the tour is going up, but not the number of tournaments. We need corporate houses to come forward to support the tour, which is aimed at the overall development of golf in the region.

“Also, the tour needs recognition from the International Federation of Golf Tours, which I am sure will happen soon. Their support means a lot to us.”

Meanwhile, Paul Booth, director of Club Operations at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, said: “We look forward to welcoming back the MENA Golf Tour party. The course has been set up nicely to provide a fair all-round test for the players.

“The course is in great condition. Shifting desert windswill hold the key to going low on this course. The players will have to hit their approach shots in the right places on the undulating greens if they aim to do well,” he said.

About the Author

Muhammad Tahim is the Sports Editor for Qatar Chronicle. A die-hard football fan and amateur tennis player, he roots for Manchester United, Barcelona, Paris St. Germain and Novak Djokovic.

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