Ahead of Dubai Creek Open, Mena Tour reveals plans for further expansion in 2016

Ever-expanding developmental tour announces plans to almost double its programme for next season.

Ross McGowan leads the Mena Tour Order of Merit heading into the Dubai Creek Open. Courtesy: Mena Golf Tour
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DUBAI // The Mena Golf Tour plans to expand its schedule again next season, in a move that could swell the 2016 calendar to as many as 21 events.

The developmental tour, now in its fifth year, has already extended to a record 11 tournaments, last week confirming stops at Muscat Hills Golf and Country Club, in Oman, and The Els Club Dubai. Both events take place next month.

However, the Mena Tour aims to accelerate its growth next season, with six new tournaments agreed in principle and a minimum of four countries to be added to the itinerary for the first time. Those include Kuwait, Egypt and Spain. Currently, the Mena Tour stages events in the UAE (six), Morocco (two), Oman (two) and Saudi Arabia.

Speaking on the eve of the Dubai Creek Open – the third tournament on this year’s calendar – the tour’s organisers said they are close to securing more events for 2016, but will make an announcement only when they have been finalised.

“We have a plan, we have semi-confirmations, but I don’t think it’s right to say until it’s completed, because the people involved need to know,” said Mohamed Juma Buamaim, the Mena Golf Tour chairman. “It’s only fair that we confirm with them. But it won’t be long.”

Introduced in 2011 as a four-tournament tour, its inaugural event, the Abu Dhabi Citizen Open, attracted 78 players – 12 of which were amateurs. All events are 54 holes.

This week’s tournament, beginning Monday at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, comprises 96 professionals and 24 amateurs, with 24 countries represented. The field also includes 52 new entrants, including eight from India.

Buamaim views the sustained growth, and the plans for further expansion in 2016, as evidence Mena is delivering on its original objective to create a competitive environment for the region’s golfers.

“Of course, if the tour expands it means we’re doing something good,” he said. “It certainly gives me a lot of satisfaction, because it’s a good cause, I believe it’s needed and when that champion comes from this part of the world I’ll be even happier.

“So there’s a huge responsibility with this, because I started it and there’s a lot of young people who put a lot of faith in us as the Mena Tour. And we’re making that possible, although it only happens with a lot of support from our partners.”

As of next season, the tour will stage a Qualifying School for the 2016 campaign in February, a response to the growing popularity of the circuit. Organisers planned to implement Q-School last year, but cancelled it because it clashed with the European Tour’s qualifying process.

The adoption of Q-School will also serve the tour in its quest to gain recognition from the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR). Talks have already taken place between Mena and the rankings board, with Buamaim confident a positive outcome will be reached.

Other 54-hole tours to be recently admitted to the OWGR include the Alps Tour, Europro Tour, Nordic Golf League and ProGolf Tour.

“They are very receptive,” Buamaim said. “Their requirement is that Q-School is a must. So now we’ve said we’re going to do it we’re hoping to get some answer by October. It’s very, very favourable.”​

DUBAI CREEK OPEN

Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club

September 14-16

Prize money: $50,000

Order of Merit:​

PRO

Ross McGowan (ENG) $13,000

Paul Doherty (SCO) $10,020

Lee Corfield (ENG) $6,000

Stuart Archibald (ENG) $5,936

Jack Hiluta (ENG) $5,000​

AM

James Allan (ENG) $71

Michael Harradine (SUI) $50

Alex Wills (ENG) $46

Khaled Attieh (KSA) $44

Karim El Hali (MOR) $38