The Mena Tour received a major boost on Tuesday with confirmation Darren Clarke will compete at next week’s Dubai Creek Open.
The 2016 European Ryder Cup captain, a patron for the developmental circuit, will tee it up at his second Mena Tour event having finished joint runner-up at the 2015 RAK Classic.
The Mena Tour resumes on Monday following its summer break, with Clarke joining an already-strong field at Dubai Creek and Yacht Club. Rayhan Thomas, the UAE-based lead amateur, is the defending champion, , while English pair Zane Scotland and Lee Corfield have 14 Mena Tour victories between them.
Clarke, 49, will no doubt represent the star name at the event, since the Northern Irishman has 21 professional wins worldwide, including the 2011 British Open. He was also a key contributor to Europe's Ryder Cup success between 1997 and 2006 before captaining the team to defeat against the United States last year.
Thomas, meanwhile, has climbed to 50th in the amateur world rankings and last year became the first non-professional to win on the Mena Tour. Earlier this year, he competed at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and Omega Dubai Desert Classic, making the cut in the latter to eventually finish tied-60th.
In July, Thomas came third at the celebrated US Junior Amateur - the United States Golf Association's lead amateur event - in Kansas. Now, though, the 17-year-old golfer is focused on successfully defending his Dubai Creek title next week.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it would be great to give myself another chance and hopefully do it,” Thomas said. “It’s my home course and it's where I learned to golf. The game’s feeling good and I am hoping to ride on the good momentum coming into the week.
“With legendary Darrern Clarke in the field, I am sure every player will be charged up to give his best. It will be great fun.”
In its sixth year, the Dubai Creek Open is the first Mena Tour event since “The Roar” took place in South Africa in June. It marks the beginning of a six-tournament run, concluding with the season finale, the Mena Tour Championship, in Ajman in late October.