MENA Golf Tour pulls out of Oman

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Ashok Puro­hit

In a blow to Oman’s grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion as a ma­jor golf des­ti­na­tion, the MENA Golf Tour, has de­cided to skip the sul­tanate as a venue this year. It has been an an­nual fea­ture in Oman’s golf­ing cal­en­dar since 2013, when the tour made its de­but at the Ghala Golf Club.

And over the past two years, the Tour had or­gan­ised two tour­na­ments at Ghala and Mus­cat Hills clubs, rais­ing hopes that the MENA Tour was keen to make Mus­cat a per­ma­nent stop on the Tour. In 2016, the MENA Tour held its penul­ti­mate event - Ghala Open - and the pres­ti­gious sea­son-ending MENA Golf Tour Cham­pi­onship at the Mus­cat Hills Golf & Coun­try Club.

How­ever, a year later, both the Mus­cat-based clubs are not fea­tured in the post-sum­mer 2017 sched­ule, which was re­leased last month. The Tour’s first half of sea­son be­gan in March with stopovers in Morocco, UAE, Thai- land and South Africa. The 2017 sea­son com­prises 16 cham­pi­onships in­clud­ing the sea­so­nend­ing event in Aj­man, UAE.

The MENA Golf Tour was launched by Sheikh Mak­toum Golf Foun­da­tion in 2011 and is af­fil­i­ated to the R&A and the Arab Golf Fed­er­a­tion. Though the total prize money for each tour­na­ment is only US$50,000, the Tour pro­motes young Arab play­ers, who get a chance to play along­side pro­fes­sion­als.

With Of­fi­cial World Golf Rank­ing (OWGR) points on of­fer, the MENA Tour is a path­way for golfers from the re­gion to qual­ify for the Olympics.

Since 2011, the Tour has seen 46 dif­fer­ent win­ners from 19 coun­tries with English play­ers win­ning 31 of the 65 tour­na­ments.

Oman’s lead­ing golfer Azaan al Rumhy is one of the ama­teur play­ers from the re­gion who has had an op­por­tu­nity over the past cou­ple of years to rub shoul­ders with pro­fes­sion­als on the MENA Tour. Com­ment­ing on the de­ci­sion, Mo­hamed Juma Bua­maim, chair­man of the MENA Tour told Mus­cat Daily, “We skipped Oman this year to give ex­po­sure to new golf­ing des­ti­na­tions in the Mid­dle East like Jor­dan’s Ayala Golf Club and Al Zohra Golf Club in Am­man (UAE). The MENA Tour sched­ule doesn’t al­low for more events than the sched­uled ones and, there­fore, the de­ci­sion was taken to skip Oman for this year.

“The Oman Golf Com­mit­tee, the golf clubs in Mus­cat and other gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties have been very sup­port­ive of the tour over the past five years and we fully ap­pre­ci­ate their sup­port.”

Mund­hir al Bar­wani, the OGC chair­man, ex­pressed his ‘dis­ap­point­ment’ over the pull­out.

“Over the years, the MENA Tour was an ex­cel­lent ex­pe­ri­ence for Oman and pro­vided good ex­po­sure to the golf­ing com­mu­nity in the sul­tanate,” he said.

“Last two years, we hosted two rounds of the Tour and we were happy to have played host to the sea­son-ending Cham­pi­onship in 2016. The host­ing clubs and the OGC have pro­vided all sup­port over the years to the Tour and this is the rea­son, the Tour in­creased to two events in Oman.

“I guess the Tour was look­ing for new av­enues and it could be the rea­son for skip­ping Oman this year,” said Bar­wani.

The OGC boss said, “We would con­tinue to fo­cus and sup­port NBO Golf Clas­sic, an Euro­pean Chal­lenge Tour, and also ex­plore to rope in other re­gional Tour or events.”

How­ever, Azaan, who has been Oman’s lead­ing par­tic­i­pant in the Tour, gave a dif­fer­ent twist to the pull­out.

He said, “I am very dis­ap­pointed that the Tour has pulled out of Oman. I’m not sure of the ex­act rea­sons but I as­sume that the Tour was sub­si­dis­ing its events in Oman. Lack of spon­sor­ship could have been one of the rea­sons for the Tour to move out.”

Azaan added, “It is a shame that the Tour will not come this year as Ghala course has be­come beau­ti­ful af­ter the re­cent changes of its land­scape and the course. I know with my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence that many pros loved play­ing in Oman and they would be dis­ap­pointed not to come to Mus­cat this time.

“As a player, I am still keen to play on the Tour and I hope to play in cou­ple of the events in Dubai and Jor­dan in Septem­ber-Oc­to­ber this year.”

Azaan al Rumhy

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