MENA Golf Tour pulls out of Oman
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