Ahmed Al Musharrekh is heading back to school and believes he’s ready for the region’s toughest golf entrance examination.

The 26-year-old Sharjah native is one of 86 players set to contest the MENA Golf Tour’s 54-hole qualifying school in Morocco from Tuesday. A minimum of 50 players will earn cards at the Royal Golf El Jadida course ahead of a 15-event season which culminates in November’s Tour Championship at Al Ain Equestrian, Golf & Shooting Club.

Al Musharrekh turned professional in late 2012 after capturing that season’s GCC Amateur Championship title as well as individual and team gold medals in the 2011 Arab Games. He remains the UAE’s first and only pro but his journey in the paid ranks has been challenging and intermittent after he missed 2015 completing mandatory national service in the UAE Navy.

He’s hoping some recent swing changes and a hardened attitude will hold him in good stead for the three-day Q-school in the picturesque port city of El Jadida on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.

“My lessons with Dong Lee [his Dubai Golf Academy coach] have shown positive progress in my game ranging from my course management and swing to ball striking and overall fitness. I’m more focused, more disciplined,” said Al Musharrekh, who plans to play all the MENA Tour events this season.

“I still have a few kinks which I hope to iron out soon through training and hard work. Each time I step onto the tee, I hope to play better than before.

“Like every player in the field, my goal is to win the tournament. My game is definitely good enough to win, but will take things as they come. One step at a time is good walking.”

Al Musharrekh carries the weigh of a nation on his shoulders and admitted last year that the step-up from amateur golf had been steep, “a huge change”.

“It’s more physically and mentally challenging, on and off the course,” he told Sport 360 at the time.

“It’s not like having a hobby where you’re just a boy and having fun playing, carefree and happy, with nothing on your shoulders. All of a sudden, you turn pro and you’ve got all this expectation, from yourself, but also externally.

“That’s been a huge shift, having to play with that and dealing with stuff off the course, like social media, sponsorships, and having to grow up. It’s something I’ve had to deal with. But we see great examples of this on tour, you see all these young guys thriving and dealing with things in a fantastic way, so it just gives me a push to keep going and see where I get to.”

Al Musharrekh hopes to become the second Arab golfer after Morocco’s Ahmed Marjan to win a MENA Tour event but knows the competition is getting stiffer as the tour grows. This year it includes stops in Morocco, Kuwait, Thailand, South Africa, Oman and the UAE, including the first 72 hole tournament, the US$50,000 Pattana Golf Championship.

The field will play for just $6000 this week (the winner earns $2500) but the opportunity is priceless – for many a pro dream lifeline and others an amateur finishing school.

“The level of competition is becoming more intense, but I am confident I can embrace the challenges and opportunities with a positive attitude.” Al Musharrekh said.

“With world ranking points on offer, I think more and more players from the Arab world will be encouraged to turn professional and contribute to the overall development of the game. Even in the UAE we have some very good golfers with a competitive passion for the game and I do hope they will think about making a career out of doing something they love,” said Ahmed,

Seven amateurs are among the 86 entries signed up for Morocco with England leading the chart with 38 followed by India (nine), Spain (seven) and the United States (six).

The Q-School offers members the opportunity to earn full playing privileges on the tour in addition to becoming eligible for Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points.

Multiple European Tour starts, including the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Hassan II Trophy and the Maybank Championship Malaysia in addition to full playing privileges on the Sunshine Tour and exemptions into the final stage of the Asian Tour Q-School for the leading three professionals are some of the added incentives for the MENA Golf Tour members.