Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba, Jordan, returns as the MENA Tour by Arena’s destination partner in 2020.
By Kent Gray
It will still be known as the ‘Journey to Jordan’ but that’s about where the similarities between the current MENA Tour by Arena season and new-look 2020 schedule end.
New events in Oman and the UAE – the latter an Alfred Dunhill Links Championship-style Pro-Am over 54 holes – two multi-venue tournaments (albeit at familiar courses) and a $25,000 increase in the purse for the season-ending tour championship headline next season’s schedule unveiled today.
Also gone for 2020 are the current spring and autumn swings, replaced instead by a condensed four-month season, again encompassing a two-stage Qualifying School at Ayla G.C. in late January. Q-School is immediately followed by the first event of the season proper, the Journey to Jordan #1 Championship, also at Ayla Golf Club.
With Aqaba in Jordan back as the tour’s destination partner, Ayla G.C. will again host four events (Q-School and three main season stops) including The Arena (Tour) Championship. The April 19-23 Journey to Jordan decider will be 72-holes for the first time since the 2017 Tour Championship, features an increased prize fund of $125,000 and becomes a full-field event for the first time in what will be the eighth season of the MENA Tour.
The increased playing opportunities and increased Official World Golf Ranking points (five OWGR points to the Arena Championship winner as it has become a four-round event) are by design, not necessity. David Spencer, Strategic Advisor to the MENA Tour, explains the rationale behind the radical rejig.
“There are two very good reasons why we decided to have the Tour schedule packed in one continuous stretch rather than have two legs in Spring and an Autumn,” said Spencer.
“Most development Tours do not start until the end of April, mostly because of the playing conditions in Europe. We are fortunate to have perfect weather in the Middle East during that period. This gives our players a solid run of tournaments, which is great preparation for them going into the summer. Also, it just simplifies things logistically for our players and makes the cost of ‘life’ on the Tour more affordable.
“With the multitude of playing opportunities we provide on European, Asian and the Challenge Tours, the new-look schedule dovetails perfectly with the other Tours.”
The first of the circuit’s new events, the Muscat Open, is to be hosted by at Muscat Hills from Feb. 10-13. The Muscat Open is the first of back-to-back events in Oman ahead of The Ghala Open at Ghala Golf Club (Feb. 16-19).
Troon International venues will feature prominently in the circuit’s new multi-course events. The first, the ‘Triple Crown’ in March, will be co-hosted by Yas Links, Saadiyat Beach G.C. and Abu Dhabi G.C. while Al Hamra has joined forces with existing host venue Al Zorah in Ajman to co-host the Northern Emirates Open.
In another first, the MENA Tour by Arena Invitational Pro-Am will be modelled on the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns. A venue and purse for the MENA Tour’s iteration has yet to be announced but it will be staged in the UAE and is in the schedule for Mar. 22-25, the week after Abu Dhabi’s Triple Crown.
A minimum of 30 players from each stage of Q-School will secure their cards for the season.
MENA TOUR BY ARENA – 2020 SCHEDULE
Jan. 20-23: Qualifying School A – Ayla GC, Aqaba, Jordan ($6,000)
Jan. 26-29: Qualifying School B – Ayla GC, Aqaba, Jordan ($6,000)
Feb. 2-5: Journey to Jordan #1 – Ayla GC, Aqaba, Jordan ($75,000)
Feb. 10-13: The Muscat Open – Muscat Hills GC, Muscat, Oman ($75,000)
Feb. 16-19: The Ghala Open – Ghala GC, Muscat, Oman ($75,000)
Feb. 23-26: The Bahrain Open – Royal GC, Bahrain ($75,000)
Mar. 1-4: Journey to Jordan #2 – Ayla GC, Aqaba, Jordan ($75,000)
Mar. 15-18: The Triple Crown – Yas Links/Saadiyat Beach GC/Abu Dhabi GC ($75,000)
Mar. 22-25: MENA Tour by Arena Invitational Pro-Am – UAE TBA (Purse TBA)
Mar. 29-April 1: Ras Al Khaimah Open – Tower Links GC, RAK ($75,000)
April 5-8: Northern Emirates Open – Al Hamra GC, RAK/Al Zorah GC, Ajman ($75,000)
April 12-15 TBA – Venue TBA ($75,000)
April 19-23 The Arena Championship – Ayla GC, Aqaba, Jordan ($125,000)