By Kent Gray
The European Tour has the Race to Dubai, the Challenge Tour the Road to Ras Al Khaimah. Now the MENA Tour is on a “Journey to Jordan”.
The regional Pro-Am circuit has unveiled the second half of its new, 10-event 2019 schedule – and rejigs to its already released spring swing included – and Ayla Golf Club is central to it all.
As well as a two-leg Q-School in late January, the Greg Norman-designed course in Aqaba on the shores of the Red Sea will host the season opener from Feb. 9-11, a second regular-season event to open the winter swing in late Sept., as well as the $100,000 MENA Tour Championship in late November.
The tour’s spring swing runs from Feb. to mid-March with stops in Jordan, Ajman, Oman, Dubai and Bahrain. The just released winter schedule starting in Jordan also visits Yas Links in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Sahara Golf Resort in Kuwait before the Tour Championship.
A near month long break between Kuwait and the season decider will allow players to attend the penultimate and final stages of European Tour school without compromising their MENA Tour chances.
The rejig to the winter swing was forced by recent flooding in Kuwait which caused extensive damage to Sahara Golf Club. That has forced the moving of Kuwait’s stop to the winter schedule and seen Oman’s Ghala Golf Club step into the spring breach.
After a near 16-month hiatus to rebuild the developmental circuit, the 2019 MENA Tour will boost 72-hole tournaments instead of last season’s 54-holers, slightly increasing available world ranking points. There is also more money on offer with the minimum prize fund to be $75,000, an increase of 50 per cent from previous $50,000, with at least three tournaments to boast $100,000 purses.
While the ‘Journey to Jordan’ ends in Nov., there is much to play for in the initial five-event burst.
The order of merit leader after Royal Golf Club in Bahrain come March 14 will earn an invite to the European Tour’s Maybank Championship at Saujana Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur from March 21-24. Indeed, the top five players on the money list at the halfway stage will be rewarded; the second placed player will tee it up in the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco from April 25-29, the third-placed player earns automatic entry into the new Jordan Mixed Open at Ayla G.C. from April 4-6 while the fourth and fifth players will be headed to the Asian Tour’s Indonesian Masters from July 4-7 and Indonesian Open from Aug. 15-18 respectively.
Three players will also tee it up in the 30th Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club from Jan. 24-27 via a 36-hole qualifier for the European Tour event before Q-School.
The ‘2019 Omega Dubai Desert Classic Shootout’, to be held at Dubai Hills on Jan. 20-21, is a coup in that will not only assist in rekindling stalled public interest in the MENA Tour but ensures the tour’s membership more than the clichéd “stairway to stardom” peddled in the new season PR. In another nod to regional development, the top-10 players on the second tier UAE PGA Tour will be invited to play the shootout alongside the top-60 players exempted from the 2017 MENA Tour order of merit (OOM) and the first 50 players who signed up for January’s Q-School.
MENA Tour – 2019 Journey to Jordan
Q-School – Ayla G.C. (Jordan)
Jan. 29-Feb. 1: Category A
Feb. 2-5: Category B
Feb. 8-11: Ayla G.C. (Jordan)
Feb. 18-22: Al Zorah G.C. (Ajman)
Feb. 24-27: Ghala Golf (Oman)
Mar. 4-7: Dubai Hills G.C. (Dubai)
Mar. 11-14: Royal Golf Club (Bahrain)
Sept. 29-Oct. 3: Ayla G.C. (Jordan)
Oct. 6-9: Yas Links (Abu Dhabi)
Oct. 20-24: Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club
Oct. 27-31: Sahara Golf Club, Kuwait
Nov. 24-28: Ayla Golf Course, Jordan