Dubai: Twenty-two Moroccans, including 11 amateurs, are in a field of 50 golfers for the $50,000 (Dh184,000) Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Open in Rabat starting on Monday as the third edition of the Mena Tour tees off.
Now an 11-stage series — up from six events last year, with two added in Morocco and one each in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman — the developmental tour is widening its base as a regional pathway into professional golf.
The Mena Tour boasts a total prize purse of US$575,000 and offers invitations to the European Tour’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the Asian Tour’s qualifying school for the Order of Merit’s top three, while from this year there will also be an invite to Morocco’s Hassan II Trophy for the tour champion.
This week’s event is Morocco’s on the tour, preceding the second round in Mohammedia next Monday, and the local golfers are eager to take advantage of their course knowledge in order to make a flying start in the series.
In previous editions of the Mena Tour, the Moroccan contingent have fared well. After Ahmad Marjan won the amateur series in 2011 and Faycal Serghini finished top-five in the professional category, the 2012 amateur category was dominated by Moroccans, with six finishing inside the top ten.
Eleven other nationalities will be represented in the opening event, with notable participants including former Order of Merit winners Jake Shepherd from England (2011) and Wales’ Stephen Dodd (2012).
Mohammad Juma Bu Amim, chairman of the Mena Tour, believes this is Morocco’s moment to shine. He said: “The fact that so many golfers from Morocco, especially amateurs, have registered for this year’s tour clearly reflects their enthusiasm and commitment to the game.
“They have been supportive of the tour since its inception in 2011 by fielding a large contingent of players in all events and we value their contribution to the success of the tour, which has grown from four events in the inaugural edition to 11 this year.
“Morocco’s gesture to offer a spot in the Hassan II Trophy to the winner of the tour’s Order of Merit title is a huge step in the right direction and will help promote emerging talent, especially from the region. We share the common objective of seeing Arab players fare well and put the region on the sporting map.
“With golf returning to the Olympics in 2016 for the first time since 1904, the region’s players need regular exposure to top-class events if they aim to make the cut and fly their country’s flag. The experience gained on the Mena Golf Tour will be invaluable.”