MENA Golf Tour Stars Aim To Be Counted at Omega Dubai Desert Classic

JOSHUA WHITE

Fresh off a creditable performance in the inaugural DUBAi Open, the Asian Tour's final event of 2014, Joshua White will spearhead the MENA Golf Tour challenge in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club later this month.

The 23-year-old Englishman, who topped the tour rankings in 2014, won plaudits for a mature performance in his maiden Asian Tour event, finishing in a tie for 24th on seven-under to set himself up well for his debut in a European Tour event.

"I think my biggest takeaway from this tournament was an increased confidence in my ability to play golf at any level. I didn't really feel any pressure and it was just nice to come out and play with some of the big names," said White, who turned professional in 2013.

The genial Englishman will be joined by fellow countrymen and MENA Golf Tour members Luke Joy, Zane Scotland and James Allan as the top three professionals and the leading amateur from their respective Order of Merit rankings have been given direct entry into the main draw which will be headlined by defending champion Stephen Gallacher and world number two Henrik Stenson among other big names.

"Spots in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic are the biggest incentive for the MENA Golf Tour players. And it's very pleasing to achieve that. I played well most of the time throughout the 2014 season," said White.

"A lot of the players on the MENA Golf Tour are all very good. When they are on their day, they are as good as players on any other tour," said the rising star, who played the first two round of the DUBAi Open with India's SSP Chowrasia and Singapore's Mardan Mamat, who have both won on the European Tour, and managed to beat them with ease.

"That shows my confidence," said White, adding: "All thanks to the MENA Golf Tour, we have been getting opportunities to play in big tournaments.

Also making his first appearance on the Omega Dubai Desert Classic will be Joy, who boasted two victories and a second on his debut on the MENA Golf Tour in 2014.

"I think the MENA Golf Tour is going to be very big in the next few years. The structure is great and organization just fantastic. Where else can you get the opportunity to play in world-class events like the Dubai Open and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic? If I continue to play the way I did on the tour, I think I stand a good chance of posting a good finish," said Joy.

Agreed Scotland, who will be making his third appearance in the Omega Desert Classic on a MENA Golf Tour invitation.

"There are good players on every tour now and wherever we win a tournament, it's a confidence boost. We must be doing things right if we get the results," said Scotland, an eight-time winner on the MENA Golf Tour.

It will be interesting to see how James Allan measures up to the quality field. "I know there are many big names in the field, but I have faith in my abilities. You can't put a price on what you learn from European Tour events; it's an opportunity money can't buy. So it's perfect, really," he said.

Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi, said: "These invitations to the top MENA Golf Tour players to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic are a reward for their determination and hard work during the season.

"If their performance in the DUBAi Open where 11 out of 24 made the cut is any yardstick, the standard of the game in the region has improved a lot. I won't be surprised if any of the MENA Golf Tour players come out and produce a stand-out performance at this year's Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

"A good result will encourage more people, especially from the region, to take up golf. One day, we want to see Arab players doing well on the international circuit and making a name for themselves."

The Omega Dubai Desert Classic is backed by OMEGA as the title sponsor and Emirates Global Aluminium PJSC as sponsor. The co-sponsors are: CNN, Drydocks World & Maritime World, Emirates NBD, Gulf News, Jebel Ali Resorts and Hotels, Mercedes and wasl, while Dubai Duty Free, Neocasa Interiors and Motivate Publishing are the Patrons in golf in DUBAi's drive to showcase the emirate's vibrant golfing scene to a worldwide audience.