Seghini and Majane Lead Arab Challenge at Omega Dubai Desert Classic

AHMED MARJANE

Faycal Serghini and Ahmed Marjane will aim to replicate their consistent form on the MENA Golf Tour on to the bigger stage when the talented Moroccan duo tee it up as the only two Arabs in the field at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic next week.

Serghini topped the Arab Division for the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation Award last season, just ahead of Marjane, who created history in October, becoming the first Arab golfer to win a MENA Golf Tour event since its inception in 2011, a feat he achieved at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic at Tower Links Golf Club.

A three-time runner-up on the tour, Serghini believes playing in a European Tour event is a great way to get world- ranking points and, more importantly, let the world know that golf has become a serious business in the region.

"I think we are getting there and it's just a matter of time to see an Arab player playing on one of the main tours," said the 38-year-old Casablanca native who, along with Marjane, will join a stellar star cast led by world number one Rory McIlroy, second-ranked Henrik Stenson and defending champion Stephen Gallacher among other big names during the event, which will be held from January 29 to February 1.

"Playing alongside such a top-class field, it doesn't get any better. I have been down this route before - and know what to expect," said Serghini, who will be making his fourth appearance in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic as part of strong bilateral ties between golf in DUBAi and the Hassan II Trophy, which became a full European Tour event in 2010.

"With three seconds and a string of top-10 finishes, I have had reasonable success on the MENA Golf Tour since its inception in 2011 and if I can carry the same form into the Omega Dubai Deseret Classic, I can expect a good result," said Serghini, who is also a golf in DUBAi ambassador.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself. I will definitely try and give my best shot and see where that leaves me," said Serghini, who also topped the MENA Golf Tour's Arab division for the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation in 2014.

Meanwhile, Marjane's victory on the MENA Golf Tour opened a floodgate of playing opportunities for the 22-year-old prodigy. He was invited to play in the King's Cup in Thailand, where he shot an impressive 67 after opening with a nervy 77 before featuring in the DUBAi Open, the Asian Tour's final event of 2014.

 "The MENA Golf Tour has been the catalyst for putting Arab golf on the international sporting map. People now know we play golf and we are good at it," said Marjane, who graduated to the professional ranks after winning the MENA Golf Tour's Amateur Order of Merit title in the inaugural edition of the tour in 2011.

Commented Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi, said: "It's nice to see a mind-set change among the region's players. They are more focused and working hard to find the next level.

"There were days, not so long ago, when Arab golfers would compete with a just-to-gain-experience attitude. Today, they are hungry for success and that positive thinking bodes well for the game in the region. Somewhere down the line, the MENA Golf Tour has done its bit to add springs to their enthusiasm.

"A good result for Faycal and Ahmed will be a good advertisement for golf in the region and Morocco, in particular, which has always been at the forefront of pushing golf to a new level. The region needs to embrace the country's passion for golf and grow its future."

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.