Spearheaded by Thriston Lawrence, a strong contingent of leading MENA Golf Tour players will provide a telling glimpse into the rising standard of the game in the region when they compete in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club from February 4-7.
South Africa’s 19 year old rising star Lawrence, who won the 2015 MENA Golf Tour Order of Merit title, will be joined by Gabriel Canizares (Spain), Paul Doherty (Scotland) and Lee Corfield (England) as the top four professionals, along with the leading amateur, James Allan of England, have been given direct entries into the main draw which will be headlined by defending champion Rory McIlroy.
Morocco’s Faycal Serghini has also made it to the starting line-up by winning the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation Award for being the best Arab golfer on the tour.
Of the six, Lawrence, Canizares and Doherty will be making their maiden forays into the longest-running European Tour event in the region, fondly referred to as the ‘Major of the Middle East,’ while Corfield and the talented amateur Allan will return for the second time and the experienced Serghini for fourth appearance on the trot.
“Playing alongside such a classy field, it doesn’t get any better. I can’t wait to get started,” said Lawrence, who picked up his win just five months after turning professional at the MENA Golf Tour’s Ras Al Khaimah Classic in November.
The International Sports Management’s youngest ever signing, Lawrence showed great strength of character in getting the job done, winning the Classic title a good four shots ahead of a four-man group headed by 2016 European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, who is also the patron of the MENA Golf Tour.
“The (MENA) Tour is just the platform the emerging players need to put their careers on the wing. Where else, you can get these opportunities to play in world-class events like the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. If continue to play the way I did on the tour, I think I stand a good chance of posting a good finish.
“I’m looking forward to a new experience. I’m still young. The more I can learn, the better – I love the game and I want to be the best one day,” said the Mpumalanga-born teenager, echoing the sentiments of fellow MENA Tour players who are equally determined to making the most of the playing opportunity at the highest level.
“You can't put a price on what you learn from the European Tour events; it's an opportunity money can't buy,” commented Serghini, who is also a golf in DUBAi ambassador.
“I am definitely ready to get going and my immediate goal is to make the cut which I have not been able to do in my previous visits. Playing golf is what I love to do and I’m going to play every chance I get,” said the 39-year-old who is a three-time runner-up on the MENA Golf Tour.
Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi, said: “It’s a big moment for the MENA Tour players and I am confident that they will be quite eager to give a good account of themselves as they have earned these invitations through hard-work they put in during the season.
"The intention behind inviting the top MENA Golf Tour players to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic is to provide them with playing opportunities at the highest level to fast-track their careers.
“At the end of the day, we want to see MENA Golf Tour players doing well on the international circuit and making a name for themselves,” said Mr Buamaim, who is also the chairman of the tour.
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, Emirates NBD, Gulf News, JA Resorts and Hotels, Mercedes-Benz 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.