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February 5, 2017
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: Good morning, everyone. I think you know everyone here, Zane Scotland, is the fresh new look, design Scotland and of course captain Darren Clarke, our Patron.
Thank you for being here. I think if anyone is going to ask me how the MENA Tour is going, I think they should look at who Rayhan is playing with: It's the Masters Champion on the final day. I think that is, to me, is a success, and we hope to build on it.
Rayhan, of course, was born in Dubai, and he's done I think the last two years of the junior development programme. Started taking lessons with Butch Harmon and joined the MENA Tour, and he came second in both events in Thailand. So it shows that the kid has the ability to progress further, and we will support him all the way.
And I think you as media, you've been very helpful to him. You're not putting pressure on him, but you're actually encouraging him, which is great.
We were very happy that we received the World Ranking last year, and of course, we hope to build on that now. Our Q-School is in Morocco, 6 of March. So we are going to have Q-School and two tournaments in Morocco. Then we are going to come back to UAE, Ras Al Khaimah, and then three tournaments in Thailand this year, and in June, we are going to South Africa. We haven't decided on the dates and venue yet. The guys there are looking into that.
So this is the first half of our schedule. The second half will start in September with the Dubai Creek and then the rest of the courses here but we have not confirmed dates yet. So we're looking at having between 15 and 16. Hopefully we'll make them stronger whether financially or better fields and so on.
We're working on one thing we call Project 300, which is to do with trying to get one of the MENA Tour players, or Nationals, to go to the Olympics. We are trying to seek help through the Olympic Committees in the Arab world to support, maybe by putting up more prize funds, maybe putting in new tournaments; or supporting kids that identify that they are capable from any of the Arab countries; maybe we can get them to the Olympics in 2020. So that's called Project 300.
That's me for now. I'll wait for questions. Captain?
DARREN CLARKE: Thank you, Mo. I think Mohamed's covered everything there.
Certainly for me as Patron of the MENA Tour, it's a privilege to represent you. I think the work that you and David Spencer, down there at the back, are doing for the MENA Tour, too give young kids taunt to play; it's very easy to stand at the range and hit balls and practice and try and hone your game. But the only way you really find out how you're doing is through tournaments.
In this day and age around the world, it's getting harder and harder to get into tournaments. So the opportunity that the kids have to play out here on some of the finest golf courses and compete, can only make them better. Again, as you mentioned, Rayhan, how well he's played and how he's come through the ranks; without the MENA Tour opportunities, it may have happened but certainly would have been a much bigger struggle for him. I think that's a prime example of what the MENA Tour has achieved thus far and is going to keep on doing.
You know, opportunities are there to be taken. Entries for Tour School opened this week. So I'm sure you're going to have a massive number of entries again because the reputation of the MENA Tour is getting bigger and bigger.
As we talked about last year, with World Ranking points now being afforded to the MENA Tour, and indeed amateur ranking points in their scheme, it's a very lucrative and attractive proposition for guys to come and play to try and move up those rankings. I think it's the way that the MENA Tour is going to go forward and get bigger and bigger.
Again, with 16 events this year, 15, 16 events this year, the Tour is going from strength to strength. Some of the golf courses I touched on they do play, the Creek, they are starting to come here, and indeed all over the world, are going to give those guys the opportunity to do so. They have had 27 different Nationals playing in MENA Tour events this year and I'm sure that's going to increase again.
For those kids, and indeed maybe even slightly older ones, like Zane -- you're not old just yet, but slightly older; there's the opportunities to come and compete and win. From my point of view, I'm very proud and very fortunate and privileged, and thank you, Mo and Spenny, for having me as Patron of the MENA Tour.
ZANE SCOTLAND: Yeah, just to reiterate what the guys said, my personal point of view, playing on the Tour has been great seeing it develop from the first year we had four events and now it to be 16 tournaments with Q-School and World Ranking points, that's been great.
Yeah, the courses are really good. I mean, I enjoy -- it's been a good platform for me to continue playing and playing top courses, and giving myself a chance to play. Getting to these events is where I want to be. The MENA Tour is a big, big part of that.
And then also understand that I'm part of the bigger picture of getting guys, bringing golf here to this region and giving the guys a good chance, because the talent is here. But the talent needs competition and tournaments, and from where Darren and I are from, we're quite fortunate. You progress from junior golf, you play in your region and county level, national level and into bigger tournaments and there's something on every week.
As good as all the facilities are here, having competitive golf is such a huge part of development, which is showing up now. I mean, Rayhan has done, had a brilliant here last year and he's showing his talents this week. And yeah, that's just a little glimpse of what we've seen. Playing the events in Thailand last year and when he did so well at the Creek; hopefully it's the first of many.
Yeah, I think it's fantastic being able to come here and get great weather and being able to hit balls and practice, but there's nothing like competition. He's coming in here, knowing that he's got amateur World Rankings, he's on the World Rankings and with all these professionals here, and he's probably ranked higher than quite a few of us.
Yeah, all of that. Confidence is so big, and the MENA Tour and the way it's growing is a big part of that. It's good to be a part of it. And to have someone like Darren be involved and Mo backing it, it's elevating itself very quickly and really, really growing. I hope it continues.
Q. There's a 72-hole event in Thailand. Is that something you're looking to kind of spread outgoing forward? What's the thinking?
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: One 72. Well, I'm trying to get some more points for my players, that's why. We've got more World Ranking points. Whatever we can and the courses will agree, we prefer to play four. Some players may say, well, it becomes expensive. But you know, they should their ranking.
ZANE SCOTLAND: Hopefully purses will grow and we will be fine.
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: In Thailand, we women welcome the All Thailand Golf Tour and they don't have rankings, so we are trying to help them with that and we are also trying to help them maybe to get World Ranking points themselves from our experience. So they have been very supportive and they sponsor the tournament, so why not.
Q. Just looking back at the last season of MENA Golf Tour, and given the World Ranking points and things that you achieved, can you just sum it up from your own, how satisfied you were with the season that was?
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: I think just saying what I said early on about Rayhan, I think this is a good statement for us. There is a kid who we see he is talented before the MENA Tour. But I think the MENA Tour gave him the opportunity to be playing in this tournament. And then playing in this tournament and shooting good scores like he did, that's massive.
And very satisfied with the MENA Tour. I think we are going in the right direction. Now we have the World Ranking, we are going the right direction. We have just made also an agreement with FOX Sports in Singapore. They broadcast all our events throughout Asia. That's 300 million people, so that can't be bad for the Tour, either.
Q. Rayhan is a great boost for you obviously. Are there many other youngsters coming behind him of maybe similar promise?
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: Well, the Moroccans are actually the -- within the Arab world, the Moroccans are the strong players. But somehow, they tend to start -- you come here and play well, and they go back and there is a new coach. Like this year, this guy -- they are coming back, they don't know how to hold the club. They keep changing the academies for them, their coaches and everything and these kids are confused.
You know, on the Tour, we can't really do much. But it's terrible the way these two were playing this week. It's amazing. But they are the ones, we actually are after developing, and especially Zane has been very helpful in trying to encourage them. But you can't do anything when they go back and their federations start playing around with their swings and stuff like that.
ZANE SCOTLAND: There was a bit of a breakthrough last year, wasn't there, with the local guys that went to the Eisenhower, came and played one or two MENA Tour events before they went to the Eisenhower. I think that's probably the first time that's ever happened and it seemed to take some persuading just to get them to come and compete.
And then I played with one of the guys, Rashid Hamood, and previous to it, he was maybe a little reluctant and not too sure. And actually played with him in the tournament, I think he was -- as soon as he got the nerves out, he realized he could play.
But it took those three days to go, oh, okay, this is the right thing to do. Because really, it's great being able to hit balls and practice with your coach, but I think like last year, it was a bit of a breakthrough. He could kind of see the light, like, oh, okay, if I play more, it will get easier and it will get better.
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: They are confused. I think the Federation, I don't think they really understand what we are doing somehow. We tried our best but seems to be going in different tangents all the time. It's crazy.
DARREN CLARKE: There is a lot of young kids with a lot of talent, as well. They can all play. You watch some of the MENA Tour events, some of the scoring on it is very, very good. Obviously you have to have good players to do that.
I think with the rest of those guys, seeing what Rayhan's doing, I think it might inspire them, and maybe lift their game a little bit more, as well.
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: It's a good start.
DARREN CLARKE: He will be the leader of those, that pack of kids coming through, and hopefully they will get inspiration from what he's doing.
Q. About Project 300 is it officially launched?
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: So far we have presented it to the Arab Golf Federations in Muscat, end of October, when they are having the Arab Championship, so they are all aware of it. But now we have to work on the other committees. And as it happens, the Sheikh who heads the Olympic Committee is going to present the prizes today. So hopefully I'll see him before (laughter).
Q. I'm from India and I've seen the growth of the MENA Tour over the last few years and it's been fantastic. Like you have now encompassed the Sunshine Tour and All Thailand Golf Tour. Would you have any long-term plans to work out some kind of arrangement with the Indian Tour, the domestic tour, which is probably one of the strongest and it's produced a lot of Asian Tour and now on the European and even the US Tour like Anirban. Has there ever been talk with the Indians?
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: If we get an invite, we will look at it. I mean, India is much closer to us than Thailand. It's very easy for us. But if there is an invitation, of course. Well, now we have Rayhan, I think they will be sending an invitation (laughter).
Q. Because Rayhan represented India at the Asian Amateur.
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: Actually he's representing Dubai in our minds (laughter).
Q. Last year you played an event on the MENA Tour. Relatively free now after your Ryder Cup captaincy, can we see you coming to any of these events, even if not playing, just interacting with the kids and inspiring them?
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, well, most definitely. Mohamed's just asked me to be Patron for three further years for the MENA Tour, which I gladly accept; and part of that is playing a tournament on the schedule. I really enjoyed the times I have come over and played. It was very good.
But no, I want to come over and play, as well. I've obviously been around for a long time. So any little bits and pieces that I can pass on to the young kids that will help them improve, I'm only too happy to do so, with that extension of my relationship to the MENA Tour, I'll definitely be looking forward to coming and playing, as well. Not just being there but actually play.
Q. How has the interest in the MENA Tour grown from people outside this region? You've seen from all around Europe perhaps.
DARREN CLARKE: Well, if you take a look at the nationalities of people entering, it's got a big attraction. You come and play in some wonderful golf courses and good weather, and you know, if you take a look at the tours that we have, certainly in Europe, we've got obviously the main tour, The Challenge Tour, you've got the Alps Tour, the Euro Pro Tour.
You've got many different tours there but this one is starting to appeal to more and more people. Zane puts the word out there with the guys and they have the opportunity to come out here and play, as well. Because of that, I can only see it getting bigger and bigger.
Guys are looking to expand where they play. You get to a certain level as a professional, and I think nothing improves you more than playing in different countries and different grasses around the world, and that's what this MENA Tour affords you the opportunity to do. It's because of that, the interest is going to keep on getting bigger and bigger. Hence, why Qualifying School was such a big success last year; and the need for the Qualifying School; and with that, in addition to the World Rankings, it's a very, very attractive tour to come and play.
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: On top of that, of course, we give three, four of the overall in Desert Classic and one for the amateur. Plus we have a programme of exchange. So we give them an invitation to the Desert Classic and they give us an invitation to, say, the Dutch Open and Malaysia; Gavin Green, he played. We have four of those, which is more than the other tour schools in our book.
Q. You spoke about a bit of a breakthrough last year with local players coming on Tour. Are you expecting more this year, this coming year?
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: I think last year, actually, we had four kids from Saudi Arabia. They played all the ones in GCC countries, and guess what, the Saudi Arabian team won the Arab championship for the first time. It's always been dominated by Morocco, but the Moroccan kids who were coming and playing on the MENA Tour were somewhere else, they didn't, so they came second.
I think they must see that there is a good reason for the MENA Tour, somehow.
DAVID SPENCER: Didn't the Saudi Arabian team, when they won the Arab Golf Championship, they credited their win to the MENA Tour.
ZANE SCOTLAND: They did. Othman Almulla, who is a person I'm good friends with, and this guy had a full-time job and he gets a certain amount of leave to come take off to represent a national team. I spent time with him at the end of last year and he was just talking to me about, if I quit my job and go play, what am I going to expect. He was trying to find every which way to go and play golf. And to get another week off so he can go and play this next tournament and carry on.
And he wants to be a golfer. If it wasn't for this tour, he would have just -- he would have carried on his job and had a nice life but not necessarily followed his dream. And now he's doing everything he can to follow his dream, and that's just one guy that I'm personally good friends with, and it's bit by bit.
Q. You spoke about that initial reluctance from Emirati players. Why are they initially reluctant?
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: I don't in UAE, I don't think we have at the moment anyone. Because if you Othman Almulla from the earlier generation, I personally think he turned pro too early. He should have been playing on the MENA Tour for a few years and then turned pro. Then the rest of them, Ammed Al Musharrekh, he still plays for the national team, but he works in a bank. You know, you need time for it to be able to be a good golfer.
So they have some young ones coming, but not now. I don't know, in a few years' time maybe. But really we should be the ones leading. We should be the ones leading.
Q. I know most of the prize money on the Tour has been put up by you. So can you just tell us if any of the tournaments are now sponsored and what kind of interest are you getting, especially after a season like this?
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: The only ones that sponsored this, in Thailand, and that's it, really. Only the two in Thailand. The rest is all our money. So we need the sponsorship. But it has to happen. You can't just -- it has to happen. And don't worry, this will turn around. One way or another, it will turn around.
Q. Have you seen any change; last year we spoke about this in a similar press conference, of the local federations and the kind of reluctance to join the Tour. But with the success of last year, World Ranking points and what Rayhan has done, have you seen any change in that?
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: No, not yet. They have a lot of money; all they have to do is host a tournament in each country. It will solve all their problems, and the kids can start playing golf. I don't know really -- and it doesn't cost that much. I mean, $100,000, all our expenses and prize fund. So put it in the Arabic newspaper, if there's anyone here. (Laughter).
No, it's a shame. But I think there is a turning point with the Saudis winning, I think they realise there is merit to this, so hopefully something will come out of it.
Q. Was there a Saudi event last year?
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: No. The sponsor withdrew. We're waiting on them to answer yet. But Saudi Arabia, if I wanted to continue, because if Saudi Arabia, now these kids have won, that's big news there. And if Saudi opens up for us, it's never-ending, because there is no source shortage of funds there. We need somebody who is really interested at the high level of golf, and we'll just keep pursuing it.
DARREN CLARKE: We have a very special membership for the gentleman sitting down there on left, Zane Scotland. He's won 11 times on the MENA Tour, and as such, Mo, myself, Spenny, we are delighted to offer him lifetime membership of the MENA Tour.
ZANE SCOTLAND: Fantastic.
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: Thank you very much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports