home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


February 9, 2011

Fahim Al Qassimi

Thomas Bjorn

Mohamed Juma Buamaim


ADRIAN FLAHERTY: Welcome, Your Highness, and welcome to the inaugural press conference for the MENA Golf Tour. Delighted you could be here this morning with us. Like to introduce our panel of guests this morning. Firstly, His Highness, Sheikh Fahim Al Qassimi, president of the Arab Golf Federation; and to his right, Mohamed Juma Buamaim, Vice Chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi, and Thomas Björn, winner of the Qatar Masters and golf in DUBAi Ambassador. Gentlemen, welcome.
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. A background on why this MENA Tour is taking place, for many years now, we have been trying in the UAE Golf Association, and now the Federation, to bring out a good amateur and perhaps this good amateur, he or she can progress to the next level of being professional.
Unfortunately the second part was not possible, simply because when they go to scratch or better, we did not have a platform for them. The only thing which we could afford to give them was slots in the Desert Classic or the Abu Dhabi Championship.
Now, of course, when these kids go in these tournaments, they get the shock of their life and we have all seen it, they all shoot big scores, and I'm sure that does more damage to them than good.
Now, the alternative, of course, is to take them into another level, and this is what we discussed with His Highness, the president of the Arab Federation that we needed something whereby it's not only UAE; we might as well go all the way and try and encourage other golfers from around the Arab world.
Now, I'm sure you all know, Morocco is very strong when it comes to golf. They have been playing golf for a long time. They have had golf tournaments for a long time and they have a very, very strong field. Even Morocco don't have those professionals who can actually make it on The Challenge Tour. The Challenge Tour comes to Morocco and they get invited. And that's purely because they didn't have the challenge amongst themselves against other people.
Now, what the MENA Tour is all about, we are going to base it mainly to bring the amateurs to play with golf professionals. We are going to go with fields of 40 per cent amateurs, 60 per cent professionals.
Now we call it the MENA Tour simply because it's played on the MENA Tour, but it's open to any amateur in the World Ranking, and that is why we have this connection with the R&A which will be a great support for us whereby they will include our tournaments in the World Ranking, which means any player from around the world who is in the World Ranking could actually come and play the MENA Tour.
When it comes to professionals, any professional from any tour, Challenge Tour, Asian Tour, whatever, can join, and it will depend on if it is a big field, we will do the usual, qualifying rounds to choose the best 60 per cent.
The Order of Merit will be towards the end of the year. Now whether we do a Tour Championship for the first year, I'm not sure, but what we will do is we will start with four stops around the Middle East. We have not decided where they are going to be yet, but we are meeting with our colleagues from the Arab Golf Federation on Saturday in Dubai. What we are trying to do is we actually want the Golf Association in each country to be responsible for providing facility and services, because if we are going to invite foreign golfers, we will need things like hotels, we need transportation, you need visas and so on and so on.
So we want the Golf Federation themselves to be responsible and encourage their own players, amateurs or professionals to actually take part.
The prizes, Sheikh Maktoum Golf Foundation will fund this to start with, but we hope that we will be able to find sponsors as we go along. We thought about the prizes to start with at the beginning for the professionals, a minimum of 75,000 and the amateurs is a trophy. But the Order of Merit winners, the top three professionals will get three slots in the Dubai Desert Classic.
We will also seek to get slots on the Abu Dhabi and Qatar and hopefully Bahrain. The amateurs, the leader on the Order of Merit on the amateur side will be invited to also at least the Desert Classic.
The R&A have been very, very helpful to us. They supported us. Actually the R&A have been supporting golf in the region for a very long, long time. They have been supporting individual associations, federations around the Middle East, and when we had our talks with them, it's a matter of they have not seen the results, because everything stops when the handicap becomes a single figure and what's the next step. They were very happy to have an initiative like this to come along and they are behind us all the way. And of course we should not forget Sheikh Fahim and the Arab Golf Federation, they are 100 per cent behind, because they also realize the time has really come to help these kids and find a platform for them.
Sheikh Fahim, if you would like to say a few words.
SHEIKH FAHIM AL QASSIMI: Thank you very much. Of course on behalf of, first of all, UAE Golf Federation and Arab Golf Federation, I would like to express our thanks and gratitude for the Maktoum Foundation and for golf in DUBAi and especially for you, Mohamed, for taking this initiative to promote golf in the area of Africa and the Middle East.
I'm sure that this venture will not only benefit our youth, but also, contribute positively tourism and also business, as well. And we, as you said, are extending our hand to you to cooperate together and also we have vast experience in the region, and whatever you need from are our Federation, we are here to help and you assist you to realize this venture.
Thank you very much.
ADRIAN FLAHERTY: Thank you, Your Highness. Thomas, would you like to say a few words?
THOMAS BJÖRN: I think when you spend a lot of time in this region as I have, you see a lot of talented golfers that don't really get an opportunity to go around the world with their golf. Somebody had to take this step and it's only natural that golf in DUBAi as the leader in the region has taken this step to create an opportunity for the nationals and the locals to take their golf to new levels.
I think when you can include the R&A as a supporter in what you do, you are taking a massive step in the right direction. It's hugely important for golf at the moment that we spread it around the world and we grow; and it's become an Olympic sport; and therefore we have responsibility to grow the game worldwide, and I think it's only very pleasing to see for all of us that steps are being taken all over the world at the moment to make golf that worldwide sport.
It's always been a big sport in the western world. It's grown in Asia over the last few years, and now, in the Middle East, it's taken the right steps as well forward. And I think that can be a support for the game of golf, not only at our level but all the way through the ranks. That's what we need to see and I think it's a big credit to one man at this table, Mohamed, that has done so much for golf in the UAE and in the Middle East and as natural as it is that it's Dubai that's the front-runner for this and takes it to new levels, it also takes a man with a vision to do that.
So I think it's a big credit to Mohamed that these steps are being taken, and that's good it for the game of golf. And that's what we need to see.

Q. I think it's probably best to address this to Mohamed. Have you got an inaugural fixture in place and when and where will the events be in the opening year?
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: I just said that we have a meeting with thea rob Golf Federation in Dubai on this venue on Saturday and from that we will decide where these venues will be. We know most of them are very ready at any time.
I don't want to go to these guys and say I'm going to do one here and here and here, I want them to own it themselves, ownership, not just another golf course. So we will see on Saturday.

Q. Do you see this as being a steppingstone for The Challenge Tour or even The European Tour in the future? Where do you see it fitting in the golf tours?
MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM: Well, I hope so. I have The European Tour right here, from the CEO all the way down. It's only natural that The European Tour have The Challenge Tour, and even The Challenge Tour is full and they can't accommodate that many people. So those people can also come as part of the MENA Tour and hopefully The European Tour will allow us a slot or two in the Challenge Tour at least.
But don't forget, if I'm giving three slots in the Desert Classic that, is The European Tour. So we are already in bed together. Is that a good one, George?
GEORGE O'GRADY: The hope is that it will come one of our third-tier tours which has a way into The Challenge Tour but you just have to play for a year or two first.
ADRIAN FLAHERTY: Once again, thank you, Your Highness, thank you so much for your time today, it's a pleasure having you. Mohamed, thank you. Thomas, thank you.

End of FastScripts

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297