KUWAIT CITY — Joe Heraty makes an emotional return to the Sahara Kuwait Championship this week, hoping to reignite the magic that led to his maiden title on the MENA Tour last year.
Highlighted by a stunning course-record 62 in the opening round, the Englishman finished at 13-under 275 for a two-shot victory he dedicated to his father who was diagnosed with brain tumor a week before the start of the tournament.
“It was a tough week, but everybody was pretty supportive which kind of calmed me down. I wanted to win it for him and that gave me extra strength, making the win very, very special.
“My dad is doing well now and it feels great to come back to the venue of my first win on the tour. Hopefully, I will be able to pick up where I left off last year, but I don’t want get ahead of myself.
“Just hoping to play well again and see where that leaves me,” said 26-year-old Englishman, who will be joined by a strong field, studded with 13 winners on the MENA Tour.
With the Sahara Kuwait Championship, now in its second edition, offering one last chance to competitors to consolidate their positions on the Order of Merit, the level of intensity could well go up a notch as the top 50 professionals and the leading 10 amateurs will make the ‘cut’ for the season-ending Tour Championship to be held Al Zorah Golf Club in Ajman next week.
England’s Jamie Elson, who won the recent Jordan’s Ayla Golf Championship, currently leads the Order of Merit for professionals with 32,453 points followed by fellow countryman Luke Joy (22,420) and Sweden’s Fredrik From (20,311).
There is a definite buzz surrounding the field as the three frontrunners will have their work cut out with plenty of seasoned players lining up as potential roadblocks along the way.
Notables included in the field are Englishmen Zane Scotland, Craig Hinton, Lee Corfield, veteran Andrew Marshall and Jake Shepherd — all multiple winners on the Mena Tour — who will be joined by 2014 Order of Merit winner Joshua White and UAE’s Ahmed Al Musharrekh.
The return a four-man Moroccan contingent, led by Ahmed Marjan, has further added to added to the excitement as a total of 80 players, including 17 amateurs, representing 17 countries will battle it out for honours this week.
The amateur division, currently led by England’s Todd Clements, will have a strong local flavour with six Kuwaiti stars joining the starting line-up, hoping to make the most of the opportunity and take their game to the next level.
“We are delighted to welcome the MENA Tour event back to Kuwait. The course is in perfect condition and we can expect some very good scores,” said Wael Abdulrahman Al Welayti, member of Sahara Kuwait’s golf advisory committee.
“Ours is the only grass course in the country and it makes a perfect sense to host international tournaments here if we are to promote golf here. We have got some very good players, like Ali Al Ansari and Ahmad Al Bader, who are quite eager to give a good account of themselves in the event.”
An initiative of the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, the MENA Tour was created in 2011 with the aim of developing golf in the region. It is affiliated to R&A, the worldwide golf governing body based in the home of golf, St Andrews, and the Arab Golf Federation and enjoys the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) status.
A guaranteed spot on the PGA Tour’s 2018 DEAN & DELUCA Invitational (for the MENA Tour champion), multiple European Tour starts, including the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Hassan II Trophy, Maybank Championship Malaysia, and the KLM Open, are some of the added incentives that await MENA Tour members, in addition to playing privileges on the Sunshine Tour, and exemptions into the Final Stage of the Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour Q-Schools.