Plenty to play for as MENA Tour by Arena’s 2019 season reaches home stretch at the Journey To Jordan Tour Championship

November 25, 2019
Pros in his crosshair: Journey To Jordan amateur leader Curtis Knipes wants to test himself against the professional scores this week.

AQABA, November 25: The MENA Tour by Arena’s Journey to Jordan ends this Thursday at the spectacular Greg Norman-designed Ayla Golf Course in Aqaba, Jordan, with the limited field of top-60 available professionals and amateurs having plenty to play for in the season-ending $100,000 Journey To Jordan Tour Championship.

Apart from the honour of being called the No1 on the MENA Tour by Arena in professional and amateur categories, there is also the substantial winner’s cheque of $18,000 for the pros to be decided on Thursday evening and plenty of playing opportunities to aspire for.

The overall professional Journey to Jordan champion and runner-up, the leading player on the ‘Final Five’ Order of Merit and the Leading Amateur will earn their spot at the 2020 Omega Dubai Desert Classic (to be played at Emirates Golf Club from January 23-26).

The No1 also receives invites to the Made in Denmark (European Tour) and the Diamond Cup (co-sanctioned by Japan Golf Tour Organization and the Asian Tour) in 2020.

The overall runner-up will be invited to two leading Asian Tour events – the 2020 Bank BRI Indonesian Open and the season-ending Indonesian Masters (Dec 12-15).

The player finishing third in the overall Journey to Jordan will receive invites to two European Challenge Tour events. The fourth-placed player gets two Asian Tour starts, while the fifth-placed player will be assured of a Challenge Tour invitation.

South Africa’s MG Keyser, winner of the Troon Series Dubai Open presented by Turkish Airlines, leads the Professional Journey To Jordan with earnings of $44,361, while Australia’s Daniel Gaunt, making a comeback to competitive golf after giving up professional golf in 2018, is second at $36,474. He won the Troon Series Al Zorah Open earlier this year.

Former European Tour star Matthew Baldwin is third at $27,820, followed by England’s James Allan ($27,037) and Frenchman Robin Roussell ($25,190). Baldwin and Roussell, who have recently finished their season on the Challenge Tour, have opted not to play this week.

In the Amateur Journey To Jordan, England’s Curtis Knipes is in pole position with 21,662 points, followed by the record-breaking Dubai-born 15-year-old Josh Hill (19,705). Hill generated worldwide headlines when he became the youngest player ever to win an Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) event last month at the Al Ain Open by Arena.

With Baldwin not playing, only three professionals have a chance to be crowned No1 – Keyser, Gaunt and Allan. On the other hand, fifth-ranked Arjun Gupta of India (4,342 points) also has an outside chance of getting his hands on the Amateur Journey To Jordan crown.

“It’s the same as any other week. I really can’t predict what others are going to do…I can only control myself. I have had a couple of good weeks on the Asian Tour before coming here and I played well in the practice round. So, just go out there, have fun, and hopefully, at the end of the day, I am still at the top,” said Keyser, who can win the Journey To Jordan by finishing solo second.

Knipes, who has a lead of 1,957 points over Hill, said: “It would be nice to win the Journey To Jordan and play the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. I felt that the Open Championship at Royal Portrush (for which he qualified), was a bit of a wasted opportunity, so it would be nice to test myself again. You never know what can happen if I play well there.

“Having said that, I am just trying to compete against the pros as I have done in every other tournament this year. Try and focus on the winning score and see how well I can play.”

The tournament starts Tuesday with Keyser, Gaunt and Allan forming the final group. They tee off at 1100 local time (1300 UAE time).