AQABA, Jordan: Promising Jordanian amateur Shergo Al Kurdi hopes to make full use of his local knowledge as he takes on a quality field in Journey To Jordan-1, opening event of the 2019 season of MENA Tour by Arena.
The 54-hole Journey To Jordan-1 starts Saturday and features 117 players battling it out for a total prize purse of US$100,000, the largest in the history of the Tour since its inception in 2011.
The 15-year-old Shergo, who is based in England but spends a lot of time at this week’s host venue, the Greg Norman-designed Ayla Golf Club, where he is a member.
Playing the 2017 MENA Tour event here alongside the legendary Darren Clarke as a 13-year-old, Shergo had made the cut and finished tied 38th, but he has accrued a lot more experience under his belt since then.
Last year, he became the first Jordanian in 27 years to win the Jordan Open, and then became the first player from his country to make the cut at the elite Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Singapore. He also won two Faldo Series events in the UK.
His rapid rise has been noticed in the region, and last week, he was given an invitation to play the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City. He started the high-profile European Tour event with three birdies in his first four holes, but failed to make the cut.
Shergo has made five starts on the MENA Tour, with his best being his effort in 2017 in Aqaba. And he is definitely hoping to improve upon his tied 38th place finish, despite accepting that there is always a bit of pressure playing in your home country.
“I am very excited. I have always enjoyed playing this golf course and I have always enjoyed being in Aqaba. Ayla is a tricky course and I love the challenges that we face here,” said Shergo.
“There is a bit of pressure considering that I am playing in Jordan. The expectations are more. But having said that, I love representing my country and I consider it a privilege flying the Jordanian flag here this week.
“I am expecting to play my best and produce a good score. I am hoping for a top-15 or a top-10 finish this week. If I can get that, it would be a good experience.”
Shergo has played the golf course several times and felt he knew the challenges that awaited the field this week.
“It’s got two defenses – wind and bunkers. But even with big gusting winds, you can still use the slopes and undulations here and score well. And the bunkers…well, you better stay out of them,” said Shergo.
“Hopefully, I can use my local knowledge to good effect this week.”
Shergo may be the most talked about Jordanian player, but he takes great pride in seeing some of the youngsters who have taken up the game, especially after the Ayla Golf Club came up and offered facilities that were never experienced before in the country.
“With every visit here, I have seen the course improve from my previous visit,” said Shergo.
“I am based in England, but the weather is not always good for golf there. One thing I can always be assured of in Ayla is that the weather is going to be great and the facilities are excellent. I can practice as much as I want here.
“We have got a few kids here who are getting better with each trip I make and that makes me very happy. There is Abdullah and Rayyan Hassan and a couple other kids who are very interested in the game and it is good to see these youngsters take golf so seriously. In a place where they did not know about golf less than a couple of years ago, it is fantastic to see these young kids coming up.”
Ayla Golf Club is the first Championship-size green golf course in Jordan and opened to public play in September 2016. The condition of the golf course, and its scenic setting adjacent to the Red Sea and at the foothills of the Shara Mountains, have wowed the critics and golf fans ever since. The club will host three events of the 2019 season’s Journey to Jordan, including the season-ending Tour Championship.
The MENA Tour by Arena is returning to the world schedule after a year of restructuring and will feature 10 tournaments in 2019. It will continue to provide Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points, thus making it a perfect pathway for ambitious young professional to the bigger tours, and for the players from the region to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.