April 14, 2022
MENA Tour's most decorated champ says players “champing at the bit" for Beautiful Thai Swing

By Kent Gray
Zane Scotland has hailed the MENA Tour’s strategic alliance with the Asian Tour as “massive” and agrees he’s a prime example of how a leg-up from the Dubai-based development circuit can positively change careers – in and outside the ropes.

The only player to be honoured with life membership by the MENA Tour is thrilled the circuit will return from its two-year pandemic-enforced shutdown with four quickfire 54-hole events in Phuket next month.

The ‘Beautiful Thailand Swing’ is co-sanctioned by the Asian Development Tour (ADT) and will offer MENA Tour players four $75,000 events to reignite stalled careers, plus the chance of further ADT starts, exemptions to Asian Tour Q-School and even a start in one of the Asian Tour’s new $1.5 million-plus International Series events in 2022.

Related: What they’re playing for at the Beautiful Thailand Swing

The co-sanctioning with the ADT and the Asian Tour alignment is a huge, huge piece of news,” said Scotland, a 10-time winner on the MENA Tour who has twice teed it up in The Open.

“Especially for upcoming players, especially with the influxes of finances, of cash and profile that the Asian Tour has received in recent months. Being connected with that and creating opportunities to get into Asian Tour events, to get into the latter stages of Q-School and to just have the opportunity to get to play on a tour which is one of the big three now, really, is hugely exciting for the players and a massive, massive incentive.”

“So well done to everyone at the MENA Tour for making that happen and very well done to [Tour Commissioner] David Spencer for the hard work he has put in at this very difficult time.”

While Scotland is the MENA Tour’s most decorated player (compatriot Lee Corfield's four wins places him second on the circuit’s multiple wins honours board), the 39-year-old is now perhaps better known for his coaching and work as a pundit on TV and radio in the UK. He’s just graced the already released May cover of coveted Golf Monthly and was proudly anointed Diversity Ambassador for the R&A last month.

“Yeah it has taken a real turn,” Scotland says of his career progression from battle-hardened player to player-coach and now to pundit and inclusivity advocate.

“Everyone wants to be Tiger Woods but the fact of the matter is that not everyone is going to make it big. But the golf industry is very welcoming and there are a lot of different areas you can really take advantage of and express your own passion in.

“The golf industry is pretty vast and I’ve seen the upside of that, having played and now working in the media for TV and radio and print, and then also the coaching area. It’s great for a young professional golfer... playing professional golf can open doors into other areas and vocations.”

Scotland says his time on the MENA Tour has helped prepare him for the role of a lifetime with the R&A.

“I love it working in golf, working for the R&A, working on the diversity role there…and the MENA Tour is an advocate of that as we’ve had women play, people from different backgrounds, all different ethnicities, all on a level playing field, with no prejudice, so the MENA Tour has been great for that. Some of the views I take into that role with the R&A has come from those experiences on the MENA Tour.

“I guess the MENA Tour helped me carry on enjoying my golf when I was kind of coming back from injury. It really helped me continue my enjoyment of playing golf and I just got to meet a lot of different, diverse background people. People from all over the world come and play, from Africa, from Asia, from America, from the UK, from Scandinavia, from the Middle East, it’s such a diverse tour. And It’s quite a close-knit community, a very friendly tour the MENA Tour, very welcoming. Everyone is out there on their own, mixing in and just a really good place, not just for golf reasons, but also for personal reasons, understanding peoples different cultures and getting on with them.”  

Scotland burst onto the scene when he won a competition in 1997 to find the “British Tiger Woods.’ He became the youngest Englishman to qualify for The Open two years later, missing the cut at Carnousite two days before his 17th birthday. He ascended to European No.1 to cap a stellar amateur career and turned professional in 2003, only for a minor car accident later that year to prove a literal and lingering pain in the neck. Further injury set-backs meant Scotland was unable to gain a secure footing on the European Tour (now DP World Tour) although there was a second Open Championship appearance in 2010 where he finished a creditable T-55 on the Old Course at St. Andrews alongside, among others, Steve Stricker and ahead of the likes of Jason Day and Ian Poulter.

The Manchester-born world No. 1706 has been a mainstay on the MENA Tour since the circuit’s inception in 2011 and ensured his legacy on the Middle East and North Africa tour with four titles in a breakout 2013 campaign where he ran away with the overall Order of Merit title.

As well as coaching players to titles, he’s also seen stars the ilk of DP World Tour winners Matthew Fitzpatrick and Robert MacIntyre launch their pro careers on the MENA Tour. Scot MacIntyre famously won his second start as a pro at the 2018 Sahara Kuwait Golf Championship, a moment Scotland points to as inspiration for players preparing to tee it up in Phuket.

“I got to play with Fitzy when he played on the MENA Tour quite a few years ago now [at the 2014 Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open], it’s kind of where he started part of his professional golf. Bob MacIntyre, again he came along and played in the MENA Tour events and a win’s a win.

“He came in there and got some world ranking points and won, proved to himself that he could win as a professional and it just shows you where you can go. All the MENA Tour players playing alongside Robert MacIntyre, what five years ago, and now he’s just teed it up at The Masters as a contender. That bit of belief players can take…yes great players have come through here and is really, really inspiring.”