Some of the most promising professionals and amateurs from around the world have been invited to compete against a field full of superstars at the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic, which gets underway from January 28-31 at Emirates Golf Club.
Emerging Japanese star Takumi Kanaya will be joined by talented South Africans Garrick Higgo and Jayden Schaper, Scotland’s Connor Syme, Karim El Hali of Morocco and eye-catching amateurs Shergo Al Kurdi of Jordan and Spain’s Eduard Rousaud, all hoping to make their mark in the prestigious ‘Major of the Middle East.’
Also appearing will be former Emirates Golf Club member – and former Club Champion – Sebastian Heisele of Germany, who will be making his second appearance in the tournament, looking to put his local knowledge to good use.
Kanaya turned professional in October last year after a successful amateur career and quickly hit the headlines the following month, winning in just his second start as a pro at the Dunlop Phoenix Open in his homeland.
The 22-year-old had previously won on the Japan Golf Tour as an amateur in 2019 and was also victorious at the 2018 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which earned him a place in the field for the following year’s Masters Tournament.
“I’m honoured to have been given an invitation to play the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic this year,” said Kanaya, who turned professional having won the 2020 Mark H McCormack Medal as the leading men’s player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. “This event is famous in the world of golf and many great names have won here in the past. I know it is a title that all the players want to win and I would love to get in contention with a chance to win it on my European Tour debut.”
Both Higgo and Schaper enjoyed fine seasons last year, with Higgo winning his maiden European Tour title at the Open de Portugal at Royal Óbidos and Schaper impressing numerous times on home soil in co-sanctioned European Tour events.
Higgo’s victory earned him playing status on Tour and he would later finish in a share of third place at the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Open, which helped him qualify for a maiden appearance at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
“It was a great feeling to win my first European Tour event in Portugal – hopefully it’s the first of many,” said Higgo. “I learned a lot last year and I’m looking forward to developing more as I play against the best players in the world at events like the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic.”
Schaper finished runner-up to his friend Christiaan Bezuidenhout at Leopard Creek in November for his second top ten of the season on the European Tour, following a share of sixth at the South African Open back in January.
Those results underlined the 19-year-old’s potential and he’s keen to kick on and take advantage of a second appearance at the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic following his debut last year.
“It was great to get a taste of such an iconic event as the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic last year playing as an amateur and I’m very thankful to be given a second opportunity having turned professional last year,” said Schaper. “The Majlis course is stunning and I am so grateful to be given a chance to compete against some of the best players in the world at one of the best tournaments on the European Tour schedule.”
Top Jordanian youngster Shergo Al Kurdi also found himself making history in February last year by becoming the first player from the GCC and Middle East countries to earn Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points with a runner-up finish at the MENA Tour’s Journey to Jordan tournament in Aqaba, aged just 16.
Now aged 17, Al Kurdi, who won back-to-back U18 Arab Championship titles, is excited at the prospect of teeing it up against some of golf’s superstars at the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic.
“I’m thrilled to be playing in this year’s OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic,” said Al Kurdi, who earned his spot via the initiative of being the leading amateur on last year’s MENA Tour ranking. “I have previously played in five European Tour events but this will be my first Dubai Desert Classic. The whole week should be a great experience and I can’t wait to get started. I am also extremely honoured to represent not only Jordan but the entire Middle East region.”
Also accepting an invitation is Spanish amateur Eduard Rousaud, who hit the limelight last year in his U.S. Open debut by holing out from the fairway for eagle in his opening hole in round one at Winged Foot.
Rousaud played in the 2018 Junior Ryder Cup and is currently ranked sixth in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. In November he played back-to-back Challenge Tour events in his homeland and finished inside the top five on both occasions.
“Spanish players have enjoyed a lot of success in the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic and I’m excited about playing this year’s event,” said Rousaud. “It is a dream of mine to play on the European Tour one day and I aim to savour this experience.”
Heisele grew up in Dubai and began playing golf at the age of eight. He became a member at Emirates Golf Club where he was a multiple Club Champion before leaving for college in the United States in 2005. The 32-year-old turned professional in 2012 and won his first title on the Challenge Tour in 2019 at the Open de Bretagne en route to earning his European Tour card for 2020.
“This event is something of a ‘home event’ for me because I know the city and this course so well,” said Heisele. “I have lots of memories at the tournament – I’ve caddied and been a marshal before, and I can’t wait to tee it up again having made my debut as a player last year.”
Scotland’s Syme enjoyed a superb campaign on the European Tour last year, with seven top tens and a debut appearance at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. The 25-year-old won his first title on the Challenge Tour in 2019 in Turkey to earn his playing status on the European Tour.
“I’m delighted to be playing this year’s OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic,” said Syme. “This is one of the biggest events on Tour and the strength of the field – and the list of former winners – speaks for itself. It’s a tournament we all want to perform well in and I’m looking forward to getting started.”
El Hali is making his debut in the event in what will be only his second appearance on the European Tour following a start in the 2018 Trophee Hassan II on home soil.
“This is one of the most important events in world golf and a pioneering tournament for golf in the Middle East,” said El Hali. “I’m so grateful to be playing and very excited to play on the famous Majlis course.”
Simon Corkill, Executive Tournament Director, said: “Over the course of its history, the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic has always provided a platform for up-and-coming talent from all four corners of the world to test themselves against the sport’s best players. It is a privilege for us to be able to afford them this opportunity and we are looking forward to seeing how they perform on the Majlis alongside the established stars of the game.”
The final player to receive an invite to compete is former OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic winner David Howell, who wrapped up his first European Tour title in Dubai in 1999. The well-respected Englishman was appointed to board of the European Tour last month, and with five wins and two Ryder Cup appearances under his belt, is entering his 26th season on the European Tour.
A truly world-class field has been assembled for the 32nd staging of the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic which includes reigning US PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa, Ryder Cup stars Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton, 2017 OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic winner Sergio Garcia, 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and defending champion Lucas Herbert.
Attendance at the event is for invited guests only but the action will be beamed to a worldwide audience on mainstream broadcast sports networks and highlights and exclusive content will be shared on the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic social media channels.