02 May 2022

David Langley raring to go as MENA Tour returns

By the time David Langley tees it up in the first of the MENA Tour’s Beautiful Thailand Swing events this week, 790 days will have elapsed since the developmental circuit was halted in its tracks by an invisible viral adversary.

The two long years, one month, 29 days and counting must surely make the 28-year-old Englishman the owner of a unique record, the leader for the longest time of an Order of Merit race on a recognised tour.

Langley hasn’t exactly been sweating on his ‘Journey to Jordan’ lead all that time but there have been moments when he wondered when, and even if, he’d get the chance to see out the season and hopefully seal all the perks associated with becoming OOM champion.

Mercifully, there is now a finish line in sight and fresh new incentives to chase.

Offering a combined US$300,000 in prizemoney and, more pertinently, enhanced OWGR points courtesy of co-sanctioning status with the Asian Development Tour (ADT), the Beautiful Thailand Swing hints at the exciting opportunities to come.

The golf world has emerged from the pandemic a very different place and the MENA Tour hasn’t been immune to change since the shutters went down on the Middle East and North Africa tour immediately following the Journey to Jordan #2 Championship at Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba on March 4, 2020.

Thankfully, the metaphorical goal posts have shifted in the developmental circuit’s favour, geographically so from Europe to the Far East courtesy of a strategic alliance with the now fiscally flush Asian Tour.

Langley was crowned champion of the opening event of the 2020 MENA Tour season at Ayla Golf Club

Beyond the four quickfire, 54-hole events in Phuket, you could call the partnership light at the end of what has been a long, dark tunnel for many trying to spark pro careers and pay mortgages in the high-stakes, low yield world that is mini tour golf.

The alliance is a game-changer for the MENA Tour and its members, the first tentative steps ahead of a proposed full merger. It’s timely to as new OWGR regulations set to be introduced from August 1 mean the combined might of the ADT and MENA Tour will keep open pathways to the elite level that are becoming increasingly less viable on other mini tours.

But that is for later. More immediately, Langley will be focused on building on his slender OOM lead which stands at a mere US$705 over compatriot David Hague after five events of what has now been rebranded the ‘2020+ Journey to Jordan’, a season that will eventually span nine events, six countries and more than two years.

If we can negotiate the Laguna Phuket Challenge (May 3-5), Laguna Phuket Cup (May 7-9), Blue Canyon Classic (May13-15) and Blue Canyon Open (May 18-20) with his nose still in front, Langley will secure a start in one of the Asian Tour’s new $1.5 million+ International Series events, among other potentially life-changing incentives.

“There’s a lot of work to do between now and the end of May to achieve that but It would be great to get the invite to play one of the International Series events,” said Langley who hails from the parish village of Stokenchurch in south-west Buckinghamshire and calls Berkshire’s Castle Royle his home club.

“I know they’ve announced that there’s going to be an event in the UK [the International Series England at Slaley Hall near Newcastle next month], maybe it’ll be that one, that would be cool. But to be honest, all of the all of the incentives are of interest to me.”

They include starts in the next two ADT events following the Beautiful Thailand Swing and an exemption to the final stage of Asian Tour Q-school for 2023 – the duel reward for all those who finish inside the top-10 of the final J2J standings.

“I think the top-10 exemption getting me through first stage of Asian Tour Q-School is probably the one of most interest to me because I was planning on going to Asian Tour Q-School anyway,” said Langley. “If I don’t have to go through the first stage that’s a big bonus.

“At the moment I am obviously committed to playing the EuroPro Tour season during the summer but I’m definitely open to the idea of playing the ADT instead. It just depends on what the schedule looks like and what their requirements are to graduate from the ADT to the (full) Asian Tour (the top seven on the ADT OOM automatically qualify) and then obviously the finances of it all. But if I feel like it’s worthwhile doing, then I will.”

Langley missed the cut by just one stroke after receiving an invite to the 2020 Dubai Desert Classic

When Langley started his MENA Tour journey in early 2020 as a freshly minted pro following an unsuccessful two-year Walker Cup bid, he envisioned his pathway to the big time being Euro centric. That focus only sharpened when he won the MENA Tour’s opening event, the Journey to Jordan #1 Championship in Aqaba, before finishing 9th and runner-up at the NEWGIZA Open and Ghala Open in Eqypt and Oman respectively over the proceeding fortnight. That run of results eventually led to an invite to the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic the following January where Langley missed the cut by one but didn’t feel at all out of place, merely miffed his driver suddenly decided not to co-operate fully at Emirates Golf Club. But the global golf landscape has changed enormously since then and so too has Langley’s horizons. He is now spending a lot of time in the United States at St. Simons Island in Georgia where he is a member of the Sea Island Golf Club, the site of the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic.

“I live out here with my girlfriend Caroline and it’s rather nice. The golf is very, very good here and the weather is great.”

Now, all roads are pointing towards the secondary U.S. Korn Ferry Tour. Or at least they were until Langley was granted invites to the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship (MC) and the Laguna Phuket (T-30) in November and got a taste of the new-look Asian Tour.

“Definitely my interest was piqued for the Asian Tour once I got the chance to play the two invites I got from the MENA Tour,” said Langley. “I was definitely getting interested in playing Asian Tour golf even before the big Saudi investment ($300 million over 10 years).  Just with my interest in moving more permanently out to America and potentially playing Korn Ferry qualifying in the future etc., the whole European schedule isn’t very friendly to allowing you to go and do Korn Ferry qualifying. So for me, with a look into the future of basing myself more permanently in America, the Asian Tour has definitely become more interesting to me.”

After lockdown in 2020, Langley won on the JAMEGA Tour after forcing his way into a playoff at an event in Bristol with a brilliant 10-under closing round at TPC Greens. After his European Tour debut on the Majlis, he played a relatively full schedule on the EuroPro Tour, mixed with three Challenge Tour starts at the Open de Bretagne in the north of France, The Vierumäki Finnish Challenge and Sydbank Esbjerg Challenge in Denmark, making the cut in Finland.

“I think the pandemic came probably at an unfortunate time for me because I was definitely playing really good golf that whole period of time (on the MENA Tour in early 2020). Even after being in lockdown for what was it, for a month and a half or something, even after that I was still playing really good golf and then towards the end of that year kind of tapered off a little bit.”

“It was a shame I wasn’t able to continue on and capitalise on that because I think I would have just carried on basically.”

At least Langley can draw confidence from his rounds of 71-68-69-70 at Laguna Golf Phuket last November to finish in a tie for 30th at the Laguna Phuket Championship alongside, among others, then 14-year-old amateur sensation turned 15-year-old Asian Tour winner Ratchanon Chantananuwat.

“As far as my game goes compared to 2020, I think it’s come on, definitely improved in many ways. My knowledge base of my own techniques has come on a long way and various different aspects…my short game is much improved from back in 2020, my long game we probably in 2020…didn’t swing it as well but recently me and my coach revisited some of the stuff that I was working on before went out to the MENA Tour and then played really well.

“We had gone to see (biomechanical consultation Dr.) Mark Bull who does the 3D thing and he highlighted some things he was working on a couple of years ago, so it’s almost revisiting some stuff that we never really completely fixed but we thought we had, so it’s good to be working on those bits that I know work which gives me a lot of confidence.

“I wouldn’t necessarily, like right now at this moment, I wouldn’t say I’m playing better currently then I was before I went out to MENA Tour in 2020 but I’ve definitely got all the ingredients that I need to play better than that year. So I feel pretty confident about the year.” 

They say good things come to those who wait. Perhaps in Langley’s case, it will come to those forced to wait, and wait and wait some more.

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