From Dunbar to Dubai. It’s a journey that started in 2003 with a Scottish Boys’ Championship success in East Lothian and now, nearly 13 years later, Paul Doherty is set to make his European Tour debut in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in the Middle East.
The 31-year-old secured his place in the star-studded line-up at Emirates Golf Club through finishing third last season on the MENA Tour, where he won the Royal D’Anfa Open in Morocco before backing that up with a second-placed finish in the Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open at Al Badia.
“Once I got the invitation, I thought ‘wow, this will be a great experience’,” he told The Scotsman in the build up to the final event of the European Tour’s Desert Swing.
“I also managed to get an exemption for the final stage of the Asian Tour last month, so I was concentrating on that initially. But now, over the last week, this chance has been really starting to kick in. I can’t wait for it.
“When you get on the range here and see all the guys, it makes you want to keep practising hard to get back out here on a regular basis.”
Doherty’s older brother, Jack, held a European Tour card two seasons ago and is currently preparing for a Challenge Tour campaign this year.
“I’ve played two full seasons on the MENA Tour and I could see the rewards other boys were getting from that,” he added of the fast-growing third-tier circuit.
“We’ve seen Ross McGowan use the MENA Tour to get back on to the European Tour and Zane Scotland also plays on it. Lee Corfield has also got in here this week and there’s Triston Lawrence, an impressive talent from South Africa.
“I definitely feel that playing out here can make me a better player. The weather, for starters, is a huge advantage. It is perfect for golf.
“The MENA Tour is also helping you get on to the Asian Tour, which can be a stepping stone to the European Tour.”
Doherty will have former BMW PGA champion Matteo Manassero as one of his playing partners for the opening two rounds on a course he knows pretty well.
“I’ve played a couple of pro-ams here,” added the Cardiff-based Ayrshireman. “The rough wasn’t as thick then but I played last week and it was definitely getting thicker. But, if you can keep it on the fairway, there are definitely chances out there.
“It’s a great golf course. The ninth is a tough hole and the finishing hole is a cracker. They seem to pop in tough holes every now and again but, at the same time, there are birdie chances out there.”
Doherty claimed his title triumph at Dunbar with a 7&5 success over Crow Wood’s Garry Wood in the 36-hole final.
“I bump into people who mention it and also bump into people quite often who are members at Dunbar,” he said.
“Winning on the MENA Tour probably means more, of course, because I’m now doing this for a living. But representing Scotland as an amateur and to win the Scottish Boys - it’s hard to believe it was 12 years ago - was amazing.
“I tried to get Jack on the bag this week, but he is preparing for the Challenge Tour. However, it’s nice that he is coming over on Thursday. He’s staying on for a couple of days practice so it is beneficial for him as well.”
Another Scot who plays on the MENA Tour, Dubai-based Aberdonian Clarke Lutton, made the cut in last week’s Qatar Masters on his European Tour debut, a performance that has inspired his compatriot.
“It was great to see Clarke make the cut last week and just a shame that he didn’t do so well in the last round,” he said.
“It was his first European Tour event and to make the cut was massive. He was top eight at one point, which must have been a great feeling.
“A top 10 would be amazing. I would love to get out there, first and foremost, and play golf how I know I can and see how it compares to these guys.
“A good week would be making the cut and seeing where I can go from there.”