First Look at Verdura Resort’s Spectacular New Course

Ahead of its opening in October of this year, golfers can now enjoy a tantalising glimpse of the new golf course at Sicily’s Verdura Resort, part of Rocco Forte Hotels.

Viewers can plot their way along the spectacular new par-four hole – and you can almost smell the ocean breeze along the coastline.

The new signature ninth hole on the East Course is part of the major renovation project – scheduled for completion in October with nine of the holes ready for play in August – as world-renowned golf architect Kyle Phillips returned to the site of his original design in Sicily to work his magic again.

The result is a remarkable success with the new hole offering those trademark, incredible views across the Mediterranean, while asking some serious questions of accuracy, strategy and distance control with a slight dogleg design.

The tee shot demands careful placement to avoid water on the left and right, while a fairway bunker lurks on the right side. Once that is safely negotiated, an undulating green is guarded by two bunkers, which requires an approach shot with enough loft to clear more water and hold the green – and all with the beach and the lapping waves just a few steps away.

Phillips said: “The drama of the coastline has been improved, so we have made the most of it.

“That ninth hole is an example of what happened and how we have managed to make a fantastic new hole out of it. We have certainly made the most out of what was available to us and we’re proud of what has been achieved.”

The extensive renovation will see a number of new features and modification of the course route, so some of the hole numbers have been adjusted. But this has allowed for the restoration of previous favourites and also some exciting new additions.

Phillips said: “One of the things that we didn’t have before – but we have now – is a double green, a bit like some of those huge greens at St Andrews. It will be the new eighth hole (par five) and the new 10th hole (par four) which will share a green.

“It was something I had pondered at one time before. But Sir Rocco is a golfer, we were out there walking one day and talked about doing it and he was excited about it.

“The green is absolutely massive and could be very interesting if you are putting on the wrong part of it!”

He added: “It is new, fresh, the result is great and I think it will be really well-received. I expected it to turn out well but it’s definitely reached the level we were striving for.”

The resort – home of the European Tour’s Rocco Forte Sicilian Open – boasts a wealth of exclusive luxury facilities that have helped establish the venue as one of the world’s elite golf and lifestyle destinations and is nestled in 230 hectares of stunning Mediterranean landscape on Sicily’s southern coast.

A member of the exclusive European Tour Destinations network, the resort is famous for offering guests an unforgettable five-star golf experience in one of the most beautiful settings in world golf, and was recently named as a recipient of Golf Digest magazine’s coveted ‘2020 Editors’ Choice Award for the Best Resorts in Continental Europe’ for the fifth year in a row.

Verdura Resort features 203 rooms and suites, all with a sea view, which offer a perfect solution for family holiday. In addition, the venue is set to add to its luxury accommodation portfolio with 20 new modern and spacious private Rocco Forte Private Villas open on May 13, each with its own private swimming pool and affording unparalled panoramic views of the Sicilian coast and Mediterranean.

Away from golf, guests can enjoy an extensive array of other luxury sports and lifestyle facilities, as well as the opportunity to sample a wide variety of gastronomy, wine, history and culture.

Guests can also take advantage of the Unlimited Golf package until November 21, 2021, which includes an unlimited number of rounds, daily full breakfast, and €100 F&B credit per stay. Complimentary additions also include shared buggies, use of the driving range and spa facilities.

Text: Azalea Group

Senior Tours

Thomas Bjørn to headline star-studded field at Trevose

Thomas Bjørn, the 2018 Ryder Cup winning captain and 15-time European Tour winner, will make his Legends Tour debut at the Farmfoods European Legends Links Championship hosted by Ian Woosnam at Trevose Golf & Country Club from June 18-20, 2021.

The most successful Danish golfer of all-time turned 50 earlier this year and will make his Legends Tour bow in the first event on European soil since the Tour rebranded in 2020.

The three-time Ryder Cup winning player will be joined in Cornwall by tournament host and 1991 Masters Champion Ian Woosnam and 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie.

Bjørn is entering the next phase of his career on the Legends Tour after competing on the European Tour for 25 consecutive seasons, since earning his card by winning the 1995 Challenge Tour Rankings.

“I am really looking forward to making my Legends Tour debut,” he said. “I have known many of these guys for a long time, so I am excited to be able to catch up and spend some time with them again.

“The guys are still incredibly competitive, and the standard of golf will be very high, so I know I will need to be razor sharp in order to compete where I want to be at the top of leaderboards.

“I think it is a really exciting time to be involved with the Legends Tour following the changes over the last 12 months and I am intrigued to see what the future holds.”

Legends Tour Ambassador Lawrie, who won his maiden over-50s title at the Scottish Senior Open en route to being named Rookie of the Year in 2019, is looking forward to teeing it up on the links once more after his first visit to Trevose did not quite go to plan.

“I absolutely love links golf, it’s what I am used to living in Scotland, and hopefully I’ll have a better experience than last time I was down there.

“I got disqualified for playing the wrong ball in 2019. It was just one of those things that happens and you learn from.  Although the week didn’t go as I planned, I was able to appreciate the beauty of the venue and also the quality of the golf course.

(Text: European Tour Communications)


Sun protection and sport: new insights

Skin in the Game

 In every sports fan’s life, there comes the devastating, disconcerting moment when you realise that you’re past it. Players half your age start making their debuts. Competitors ten years your junior win titles. You are forced to confront the reality that in fact, you probably won’t make it onto the tour, into the side, or through qualifying. No matter that you never consciously or logically dreamed of ‘making it’, it is still a bitter pill to swallow.  

Fortunately, there is much more to sport than the professional ranks, and, at risk of lapsing into cliché, it is true that it is never too late to get into or stay in sport. Naturally, certain sports lend themselves to longer participation than others. The R&A, the custodian of the rules of golf, actively promotes the game as being “A sport for life, which can be played and enjoyed by people of all ages, backgrounds and levels of ability.” 

But sports can only be ‘for life’ as long as they are practiced safely. Many sports have made massive recent strides in this respect. In extreme sports from climbing to skiing, protection, in the form of helmets, for example, is second nature. Cricketers wear pads and boxes and helmets to protect themselves from impact. Rugby players wear mouthguards as standard. Concussion protocols are being constantly reviewed across multiple sports. What’s often much harder is to convince people to protect themselves from less obvious, less visible risks.  

Recent research conducted by SMS on behalf of the Melanoma Fund revealed a concerning carelessness among UK golfers when it comes to the risk of skin cancer and precautions that can help protect their skin. Only 42% of surveyed golfers use sunscreen when the weather demands it, and nearly 30% admitted that they actively avoid sun protection in favour of a tan.

With melanoma rates doubling in the UK in the last thirty years and poised to reach nearly half a million global cases by 2040, it has never been more important to understand and protect against the risk. It is a cause that Slip! Slap! Swing! has been set up to champion. Richard Payne, SMS Director, is an ambassador for the charity, which aims to change golfer behaviour on an individual level as well as encourage golf courses to get Sun Protection Accredited. 

Reflecting on the vital importance of the campaign, Richard commented:
“Often, sadly, it has taken a public tragedy to provoke change in sport. The death of Natasha Richardson transformed the conversation about ski helmets. The death of Philip Hughes has led to prototype helmet designs in an attempt to ensure nobody else suffers in the same way. Golf has fortunately escaped this so far, although numerous players, including Justin Thomas and Adam Scott, have had scares. The challenge is to convince golfers to individually and collectively change their attitude to sun protection before a high- profile tragedy kickstarts the conversation.”

Done right, sport can not only extend life, but enhance it. Whether on the fairways or on the court or on the waves, a life with sport can be significantly richer than a life without it. Protecting yourself to ensure that your sports career and your life are as long as possible comes with no drawbacks and many benefits. 
(Text: Sports Marketing Surveys)

Senior Tours

Legends Tour launches Celebrity Series

The Legends Tour today launched the innovative Celebrity Series and confirmed its first five Celebrity Ambassadors, who will be joined by other stars of sport and screen to compete for a spot in the Grand Final, which will take place in the Indian Ocean at the end of the year.

There will be four Celebrity Series qualifying events in 2021, taking place in the days prior to tournaments on the Legends Tour International Schedule, culminating in the Celebrity Series Grand Final in the Indian Ocean.

Harry Redknapp, Georgie Bingham, Glen Johnson, Sir AP McCoy and Dan Walker, all highly-respected figures in their chosen fields, have signed up to be Celebrity Ambassadors and will be the face of Celebrity Series.

The Celebrity Series events will take place prior to the Staysure PGA Seniors Championship at Formby Golf Club, the Irish Legends presented by the McGinley Foundation at Rosapenna Golf Club, the Senior Scottish Open hosted by Paul Lawrie at Royal Aberdeen, and at an additional European venue to be announced.

The Series finale will take place in the Indian Ocean at the end of the year, where the five ambassadors will be joined by the five highest-ranked celebrities on the Order of Merit.

Sir AP McCoy, the 20-time Champion jump jockey, winner of two Cheltenham Gold Cups, the Grand National and BBC Sports Personality of the Year, will play in Celebrity Series events at Formby Golf Club and at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.

He said: “I think the new Legends Tour events will be brilliant, not only for the pros playing but for people like myself who want to try and do something competitive on an Order of Merit.

“I think it’ll help the game of golf but I also think it will help those who rarely have the opportunity to be involved in sport. I think it will be great for former sportspeople like myself to keep competitive.”

Harry Redknapp, FA Cup winning manager, ex-footballer and TV personality, said: “I had a great day playing at Wentworth at the launch of the Legends Tour and I really am delighted to be signed up as a Celebrity Ambassador.

“I played in lots of Pro-Ams now and it’s nerve-wracking. When you stand on that first tee and you get an audience there and you’re playing with a professional golfer, you’re out of your comfort zone. When you hit a good shot or you sink a good putt, it’s so satisfying. The buzz you get is amazing.”

Dan Walker, journalist and TV presenter, said: “I love golf and when the opportunity to compete in the Legends Tour Celebrity Series arose, I knew I had to go for it.

“I have been fortunate enough to play alongside some of the world’s best players in Pro-Ams over the years but this is something really special.

“I grew up watching the likes of Woosie win the Masters and so many Legends Tour players competing in Ryder Cups and I am delighted to now have the chance to spend some time with them in the Legends Tour Celebrity Series.”

Georgie Bingham, the TV and radio presenter best-known for hosting shows on talkSPORT, ESPN and Sky, said: “I am over the moon to have been asked to be a Celebrity Ambassador for the Legends Tour and I can’t wait to get out on the course.

“I have been lucky enough to play in many Pro-Ams and I can honestly say they are so much fun. Being able to play golf with Legends of the game is so appealing and I am sure the Celebrity Series will be a great success.”

Glen Johnson, ex-Liverpool and England international footballer, Premier League winner with Chelsea and FA Cup winner with Portsmouth, will play in three of the four Celebrity Series events, said: “After retiring from professional football, golf became my sporting passion and being involved with the Legends Tour is a dream come true.

“It is a great initiative by the Legends Tour to launch this series and I am sure it will be hugely popular and will attract more people to the sport.

“It will be amazing to tee it up with my fellow Celebrity Ambassadors and the pros on the Legends Tour, many of whom I have watched on TV over the years winning Majors and Ryder Cups.”

Ryan Howsam, CEO of the Legends Tour, said: “When I took over as CEO of the Legends Tour, launching a Celebrity Pro-Am Series was something I was really eager to do and therefore today is a very proud day.

“Bringing together the Legends of golf with some of the biggest celebrity names is a winning combination and I’m excited to see these guys tee it up throughout the year. I have admired all five ambassadors for a number of years as they have excelled in their respective fields and it is wonderful to welcome them to the Legends Tour.”

(Text: European Tour Communications)

Highlights Tours

MacIntyre has his eyes on the prize at Betfred British Masters

Robert MacIntyre will aim to end a more than 20 year wait for another Scottish victory at the Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willett after confirming he will tee it up at The Belfry from May 12-15, 2021.

MacIntyre is riding the crest of a wave after encouraging debut performances at both the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where he reached the Round of 16, and the Masters Tournament, finishing in a share of 12th and booking a return to Augusta National in 2022 in the process.

The 24-year-old finished joint runner up in the 2019 British Masters at Hillside – the first year of Betfred’s title sponsorship of the popular tournament which returned to the European Tour’s schedule in 2015 after an eight-year absence.

He is now hoping to go one better and follow in the footsteps of Bernard Gallacher, Sandy Lyle, Colin Montgomerie, Gary Orr and Sam Torrance as Scottish winners of the British Masters since the Tour’s inception in 1972, as he aims for a second European Tour victory, adding to the maiden title he won at the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown last November.

“I’m really excited to play at The Belfry for the first time in my career,” said MacIntyre, who moved inside the Top 50 in the World for the first time in February. “It’s an iconic venue and one that is steeped in history with its Ryder Cup and European Tour heritage.

“Some of the most iconic names in Scottish golf have won the British Masters and I’d love to add my name to that list. I came close to winning this event two years ago at Hillside and I feel as though I learned a lot from that experience of being in contention down the home stretch.”

Also joining MacIntyre and tournament host Danny Willett at The Belfry are British Ryder Cup players Jamie Donaldson, Stephen Gallacher, David Howell, Andy Sullivan, Oliver Wilson and Chris Wood.

Last year’s winner Renato Paratore, of Italy, will bid to defend the title he won last year at Close House as the Betfred British Masters marked the full resumption of the European Tour’s 2020 season following a three month pause due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The 24-year-old finished three strokes ahead of nearest challenger Rasmus Højgaard at Close House as he produced a superb display of front-running to win his second European Tour title.

“I’m really looking forward to defending my British Masters title,” said Paratore. “I’m very proud of the way I played at Close House, especially after returning from the break in the middle of the season. I had worked really hard on my game last year and in the build up to the tournament, so it was very rewarding to see that pay off.”

The Betfred British Masters marks the next stage in European Ryder Cup Qualification where all points earned on the European and World Points Lists will be multiplied by two, as the race to be part of Captain Pádraig Harrington’s team continues. MacIntyre is currently just outside the automatic qualification spots as he bids for a debut Ryder Cup appearance at Whistling Straits in September.

Text: European Tour Communications

European Tour

Rafa Cabrera Bello proud to return to Gran Canaria

Rafa Cabrera Bello is full of pride at returning home to Gran Canaria to play in and host the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open at Meloneras Golf by Lopesan.

The Ryder Cup star and four-time European Tour winner was born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and despite going on to ply his trade all over the world, he remains passionate about developing golf across the Canary Islands. 

After taking up the game at the age of six, the 36 year old went on to win the Spanish National Championship every year from under-7 to under-18 level. He then had a memorable European Tour debut as a 17 year old amateur, finishing tied fourth as his future Ryder Cup partner Sergio Garcia won the 2002 Canarias Open de España – the last time a European Tour event was staged in Gran Canaria. 

In 2019 the 36 year old established the Circuito Juvenil Rafa Cabrera Bello, an annual series of tournaments for children and young golfers around the idyllic Canary Islands. The circuit will celebrate its third test this Saturday in Gran Canaria, as its founder aims to seal a first European Tour victory on home soil. 

Meanwhile last week’s Austrian Golf Open winner John Catlin is aiming to draw on his experience of Spanish success in a bid to secure the Race to Dubai title. The American now has ten professional victories worldwide, including three on the European Tour, with the first of those coming after a battle with Major winner Martin Kaye just eight months ago at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucia Masters.

Interview with Rafa Cabrera Bello

“It’s a really, really cool experience. As a kid you don’t really grow up dreaming about being a tournament host, but once you see the other guys who have had the opportunity and that huge honour, I thought it’d be cool to be host one day. We’ve come back to Gran Canaria, and I’m loving it this week. It’s a very nice feeling because you look back on your career and you think ‘maybe I’ve done one or two things right’. I have the opportunity and the honour to be host this week. It’s a huge pleasure.

“We have six Junior Circuit events throughout the year. We started three years ago, last year was a bit of a hiccup because it was a difficult year. Our goal is to become a nice junior ranking in all the Canary Islands. Golf has given me a lot, if I have a chance to give a little bit back to kids and try to get them to love the game as much as I do, and learn from the values of sports, in particularly the values that golf teaches all of us, that would be the only reward I need. It’s really cool when you see a smile on a kid, you don’t need anything else.

“Meloneras Golf is a beautiful course, the views you’ll see throughout the week are breath-taking. You can expect good scores – lots of birdies. The biggest trick about the course is if the wind does pick up. They can be very windy islands, and that’s the defence of the course. The back nine does have some daunting shots, both to the green and off the tee. You can also see one or two players get nervous and struggle a bit.”

Text: European Tour Communications

European Challenge Tour

Hurly Long eyes big year as Road to Mallorca begins in Limpopo

Germany’s Hurly Long is determined to secure one of the 20 European Tour cards on offer on the 2021 Road to Mallorca, with the season set to get under way with the Limpopo Championship at Euphoria Golf Club from April 22-25.

This week’s event in South Africa is the first of three co-sanctioned events with the Sunshine Tour to begin the European Challenge Tour’s 2021 campaign, as players battle it out over 26 events across the globe for one of the 20 graduation spots on offer through the Road to Mallorca Rankings.

Long finished eighth on the Rankings in 2021 following a strong maiden campaign which yielded the 26-year-old’s first Challenge Tour victory at the Italian Challenge Open Eneos Motor Oil, and he now has his sights set on securing graduation this year.

“I had a pretty good season last year on the Challenge Tour, finished eighth and just missed my card,” he said. “I’m more focused on doing what I can do, but at the same time if I play well and to my abilities I will have a good season, and playing on the European Tour next year is the goal.

“My game is good. It’s early in the season, so you’re fiddling around with some things. My putting hasn’t been quite sharp, but the ball-striking is good and I’m looking forward to it.”

The 2019 Pro Golf Tour Order of Merit winner made his Challenge Tour debut in last year’s Limpopo Championship and, despite missing his first three cuts, is excited to be back in South Africa.

“I’m loving it,” he said. “Literally the only thing I was talking to my caddie about in Austria was how I was looking forward to the weather, it was going to be so much nicer.

“Austria was a nice course, but I love it here. It’s special. It’s my second trip to South Africa. I loved it the first around, it’s one of the coolest places on earth.

“I love the nature aspect of this place. That’s one of the cool things about our job, we see so many different places and cultures. It’s still new to me, in a way. It’s special. Golf is very important to me, but enjoying life and seeing the world is all part of the journey. You have to live in the moment.”

Long is joined in this week’s Limpopo Championship field by defending champion JC Ritchie. The South African triumphed at the first two editions of the event in 2019 and 2020 and is bidding for a hat-trick as he tees it up on home soil this week.

World Number 98 and three-time European Tour winner Brandon Stone and World Number 80 Daniel van Tonder, who won his first European Tour event at the Kenya Savannah Classic supported by Absa last month, will also tee it up at Euphoria Golf Club this week.

The Limpopo Championship begins at 6:30am local time on Thursday April 22, with Long teeing off from the tenth alongside Chris Swanepoel and Jordan Wrisdale at 12:50pm.

(Text: European Tour Communications)

European Tour Highlights Tours

BMW International Open: Major winners Kaymer, Harrington, García, Oosthuizen and rising star Hovland head strong field

This year’s BMW International Open will once again see a top-class field battle it out for the title at Germany’s most prestigious professional golf tournament. Making his first appearance will be Norway’s rising star Viktor Hovland, who will be taking on a selection of major winners, Ryder Cup stars, tournament legends and an impressive German quartet.

The decision whether to allow spectators and, if so, how many, will be taken over the coming weeks in close cooperation with authorities and the European Tour. Until then, tickets will not go on sale. Organiser BMW will offer all golf and sport fans an extensive and multimedia tournament experience.

“After the unavoidable cancellation of the tournament last year, we are delighted that Munich will host world-class golf again in June, and that we are able to continue the history of the BMW International Open, which stretches back as far as 1989,” says Christian Masanz, Head of Sports Marketing BMW Germany. “Recent months have shown that professional tournaments can be run safely with appropriate concepts in place. Health and safety takes top priority, even if this unfortunately means that we are unable to allow as many spectators, if any at all. We are working closely with the European Tour and authorities on various scenarios.”

The following players have already confirmed their participation in the 2021 BMW International Open:

Martin Kaymer: In 2008, the two-time major winner won the 20th BMW International Open at the age of 23 years and 177 days. This makes Kaymer the youngest winner in the history of the tournament, and the only German to lift the coveted trophy.

Viktor Hovland: The rising star from Norway is set to make his debut in Munich this year. At just 23 years of age, the world number 15 (as of 19th April) has already established himself among the very best in the world and has his sights set on a first Ryder Cup appearance this year.

Padraig Harrington: The current European Ryder Cup captain and two-time major winner is a welcome guest at the BMW International Open. The Irishman may not have won the tournament yet, but he and Retief Goosen came very close in 2006, missing out in a play-off to eventual winner Henrik Stenson.

Sergio García: The 2017 Masters winner was part of an all-Spanish play-off in 2011, which went down in the annals of the BMW International Open as the most dramatic conclusion in the history of the tournament. In the end, García had to settle for second place behind Pablo Larrazábal.

Bernd Wiesberger: The Austrian has claimed eleven tournament wins over the course of his career – however, victory at the BMW International Open is still missing from his collection. His best result to date: fourth place in 2013.

Louis Oosthuizen: At the start of the millennium, the South African was a regular guest at GC München Eichenried. However, he has yet to claim a top-ten finish. The biggest success of his career so far came at the legendary Old Course in St. Andrews, when he won the Open Championship in 2010.

Rafa Cabrera Bello: The Spaniard is a popular regular at the BMW International Open and has been in contention at Germany’s most prestigious tournament on several occasions. In 2010 he was third. Four years later, he went one better, finishing runner-up after a play-off.

Thomas Bjørn: With two wins to his name, the Dane is the joint record winner of the BMW International Open alongside Paul Azinger, Pablo Larrazábal and Henrik Stenson. The 2018 Ryder Cup captain won the tournament in 2000 and 2002.

Andrew Johnston: “Beef” made his debut at the BMW International Open in 2012. Since then, the Brit has regularly featured in the high-class field – and has always been hugely popular with the fans at the course. Alongside the German contingent, Johnston is always one of the crowd favourites.

Stephan Jäger: The man from Munich, who grew up around the corner from the venue in Eichenried, returns home again in 2021. In April, Jäger celebrated his sixth tournament victory on the US Korn Ferry Tour – and he would love to repeat the feat on the European Tour.

Alex Cejka: Second place in 2003, third in 2004 and 2010: Alex Cejka regularly hits top form at the BMW International Open. Now 50 years old, he played at the inaugural tournament back in 1989.

Max Kieffer: A BMW International Open without Max Kieffer? It’s hard to imagine! Kieffer is in excellent form: just two days ago, the German narrowly missed out on his first European Tour victory, coming up just short in a play-off.

As well as a total prize purse of 1.5 million euros and 2,750 Race to Dubai points, the pros will also have their sights set on a spectacular Hole-in-One Award at the BMW International Open. The first player to hit an ace on the 17th hone (par 3) will be rewarded with a BMW iX. The BMW iX heralds a new era of mobility. The BMW Group’s new technology flagship impresses thanks to sheer driving pleasure with zero local emissions, the sportiness you have come to expect from BMW, efficiency, and excellent range, as well as a holistic understanding of sustainability that is of implemented consistently from scratch.

(Text: BMW Press Release)

Senior Tours

Four qualifying venues confirmed for The 2021 Senior Open Presented by Rolex

Three of England’s finest golf courses have been named as venues for the Monday Qualifying event for The Senior Open, with an overseas qualifier set to take place in the United States for the first time in the Championship’s history to enable overseas players the opportunity to earn a spot in the field while minimising international travel.

Bearwood Lakes Golf Club, Burhill Golf Club, Hindhead Golf Club in England, and Firestone Country Club (Fazio Course) in Akron, Ohio, United States, will play host to hopefuls in their bid to secure a spot in Europe’s only Senior Major Championship when it returns to the Old Course at Sunningdale Golf Club from July 22-25, 2021, a year after the Championship was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A number of spots will be available for players hoping to tee it up alongside some of the world’s greatest over-50s players at the stunning Berkshire venue.

A record 591 players entered Qualifying events in 2018, while 525 golfers fought for 49 places at The 2019 Senior Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

Burhill’s New Course was opened in 2001 and hosted Regional Qualifying for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush, while Bearwood Lakes, which opened in 1996, is set amidst 200 acres of beautiful Berkshire countryside and was one of the host venues for the Rose Ladies Series in 2020.

Hindhead Golf Club, which was founded in 1904 and ranks among Britain’s best, is a true Surrey heathland course and hosted Regional Qualifying for The Open from 2000 – 2005.

The United States’ Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio will host Qualifying for the first time, on the Fazio Course, which was designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 2002. The links-inspired course will play host to Qualifying on Monday June 21, in the lead up to the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship, which will be contested from June 24-27 on Firestone Country Club’s South Course.

David Williams, Tournament Director of The Senior Open Presented by Rolex, said: “We have chosen four fine golf courses to stage the Qualifying events for The Senior Open in 2021 and they will provide a true test of golf for the hundreds of players aiming to earn a spot at Sunningdale Golf Club.

“We thank our friends at PGA TOUR Champions for their support in helping us stage a qualifier in the United States as we provide the best opportunity to American golfers to take part in this prestigious Championship.

“After last year’s tournament was cancelled, we are extremely excited for this year’s Championship and the qualifying events will be a thrilling start to the week.”

Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Executive Director – Championships at The R&A, said: “We are greatly looking forward to the return of the Senior Open at Sunningdale and to the drama of the Qualifying events at four such outstanding courses.

“We appreciate the tremendous support we have received from the PGA TOUR Champions in staging an additional qualifying event this year at Firestone which will give players from around the world the opportunity to qualify and greatly assist us amid the continuing challenges with travel caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The Qualifying events in England are planned to be held on Monday July 19, 2021, with official practice days taking place on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18. The Qualifying event at Firestone CC will take place on Monday June 21. 

(Text: European Tour Communications)


Matsuyama can turbocharge Asian golf. So can research.

Hideki Matsuyama is a golfer who feels like he has been around much longer than he has.

Part of the effect is generated by his beautifully struck irons, which carry him serenely from tee to green and make his game seem mature beyond his years. In part it is his composed, friendly demeanour. Mostly, it is because of how much he has accomplished in the sport.

Matsuyama first finished at the top five in a Major in 2015 and rose to the top five in the world in 2016. The next year, he romped to a WGC title at Firestone, shooting a barely believable 61 in the final round to win by five. Now, with a victory at the 2021 Masters, he finally has the Major title that his talent has demanded for some time.

With his triumph, the 29-year-old completes a pair of Japanese doubles at Augusta. For Matsuyama himself, it is a Green Jacket to go with the Silver Cup he won a decade earlier as the leading amateur. For his country, it means Japan is now home to both the Masters champion and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion, following Tsubasa Kajitani’s triumph earlier this month.

Matsuyama joins female players Hisako Higuchi and Hinako Shibuno in Japan’s stable of major winners. 2021 now holds the chance for him to improve his already impressive best finishes at the tournaments that define golf’s calendar. Ties for fourth and sixth at the PGA Championship and Open Championship, combined with a second place at the U.S. Open, prove that this is a player capable of winning on all types of golf course in any conditions.

He will be hotly fancied in particular at an even rarer chance for glory. It is common to talk of a home favourite being cheered by an Olympic crowd. Following Tokyo’s decision to restrict foreign fan travel as a result of the COVID pandemic, that will never have been truer than in 2021. Olympic glory is a challenge that England’s Justin Rose, the first-round leader who Matsuyama overhauled with his Saturday charge, has conquered, claiming golf’s first Olympic title in 112 years in 2016. As for Hideki, he is no stranger to gold medals, having already topped the podium in both the individual and team golf events at the 2011 World University Games. If he can follow Rose’s lead again and win in a home Olympics, golf in Asia might just find itself in overdrive.

Already, the sport has been enjoying something of a boom in the East. On the professional side, Matsuyama’s maturation comes at the same time as other standout young stars like Sung-Jae Im and Si Woo Kim are making strides up the rankings. The women’s world rankings are currently led by three Koreans. On a grassroots level, the demand to play golf has been fuelled by lockdown and travel restrictions, leading to golf membership enquiries and prices reaching record highs in the region. While this has benefitted those managing golf courses, or selling on memberships, which, at top private clubs, are often tradeable debenture type subscriptions, the continent still has much to do to ensure that everyone who wants to play can find a tee time to do so. High population density and a relative lack of golf facilities means that tee time availability can be expensive as well as competitive.

Eric Lynge, chief executive of the Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF) and SMS’ special advisor for Asia, commented:

“It is a fantastic result for Asian golf! The region’s golfing community is thrilled. The challenge now is to capitalise on the momentum and make sure that Matsuyama and Kajitani’s Augusta triumphs are channelled towards broadening access to golf on the continent. Another key initiative in that respect is gathering robust, regular data on participation and playing habits across the region. The AGIF and SMS are exploring the possibility of launching new research to start quantifying fluctuations in participation and examine how this is impacted by a range of factors including the professional game, national or local initiatives and media exposure.”