Golf: Highlights from MCB Tour Championship 6 December 2011

The MCB Tour Championship gets underway at Constance Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius on 9 December. Our golf journalist, Neil Webber is keeping you up-to-date this week with the latest happenings from the Legend and Links golf courses.

Links golf course

Links golf course

Here are highlights from Tuesday 6 December. Find out more from the official website for the MCB Tour Championship

Regular visitors to the Constance Belle Mare Plage may have noticed a number of subtle design changes since they last played the Legend course.

The main alterations are all at par-five holes, namely the sixth, the 13th and the 18th.

The championship tee at the par-five sixth hole has been moved back 20 metres from its original location, with the intention of making it more difficult for the professionals to reach the green in two.

Read more about course changes at the Legend course from the MCB Tour Championship website.

  • Italians take command in Air Mauritius Trophy

It was a great day for Italy in the second round of the Air Mauritius Trophy on the Links course on Tuesday 6 December as players from the country moved into ascendancy in three of the six categories.

Read more about Tuesday’s play in the Air Mauritius Trophy from the MCB Tour Championship website.

  • Forward planning the key to success, says Petch

Behind the scenes with MCB Tour Championship tournament director. Michael Petch appears the kind of guy who wouldn’t break sweat in a sauna nor lose sleep during an earthquake.

He projects the aura of someone totally at ease with life. Whatever inner discomforts there may be, they rarely, if ever, appear on the surface.

But as the MCB Tour Championship tournament director, Mike is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the event proceeds without an obvious hitch. The buck, quite simply, stops with him.

Read more about how Michael Petch makes the tournament such a success on the MCB Tour Championship website.

Golf MCB Tour Championship: Andrew Oldcorn

It is one thing to play a course ‘blind’ in a metaphorical sense, but another altogether when the physical reality of an eye problem can threaten your entire career.

Andrew Oldcorn

Andrew Oldcorn

Andrew Oldcorn understands the difficulties better than most, having been afflicted with a serious eye condition for the second half of the European Senior Tour season which scuppered his hopes of ending the 2011 campaign as Number One.

Following successful surgery in October 2011 to remove a cataract in his right eye, the 52 year old Scot has a clear vision of the future, starting with the season-ending MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius.

Just being able to compete again on an equal footing with his peers on the Senior Tour is a huge relief to Oldcorn, whose inability to see properly caused him to lose ground at the top of the Order of Merit.  

Find out more about Andrew Oldcorn’s story and the MCB Tour Championship from the official website.

Golf: Air Mauritius Amateur Tournament – Pollock sets pace

Former South African Test cricketer Shaun Pollock emerged as the early pacesetter in the premier category of the Air Mauritius Amateur Tournament after producing a one-over-par round in the opening round on the Legend course.

Shaun Pollock

Shaun Pollock

Pollock, a scratch handicapper, accumulated 35 Stableford points to head the field in the 0-9 handicap gross section. Closest rival at the start of day two is playing partner Italian Luca Bolla, also a scratch player, who scored 34 points. Completing the leading trio a further point in arrears is Englishman Marcus Ferguson Jones.

Pollock is also in contention for the 0-9 net section, his 35 points putting him one behind joint leaders Roland Espitalier Noel, from Mauritius, who plays off seven, and five-handicap Martino Salvino, from Italy.

In the 10-18 handicap competition, Andrew Rogers, from South Africa, tops the leaderboard in both the net and the gross sections. Rogers shares the honour in the gross competition with the German, Stephen Hurst, after both players returned scores of 24 points, two more than Gerard De Sigoyer, from Reunion Island.

However, 17-handicap Rogers has a healthy three-point lead in the 10-18 net event after the day’s best score of 38 points, three better than nearest rival, Englishman Derrick Bloy, who plays off 15. There is then a gap of two points to the next two players, Stephen Hurst (h12) and Frenchman Pascal Delgrange (h18).

Ladies’ competitions

Meanwhile, Valerie Raffray from Mauritius has earned herself a position of prominence in both the Ladies’ gross and net competitions after an impressive opening round performance. In the gross section she returned a total of 32 points, which put her alongside Guiliana Colavito (Italy), a commanding six points ahead of another Mauritian, third-placed Denise Haarhoff. But it is Haarhoff, playing off 14, who sets the pace in the net section on 38 points,. That is a point more than Marie-Yvonne Mamet (h18), from Mauritius, with Raffray only a point back in third spot with 36.

Highlights and scores

For more highlights and scores, visit the MCB Tour Championship website.

Golf MCB Tour Championship: It’s an open contest, says record winner Mason

How times have changed for Carl Mason. When he made his only previous visit to Mauritius, for a family holiday around 20 years ago, it was as a good but not exceptional European Tour golfer who was still awaiting his first Tour victory.

Carl Mason

Carl Mason

Mason doesn’t remember too much about his time on the island then but he does recall being impressed by its beauty and the friendliness of its inhabitants.

Making history

That hasn’t changed at all but Mason’s list of achievements certainly has and he will arrive at the Constance Belle Mare Plage as the most successful golfer in European Senior Tour history, with 25 titles in 8 years.

The Englishman’s first win on the main European Tour did not arrive until 1994, 21 years after his tour debut. Later the same season came a second success, in the prestigious Scottish Open at Gleneagles.

‘It was a little while after that when I simply stopped enjoying the game,’ said the 58-year-old. ‘I just got fed up. I had been on tour for 25 years. I didn’t have a bad record and I had never been to qualifying school but my desire had gone.’

Mason became a rules official for a while but was not interested in returning to the tour and spent 6 years doing other things.

‘Eventually, I began to watch the Senior Tour on television,’ he explained, ‘and I started to think, I can do as well as most of those guys, and took a little more interest.

Mason joined tour in 2003

‘I joined the tour in 2003 and managed to win my second competition. My confidence returned and it went on from there. I guess I had learned how to win.’

That is an understatement. In his 8 years on the Senior Tour, Mason has picked up trophy after trophy, passing the legendary Tommy Horton’s total of 23 at El Valle in Spain in May and adding another for good measure at La Quinta in October.

Horton, now 70, was one of the first to acknowledge the achievement, first in a phone call to Mason from his home on Jersey and then in a letter.

Mason acknowledges that it is unlikely his record of wins will ever be surpassed.

‘The standard is getting better every season so it is going to become harder for anyone to win on a repetitive basis,’ he said.

Mason’s playing opportunities have been restricted this year by the recurrence of a back problem but he still sits eighth in the Senior Tour order-of-merit.

2011 MCB Tour Championship

The MCB Tour Championship represents his first tournament on Mauritius.

‘I didn’t come to the MCB Open because of commitments in Florida, where we spend around 4 months of the year. But I am making a special trip for the Tour Championship.’

He is up against some hardened campaigners and a host of multi-tournament winners.

‘Tom Lehman and David Frost must be among the favourites,’ says Mason, ‘but there are many good players. Peter Fowler has had a wonderful campaign and Barry Lane has had a great season, so who knows who will collect the trophy. Anyone is capable if it is their day.’

Article written by Neil Webber, golf journalist

Golf MCB Tour Championship: Chapman desperate to go all the way this time

A couple of beers and a few glasses of wine was all that was needed to put life back on track for Roger Chapman after suffering the disappointment of having the MCB Seniors Open cruelly snatched from his grasp 12 months ago.

The 2010 Championship

Roger Chapman

Roger Chapman

After 17 holes of near-impeccable golf in the final round on the Legend course, the 52-year-old Englishman had all but won the tournament.

Seven birdies and 10 pars had turned a four-stroke deficit to overnight leader David Frost into a two-shot advantage as the 2 men arrived at the 54th and closing hole.

Chapman opted to do what any other player in his position would have done, which was to make par, leaving his South African rival the prospect of manufacturing an unlikely eagle to force a play-off.

The Englishman played his role to perfection. Unfortunately for him, Frost ignored the script, striking 2 magnificent blows and holing a 30-foot putt to take the title battle into extra holes.

The first of these, back along the 18th, ended with a pair of birdie fours but, playing the hole yet again, Chapman’s wayward drive into deep undergrowth opened the door for Frost, who needed no second bidding. For luckless Chapman it was yet another runners-up prize to add to so many he has accumulated over a professional career spanning 30 years.

Despite the disappointment, it took only a few moments for Chapman to compose himself before, in typically sporting fashion, he commented: ‘Fair play to Frosty. He did precisely what was needed and he’s a worthy winner.’

That evening, following the presentations, Chapman and wife Cathy were invited by Frost to join his table for dinner. ‘There were eight of us and it was a really good evening,’ he reflected. ‘We had a few drinks and before the end, the scars had healed.’

Highlights of 2011

Chapman arrives in Mauritius after a satisfactory season on the European Tour where he is 10th in the order-of-merit.

‘I played 10 events on the US Champions Tour in the first part of the year and only joined the Senior Tour in August,’ he said. ‘But I started with three top 10 placings in a row – a second, a third and a sixth. It would have been nice to have won but that’s the way it goes.’

Return to Belle Mare Plage

Legend golf course

Legend golf course

Chapman has been relishing his return to the Belle Mare Plage:

‘I like the Legend course,’ he says. ‘What Marc Farry and the sponsors have done to turn a relatively minor end-of-year event, albeit a thoroughly enjoyable one, into a top championship tournament is remarkable.

‘It is a perfect venue. You cannot fault the organisation and nothing is too much trouble for the management and the staff. The place is simply top class.’

The MCB Tour Championship offers Chapman a chance to go one better than last year and to end the season with a much sought-after victory.

‘I admit that I am desperate to win,’ he said. But he acknowledges that the challenge could hardly be tougher:

‘This must be the strongest field ever to be assembled on the island,’ he said. ‘The presence of Tom Lehman adds great value to the tournament and it will be interesting to see how he fares. To be honest, almost anyone in the field is capable of winning. If you play well and get into the competition early on, you can put yourself in the running.

‘But if you open with a 73 or 74 while others are posting 67s or 68s or better, it is going to be mighty difficult to get back into contention.’

Article written by Neil Webber, golf journalist

Golf MCB Tour Championship: Frost confident ahead of Mauritius return

South African David Frost is relishing his return to Mauritius on the European Senior Tour for the 2011 season-ending MCB Tour Championship following a dramatic conclusion to his last visit to the sunshine island.

David Frost

David Frost

Frost began his 2011 campaign by defeating Englishman Roger Chapman on the second extra hole to win the Mauritius Commercial Bank Open last December, recovering from losing a four stroke lead to force a play-off with a spectacular eagle on the final hole.

Senior Tour season finale

The 52 year old returns to the magnificent Constance Belle Mare Plage from December 9-11, with the tournament taking on a new title as the Senior Tour season finale following a new four-year agreement with title sponsor Mauritius Commercial Bank.

Frost has an impressive record at Constance Belle Mare Plage, finishing tied fifth on his Senior Tour debut in 2010 before capturing his maiden Senior Tour title last year and he is eager to continue his fine run next month.

‘I feel confident returning to Belle Mare Plage,’ said Frost. ‘I have made quite a few friends amongst the Pro-Am participants over the past two years and I am looking forward to seeing them too.

Highlights of 2011

‘After not winning in Mauritius in 2010 I felt like I needed to win it in 2011, so the pressure was on me. Especially having a four shot lead over Roger entering the last round I should have won easily, but golf is funny game, a couple of shots swing can cause the leading player to go one way and the challenger can get close in a hole or two, and that is what happened . Winning the title in 2011 was sweet revenge for missing out in 2010.’

Legend golf course

Legend golf course

The two-time European Tour winner finished sixth in The Senior Open Championship at Walton Heath in July but his eagle on the 54th hole over Constance Belle Mare Plage’s Legends Course remains the highlight of his season. Having surrendered a four stroke lead to Chapman, Frost found himself two shots behind playing the last and knew he had to produce something special.

He did just that with a brilliant drive followed by a sublime three iron to 15 feet which he rolled in for an eagle three to match Chapman’s 13 under total. Frost then pounced on the second extra hole when Chapman, who had carded a stunning 65 in regulation play, made his only error of the final day, tugging his drive into the deep rough and failing to recover.

‘Starting with a four stroke advantage in the final round was a nice position to be in but Roger played really great and should have won,’ Frost admitted. ‘My aggressive play on the last hole paid off when I tried to eagle the hole to tie him. I think I would have done the same as what Roger did.

‘Had I been leading the event with one hole to play I would have played it as a par five and laid up short on the tee shot. Unfortunately for him I made the eagle to send us both into a play-off.

Legends golf course at Belle Mare Plage

‘The Legends course has some great, challenging tee shots and under the pressure you need to hit the fairways. From there it is target golf to the pins as well. The greens are a little tricky with the Bermuda grass, so you need to read the grain well.

‘I’m really looking forward to returning to Belle Mare Plage and I have decided to stay on another 4 days after the tournament to relax and enjoy some days without waking up and worrying what time I am on the tee.’

Competition for the title

One of Frost’s rivals for the MCB Tour Championship title is expected to be American Tom Lehman, who defeated him in a play-off to win the 2010 US Senior PGA Championship. Former Open Champion and Ryder Cup Captain Lehman won the Money List on the US Champions Tour this year and will be looking to round off a fine 2011 season in style in Mauritius.

In addition to the battle for the title itself, the focus will also be on the contest between the leading two players on the Senior Tour Order of Merit, Peter Fowler and Barry Lane, who are bidding to win the John Jacobs Trophy.

Fowler will take a €25,569 advantage into the final event of the season but with a prize fund of €400,000 and winner’s cheque of €60,000 on offer, Lane has every chance of overturning that lead and succeeding Boonchu Ruangkit as Senior Tour Number One.