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MCB Championship: A fascinating history

Legend golf course, Constance Belle Mare Plage

This Monday will be the sixth year of the MCB Tour Championship and the event has now become established as the perfect finale for the European Senior Tour season.

But for 15 years prior to that, the tournament was known as the Mauritius Open, and played host to some of the biggest names in the sport – indeed Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, the backbone of recent European Ryder Cup success, both played in the event and the final winner, in 2009, was Jamie Donaldson, whose birdie clinched this year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

Testing course

The Constance Belle Mare Plage Legends course has always proved an exacting test. Perhaps that explains why high quality performers always find themselves fighting for the title come the final round of the MCB Tour Championship.

That said, in the inaugural tournament in 2010, it was unheralded Englishman Kevin Spurgeon who claimed an emotional victory.

The son of former Ajax football manager Keith Spurgeon, he had to withstand charges from yet more Ryder Cup stars, Gordon Brand Jr and Sam Torrance, before admitting: “I was in tears at the end, seeing everyone around the final green, knowing I had won.”

There were further emotional scenes 12 months later as Roger Chapman, who had lost his friend, mentor and coach George Will earlier in the week, tied the clubhouse lead, only for David Frost’s eagle in the play-off to steal victory from Chapman’s grasp.

“I was very emotional all week,” said the Englishman, “but you have to say that the best man won.”

South African Frost proved his affinity for Belle Mare Plage by winning again two years later and in five visits to the resort and event he has only once finished outside the top two – and that was fifth!

“I like this golf course,” he said with some understatement after the second win. “And winning never gets old!”

A Mauritian welcome

In between Frost’s victories the 1996 Open champion Tom Lehman sealed a wire-to-wire win in 2011.

Golf at Constance Belle Mare Plage

“This is special for me,” said the American. “When you come somewhere like Mauritius and they make you feel so welcome you feel a sense of urgency to play well to say thank you.”

Last December the crowds witnessed a superb final round match-up between the leader of the Order of Merit, England’s Paul Wesselingh, and his hero, the Ryder Cup legend Colin Montgomerie.

Most were expecting the head-to-head experience of the Scotsman to prevail, but Wesselingh was in the form of his life and refused to yield his position. He eventually completed a superb five-shot victory over the field.

Perfect set-up

The result for Wesselingh sets up this year’s tournament perfectly.

This time Montgomerie arrives in Mauritius as the leader of the Order of Merit. He is desperate to finish his year in style and atone for his failure to compete his challenge 12 months ago.

Some big names have played, and claimed victory, at Constance Belle Mare Plage’s Legends course. This year, the 20th anniversary of the first event, may witness not just a big name but a legend of the game lift the MCB Tour Championship trophy.

Matt Cooper is a golf journalist and author. Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCooperGolf or visit his blog Curious about Golf

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