PGA of France win the PGAs of Europe International Team Championship after a marathon battle with Scotland was settled by a couple of inches.
Level on 18-under-par after four rounds of the Old Course at Gloria Golf Club in the Turkish resort of Belek, a play-off was needed to determine whether Scotland would retain the trophy or France win it for the second time in four years.
However, had Gareth Wright’s putt from just off the green at the 18th dropped instead of flirting with the pin and scuttling a foot past the hole, the sudden death showdown would have been unnecessary.
Wright, in understandable frustration, sent his putter looping skywards before interrupting its descent.
Worse was to follow at the play-off hole, the par five first, after team captain David Orr had entrusted Scotland’s fortunes to him.
Having recovered from a wayward tee shot to reach the green in three and give himself a chance of halving the hole with a par, another putt refused to drop and the €6,000 first prize belonged to France.
In fairness, Raphael Eyraud’s approach that set up his par after clearing trees and a lake on its 200-plus yards journey to the back of the green was worthy of winning any tournament.
“It was the shot of the day,” said Arnaud Verhaege, his admiring and grateful team-mate.
Earlier Eyraud had produced the best round of the day, a five-under par 67, and team captain Michael Altmeyer added: “He played very well but I picked him for the play-off because he is the longest of any of us. I’m not long off the tee, neither is Arnaud.
“He didn’t let us down and it’s great to win the tournament again, especially as none of us have played in it before.”
Wright was also chosen for the play-off because he was Scotland’s longest off the tee and Orr explained: “Had the play-off hole been the short 18th I would have gone for Graham Fox because he’s a very strong iron player. But the long first hole was more suited to Gareth’s game.”
Wright, refusing the condolences of his team-mates, cut a lonely figure as he trudged disconsolately back along the first fairway reflecting on what might have been.
Fox, however, had a measure of consolation in finishing the tournament as its leading individual for the second year running. This time he completed his four rounds in 14-under, one ahead of Sion Bebb of third-placed Wales and two clear of Ireland’s Eamonn Brady.
Meanwhile the Turkish team of siblings Bulent and Savas Karatas and Ramazam Duman (pictured above) completed a wire to wire victory in the first ever International Team Shield. The sub-tournament looked to ensure the small and emerging Member PGAs (signified by a membership size of 100 PGA Professionals or less) of the Association can compete alongside the larger PGAs in the ITC, whilst also enjoying their own competition and prize fund.
Consistent rounds across the week by the locals enabled them to edge ahead of the six other eligible countries, especially after two solid lower combined rounds on days one and two. A final total of 597 (+21) was enough to take the share of €1500, just ahead of the PGA of Poland in second place.
France*, Scotland (-18); Wales (-16); Ireland (-15); England (-10); Italy (L); Denmark (+2); Belgium (+3). *France win after sudden death play-off