Last month, the inaugural Vilnius Pro-Am was held at the esteemed Vilnius Grand Resort, situated just 20 minutes away from downtown Vilnius, Lithuania. Twelve Pro-Am teams from across Europe competed over 3 days for the 12,000 EUR prize fund, with eventual winner Federico Elli taking the professional’s first prize.
From a Lithuanian perspective, one could be right in saying that this success was furthered still when the only 2 Lithuanian teams in the field, led by Arnas Kaunas and Vytautas Gedminas, claimed first and second place respectively in the team event. This provided a compelling story as the week unfolded – adding ‘the icing to the cake’ for a successful inauguration, so to speak.
As a professional golf tournament and PGAs of Europe sanctioned event, it was the first of its kind for Lithuanian golf. With that said, golf as a sport in Lithuania has seen a steady rise in popularity over recent years, across both the professional and amateur game. Not only does this tournament signal such a rise, but it has also provided a platform for the people already involved in Lithuanian golf to showcase their sport on a much bigger scale.
One of those is the Director of Golf at Vilnius Grand Resort and President of the PGA of Lithuania, Egidijus Baleišis. The PGAs of Europe caught up with him during the tournament to find out what the event means to him, and golf in Lithuania as a whole…
“I have been a PGA of Lithuania Professional for 7 years now and whilst this is not too long, I have been helping to make it become noticed and viewed in a positive light across the country.
“Alongside the PGAs of Europe, bringing Lithuania’s first professional tournament to one of its best golf clubs was important to me in order to provide the young PGA members we already have the opportunity of competing in professional tournaments.”
On the tournament itself, having some of the Lithuanian Professionals compete was really important to him for its success and will help encourage them to go further afield and compete in further events across the year:
“The tournament went well, the golf course and all the event were both very organised and I think the participants were really satisfied overall. Our first PGA professional in the country, Vytautas Gedminas [pictured above], had a great week and came second in the team event, close behind Arnas Kaunas, who is a Lithuanian Professional.
“PGA of Lithuania members have every opportunity to participate in future PGAs of Europe events. Whilst we all still have limited experience of competing professionaly, we learn fast and an event such as the Vilnius Pro-Am has definitely helped that.”
Clearly, an event such as The Vilnius Pro-Am doesn’t just provide opportunities to compete and win money, in fact far from it. For a country where golf isn’t currently viewed as a mainstream sport such as Lithuania, hosting scaled tournaments helps raise its profile across the professional game.
Naturally, this feeds down into the amateur game, as the professionals are at front and centre, promoting and pushing its values onto their current players and also the next generation of PGA Professionals in Lithuania.
“Having more juniors playing is important because they will be the first generation coming through so this will grow the game in Lithuania. The more professional players we can have the more young players we can have as they know more about Golf”.
Only time will tell on how big of an impact this has on participation numbers, but one thing is certain, professional golf in Lithuania is in safe hands.