England Complete ITC Hat-trick
A combination of collective patience, all-round professional resilience and flexible management by the tournament staff, prevented the PGAs of Europe International Team Championship (ITC) from being washed away.
It also kept playing conditions playable enough – though only just! – to enable England to claim the title for the third time, their having done so previously on the Costa del Sol and in Tunisia.
The move to Portugal’s Algarve and the Vale de Lobo course, from its spell in Spain’s Murcia region, gave a fresh perspective to the increasingly prestigious event though rain and subsequent waterlogging had been a constant threat to its survival.
Sponsored by Glenmuir and the Associacao Turismo do Algarve, and also supported by The Tivoli Victoria, the Vale de Lobo Golf Club and the Ryder Cup European Development Trust’, the ITC found that Mother Nature had the last word.
The rain that had caused a rescheduling in the second round returned with a vengeance on the fourth day and, but for Tournament Director, Ben Groutage, having turned two par fives into par threes on that second day, the annual event may not have even reached its satisfactory 54-hole destination.
Accompanied by thunder and lightning, which felled a tree alongside the par three 17th hole, the deluge swamped the course and caused the fourth round to be abandoned. Consequently England were declared the winners as a result of leading the 26-strong field by four strokes at the end of the third round.
This unavoidable outcome was particularly galling for France’s Rogez Sabarros who recorded the tournament’s second-hole-in-one, on the shortened sixth. “He was playing very well,” said skipper Benjamin Nicolay. “In fact we all were, so we’re very frustrated by what’s happened.”
In contrast England’s team captain, Jon Bevan, was delighted with the victory but admitted he would have preferred to have secured as a result of playing 72-holes.
“A win’s a win,” he said. “So obviously we’re very pleased. But it would have been better and more satisfying if we’d won it with the tournament going the distance.
“I know the French are disappointed,” he added. “And so would we be in their position.“ The good thing is that we led from the start of the tournament and were still in front when it was abandoned.”
As Bevan’s best round of the tournament – a four-under-par in the third – ensured England went into the final day in pole position, he was entitled to some personal satisfaction. He was quick, however, to praise the part played by his team-mates, David Shacklady, who was under par in each of his three rounds, and John Wells.
“It was a real team effort and John and David both made huge contributions,” added Bevan. “They laid the foundations in the first two rounds and David was very consistent throughout.”
The trio earned €6,000 for their victory while Scotland and France picked up €4,500 each for finishing joint-second. But that was cold comfort to both teams who had begun to shave England’s lead when the tournament was called off. Scotland had trimmed it to two strokes after the first six holes of the ill-fated fourth round while France had reduced it to three.
The first of the event’s two holes in one was executed by Janez Grilc of Slovenia – who shares the record of the number of ITC appearances with team mate Danny Kraljic – at the 144 metres par-three eighth hole.
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