The ITC was held at Roda Golf & Beach Resort from November 25th - 28th. In a format based on the best two rounds of three each day, the winning team is usually one in which all members can make a meaningful contribution. Experience in the kind of windy conditions not unknown in Ireland also proved invaluable with club selection and the avoidance of lurking water hazards being crucial ‘weapons’.
Day One: Ireland launched themselves into an impressive bid for the PGAs of Europe’s International Team Championship by defying the strong winds sweeping across the Roda golf course to post an opening round four-under-par 140.
Rounds of 69 by Eamon Brady and a 71 by John Kelly gave them a four-stroke lead over England and Scotland, and five over Wales, as the UK teams set the pace on a day of conditions that were far more testing then the clear skies and bright sunshine might have suggested.
As an early salvo in what is set to be four days of tough competition, Ireland emphasised their strength in depth with a ‘spare’ round of 72 by Ireland-based Englishman Robert Giles. Giles was a member of the last Irish team to win the title.
Paul Simpson, the reigning Glenmuir Club Professional Champion, was England’s best scorer on two-under par, well-supported by Paul Wesselingh (74), who has been a member of a past winning England team in the competition.
Scotland and Wales, like Ireland, presented all-round strength with former PGAs of Europe Champion Richard Dinsdale on par, Andrew Barnett, a member of last year’s runner’s up team, 73, and Matthew Griffiths 74.
In a strong non-UK challenge Holland were fifth on 146 followed one stroke behind by Bulgaria and with Switzerland one further back.
Day Two: As the Spanish weather in Murcia took on a fair imitation of Northern Europe in November, IRELAND revealed their true mettle for the second day running to hold on to the lead at the half-way stage of the PGAs of Europe International Team Championship (supported by Calidona and Glenmuir).
Day 2 saw Robert Giles, the previous day’s ‘spare’ low scorer, enter the fray big time, with a three-under par 69 that, with the support of Eamon Brady’s level par, took his team to an impressive total of seven under par for the two rounds.
Yet it was not quite enough to give them too daunting a lead as Scotland, with a ‘69’ hero of their own in Sam Cairns, and a class supporting act in Robert Arnott (71), remained in close pursuit on four under.
It was then that a wider gap appeared on the leaderboard with Wales and Holland on plus five ahead of Germany (+6) and England and Italy on plus-seven. All this on a hazardous Roda course in conditions that started as sunny but unsettled and chilly and went downhill to cold, windy, cloudy and, by early afternoon, an almost icy drizzle had been added to the mix.
One of the event’s most regular performers, Danny Kraljic of Slovenia, described how the strength of the wind changed club selection by two or three notches. “On one hole into the wind I had a shot that would normally be a six or even a seven iron and I got there with a four,” he said. This was confirmed by Bulgaria’s Neil Turley who commented: “Once the rain arrived it was much tougher out there than yesterday.” That was bad enough for players attempting to make an impact but there were additional woes for last year’s runners-up, Wales, who found themselves with only two of their team available when Richard Dinsdale was unwell and was forced to pull out, leaving Andrew Barnett and Matthew Griffiths with no third man to help out.
Italy’s lowest scorer was Giorgio Grillo (71), while for Holland Ben Collier scored a fine 71.
Day Three: Ireland, well-served by an Englishman from Yorkshire in Robert Giles, are turning the International Team Championship into a procession in which not even second-placed Scotland seem to have the remotest chance of catching them on the final day.
Rounds of five under by Giles, and four under by John Kelly, magnificent golf in the circumstances meant that even rounds of 71 each by the Scottish pair, Sam Cairns and Robert Arnott, were nowhere near good enough to maintain a challenge at Roda, Murcia, Spain.
Now cushioned by a lead of ten strokes … sixteen under compared to Scotland’s six under…in the championship supported by Calidona and Glenmuir, only a crash of world banking proportions would deny Ireland their second ITC title and their first for ten years, when Giles was also a member of the team.
Behind this pair of runaways, England recovered well with rounds of 67 by Paul Simpson and 71 by Paul Wesselingh to claim third place while Wales and Germany are fourth on plus-four and Holland and Italy are joint-sixth on plus-six.
The secret of the UK’s success, it seems, quite apart from superb golf , lies in the weather which has been much more like that of the northern coastlines of the British Isles than southern Spain, namely very windy, rather cold and swept by non-stop rain of varying severity for nearly 24 hours. “The two teams at the top of the leaderboard, that’s Scotland and ourselves, are used to playing in conditions like this,” said Giles. “it’s normal for us, no problem.”
In a day of terrific scoring, against the odds, a display of valour by the reigning Glenmuir British Club Professional Champion, Paul Simpson, in the shape of a five-under-par 67, helped England to claw back six strokes to just one over par. He was four under after nine, including an eagle at the shortish , 442-metre par five 5th in a run of three threes achieved despite those combined difficulties of wind and rain.
This best-of-the day round was matched by Germany’s Lee Spencer while Allessandro Napoleoni was Italy’s best on the day with a 69 and Ben Collier posted a similar three-under-par total for Holland.
Day Four (Final Round): Eighteen holes on cruise control, with no dramatic charges necessary, saw IRELAND (right) safely through to victory in the PGAs of E’s International Team Championship at Roda, Murcia, Spain leaving the rest of the field to play a separate ‘match’ for the lesser placings.
As the fearful weather of earlier days gave way to more typical Mediterranean conditions, Ireland’s scoring simply became a case doing what they had to do.
This comprised of two under each by Eamon Brady and John Kelly to carve another four strokes off their sixteen-under for a phenomenal 20-under and an eight strokes margin over Scotland who strove with tartan grit to narrow the gap.
Sam Cairns typified the Scottish determination to chase a lost cause right to the final green and could feel justifiably proud of his five under par 67 as could England’s Paul Wesselingh who carded a similar score as his tournament contribution increased each day.
To complete a battling day for England, Paul Simpson, the reigning Glenmuir British Club Champion, carded a 69 leaving the second and third-placed teams wondering what the heck they had to do to slow down Ireland’s trouble-free journey to their second ITC title.
There were plenty of sterling performances recorded throughout the ranks of the twenty-four teams who contested this year’s event including Wales’s Red Dragon spirit in staying well up the leaderboard despite losing the unwell Richard Dinsdale for the second time in three days.
Although this is purely a team championship, rather than an individual one, it’s always worth admiring the extra-special rounds such as a fine 66 by Belgium’s Gilles Monville.
Germany produced one of their best finishes in the championship thanks largely to another 67 by Lee Spencer who, helped by a 71 from Jason Evans steered them to fourth place on two under par.