New Zealand compete World Amateur Cup in New Caledonia

New Zealand competes in inaugural Amateur Golf World Cup

A review of the 2016 LeClub Golf event

By Denise Langdon, PaR nz Golfing Holidays

Team New Zealand started well in the opening round of the inaugural Amateur Golf World Cup in New Caledonia, but mixed results over the week led to the two-person team finishing well down the field. 

Team leader Sian Stevenson, of Cambridge, and Bob Mander were hosted by PaR nz Golfing Holidays throughout the tournament. 

The event, which was held on May 23-27 at the recently opened Dye Design golf course in the Domain de Déva at the Sheraton Déva Golf Resort, New Caledonia, was managed by LeClub Golf, France. Each team comprised one player with a handicap of 0-11 and one with a handicap of 12 or more. 

The Kiwi team was lying in third position at the end of day one, which was played in an Ambrose format. Rounds two and three were scored on an individual Stableford basis, combined to make a team total and added to the opening Ambrose results. 

Though Stevenson performed strongly and was placed in fifth individual position overall, Mander struggled with the brutal rough, and it was a week’s golf he would rather forget. New Zealand finished in ninth place overall, ahead of Italy. 

Top place was awarded to Japan, which dominated from round one and won by 13 points. In second place was New Caledonia with France coming third. Other countries represented were Australia, in fifth place, along with Mexico, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. 

Stevenson and Mander qualified for the World Cup at the 2016 Millbrook Masters, near Queenstown, earlier in the year. Stevenson, the low-marker with a 9.1 handicap, won the women’s gross division at the Millbrook event. Mander (handicap 18.1) was the second-highest qualifier in his division, and secured his place in the New Zealand team when top qualifier, Barry Hinde (US / Australia) was unable to attend. 

The tournament was the instigation of LeClub Golf in Paris, under the direction of Bruno Lelieur. Ten countries were invited to run qualifying events, and the top qualifiers were rewarded with a place in a team to attend the World Final in New Caledonia. 

The New Zealand team had an interesting composition as a result of the qualifying event being held in conjunction with the 2016 Millbrook Masters. Stevenson is a Kiwi with Welsh origins, and Mander is originally from England, but now lives in Australia. 

Inspirational course architect Pete Dye’s company, Dye Designs, designed the Sheraton Déva Golf Course, with personal management by his niece, Cynthia McGareth-Dye. 

Measuring over 6602 metres off the championships tees, the fairways were extremely generous. Many players, however, struggled with errant tee shots that found the rough, which were in most cases overgrown and unplayable – even if the ball was found. Dye Designs have sculptured more than 300 courses worldwide, but the Déva masterpiece is the first in Oceania. 

The Bermuda fairways and paspalam greens were in immaculate condition, in contrast to the numerous bunkers which had clever and challenging placement but were littered with stones, coral and shells. 

The course and resort have been built on the 8000-hectare Domaine de Déva that is two hours from Noumea in the south-west of the Grande Terre. Located only 12 kilometres from the dramatic cliffs of La Roche Percée, the 180-room resort looks out over a reef that stretches around the main island, and many kilometres of sandy white beachfront. New Caledonia’s lagoons and coral reefs, among the most extensive reef systems in the world, have been a World Heritage Site since 2008. 

LeClub Golf offers a loyalty membership programme to more than 220 clubs in Europe, with 135 in France, and 40 in Spain. Participating clubs are able to offer their club members a range of benefits including reduced green fees, in addition to enjoying buying benefits from bulk-purchase of such items as maintenance products and equipment. 

LeClub Golf previously had run two Europe-based tournaments to attract new members and raise awareness, but this was the first international tournament. Tournament partners, Sheraton Déva Golf and Spa Resort, along with Tourism New Caledonia supported the initiative as a joint-promotional venture with specific tourist targets being Japan, Australia and New Zealand. 

It would have to be recorded that the joint effort was extraordinary. Significant effort had gone into seeking substantial sponsorship from international brands such as Aircalin, Oscar Jacobson, SRIXON, along with numerous local companies. 

Invited media and country partners were treated to time in Noumea plus visits to New Caledonia’s other three courses: Tina, Ouenghi and Dumbéa. Excursions were arranged to visit a nearby village, explore the coastline and to see the protected green turtles and coral reef by glass-bottom boat. For a fledgling golf destination, it appeared that no expense was spared to promote the island, golf in New Caledonia and, in particular, the Sheraton Déva Golf and Spa Resort. 

All visitors were welcomed to the domaine by locals in a special Geste Coutumier ceremony and numerous spectators came to the course to view the golf, including the 14-year-old New Caledonia golf sensation Emilie Ricaud. 

Ricaud, who already has competed in age-group tournaments in New Zealand, plays off a handicap of 1.4. Her supporters included more than 600 school children, who were invited to visit over the three days’ competition as a special class outing. 

It was a colossal effort from all parties for the benefit of 20 golfers from around the world along with media, partners, caddies and country partners. 

PaR nz Golfing Holidays, which is LeClub Golf’s country partner, is planning now for the 2017 Amateur Golf World Final, to be held in Spain on November 19-24 at the Iberostar Novo Sancti Petri Golf Resort. 

Sponsorship and promotion is expected once more to form a large component of the tournament’s success, providing all qualifiers with return airfares, accommodation and meals for the week. 

Expected changes to the conditions will include the lower-category handicaps being set at an expanded range of 0-14. Six more countries will be invited including China, Belgium, the Netherlands and Brazil. The intention of Lelieur and his team at LeClub Golf, is to grow the tournament in a manageable fashion, inviting six new countries every year to a maximum of 36 teams, or 72 players. 

The New Zealand 2017 qualifying events will be announced shortly by PaR nz Golfing Holidays. Refer www.facebook.com/parnzgolfingholidays/