INAUGURAL GENERALI GOLF TOUR 2010
A 40-minute boat trip across the turquoise, indigo and aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea, the islands on the horizon, escorted by dolphins, rays and turtles…
Most people would sell their soul for this kind of idyll.
But for the 42 players in the Generali Golf Tour, this was just the beginning of an incredible opening day.
Sailing across the Anguilla Channel is the easiest way to get to the island and to the Cap Juluca resort Temenos Golf Club, host of the first edition of the Generali Golf Tour to be held in overseas France.
The challenge of running this prestigious tournament here fell to the Saint Martin golf club, Les Tamarins and Francois Anton, Generali’s representative in the French islands of the northern Caribbean, establishing a benchmark in this part of the world where many golfing events are hosted, and presenting an authentically French interpretation of golf, competitive and demanding yet also festive and elegant.
The Temenos Golf Course is a fine 72-par course designed by Greg Norman. The course looks out on to the Caribbean Sea and is part of the exclusive Cap Juluca Resort. With 6km of immaculate undulating fairways, some inland and some close to the coastline, and receiving the breeze of the trade winds, the course offers a real sporting challenge at the highest level; however, it is made accessible to all players by multiple tee-off locations. While the winds can make the course demanding at times, their refreshing coolness is very welcome in this region, where temperatures never drop below 23 degrees and the sea never dips below 25!
The players teed off on a shotgun start under the Stableford format under a warm yet benevolent sun. The winners of the first mens and ladies category would qualify for the national final of the Generali Golf Tour in Paris in October, on the equally legendary Golf National course. The warm welcome from the Tamarins association and the prospect of a free plane ticket to compete in the final encouraged entries from many Saint Martin golfers, who were joined by players from mainland France and the nearby island of Saint Barths.
On a course of impeccable quality prepared by Paul’s team, with mostly new holes probably reserved for Greg Norman’s PGA Tour partners until now, the challenge was extreme.
Although the course is accessible and pleasant, its peaceful façade can turn into turmoil from the back tees with some tough holes, Norman’s signature bunkers and water on many holes.
Under these top-class conditions, the day produced some quality scores, which ultimately marked the winners.
In the men’s competition, the Club’s best hope Arnaud Wojcik (16) took the title with an excellent 38 points, beating Laurent Fuentes and Philippe Thévenet, two mainstays of the top rankings. The game between Arnaud and Philippe was spirited and heavily contested, with the passion of youth triumphing over the experience of the older player in the end.
It was a sweet victory for everyone; a reward for the hard work and investment of a young club prodigy in the game and a proud moment for his father, President of the Tamarins association, and a credit to this young club, which has dedicated its work to developing the sport in a land that had never “done” golf and where they had to start right from the beginning – right down to their training facilities. The club already has over 60 members and makes efforts to include our friends on Saint Barths, promote exchanges between the islands and keep French golf alive in this Anglo-Saxon corner of the world.
In the ladies’ competition, victory came in the form of Agnès Lenfant, from the neighbouring Island of Saint Barths with 38 points, ahead of Annie Rodriguez.
In the second flight, which received significant sponsorship, Philippe François-Robin finally carried off a title – and what a title – with a blazing 41 points, an “overscore” that every spectator would like to see him retain. Philippe will be back with a well-deserved adjusted handicap. He snatched victory from organiser François Anton, doubtless feeling the adrenaline that comes with the stresses and strains of such seamless organisation, and Jérome Rivaud, who both brought back very good scores of 39.
In the ladies' second flight, Odile Calveyrac thanked the crowd with her famous smile after receiving her award for winner in her category, followed by Anne Marie Bouillé and Evelyne Letord who graced the course with their application and obvious enthusiasm.
The winners and other participants were greeted with good humour and generous applause at the reading out of winners in the shade of the prestigious Temenos Golf Course Club House. With a light buffet that was the perfect complement to the cold drinks served to players on the course, many people praised the spectacular nature of the course and the excellent hospitality.
After returning to Saint Martin on the big catamaran, where a welcome aperitif awaited the golfers, the closing festivities got underway at Kakao.A favourite beach spot for golfers, Kakao, provided the backdrop for the awards presentation at a dinner that truly merited its reputation as the Saint Tropez of the Caribbean.
Entertainment, bouquets of flowers for the ladies, a champagne shake-up for the winners, speeches, time with friends and a celebration of the winners were the order of this truly unforgettable evening. Congratulations to the winners who received a generous sprinkling of champagne and to all the participants who made the event a success.
Thanks also to the wonderful sponsors François Anton and Stéphane Coudour, GFA Caribbean - Generali Group, who brought a unique radiance to this competition, and the entire team at the Tamarins Association for their involvement and their impeccable organisation.
The nearby Northern Caribbean islands of the Dominican Republic, Bahamas, US Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands have tended to dominate the Caribbean golfing circuit and host international-level golf events, in the image of Barbados and Saint Lucia to the south. Now, buoyed by its reputation as the gourmet capital of the Caribbean, its French savoir-vivre, its evening entertainment, its tourist heritage that has drawn a loyal American public to the island for decades and its location at the heart of the Sint Maarten/Anguilla/St Kitts triptych of golf courses, Saint Martin has earned its place in the hearts of European and French golfers.
The Generali Golf Tour threw the spotlight on the capacity of the Tamarins to brilliantly manage the organisation of such an event and promote the image of golf on Saint Martin outside the island.
The Tour’s high quality sportsmanship echoes the great results that this very young club has begun to bring back from Caribbean tournaments, after the Concordia Cup victory in 2008 over the Sint Maarten national team and recent success in the three-countries trophy, contested between Sint Maarten, Anguilla and Saint Martin.
And so golf on Saint Martin takes its place among the world’s major players.