Scotland and Wales, two nations who have won the World Cup in the last five years, will line up against 16 other countries for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup European Qualifier in Estonia this week hoping to book their passage to China.
Three years ago Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren took Scotland to the top of the world when they won the first World Cup under Omega’s sponsorship at Mission Hills, while Stephen Dodd and Bradley Dredge lifted the trophy for Wales in 2005 in Portugal.
But neither nation is exempt this year, necessitating a trip to the Estonian Golf and Country Club, a stunning venue in the European Tour Courses portfolio, where the Scottish pair of Alastair Forsyth and David Drysdale and the Welsh duo of Dodd and Jamie Donaldson will attempt to qualify for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup.
There they will line up alongside a number of developing golfing nations such as Croatia, Poland, Slovenia, and Serbia as well as the host nation, Estonia. From Africa, Algeria, Morocco and Namibia are represented, Israel will also tee up as will Greece, along with Austria, Canada, Finland, Iceland, Portugal and Switzerland. For these countries, the European Qualifier offers an opportunity to join some of the world’s best golfers in China. Three qualifying berths are available through the European Qualifier, the prize being a place in the field for the $5.5 million Omega Mission Hills World Cup at Mission Hills, China, from November 26-29.
For Dodd, who has won three European Tour titles in addition to his World Cup success, his first visit to qualifying with new partner Donaldson will be a whole new experience.
“I am very proud of a number of achievements in my career and winning the World Cup is right up there,” he said. “It seems strange that Wales and Scotland, two teams who have won it recently, are going through qualifying. But if you are not in the top 18 exempt teams that is what you have to do, and we will do our best. It is always nice to play for your country – Jamie has not done it before, so it is a new experience for him and we will enjoy it.”
Forsyth, a two-time European Tour champion, has played in four previous World Cups and will be partnering Drysdale, a friend since their amateur days, for the first time having previously played with Paul Lawrie (twice), Scott Drummond and then Colin Montgomerie last year at Mission Hills.
“I have played in a few World Cups and it is a very good championship,” he commented. “I thought last year at Mission Hills was a fantastic event and we want to be there again, so hopefully we can get through. We want to play for Scotland and play well enough to qualify.”
For every player in the field it is a huge honour to represent their country and all have a chance of glory.
Michael Moser, who turned professional in 2005 after winning the Austrian Amateur Championship, has played for Austria as an amateur in the Eisenhower Trophy, but this will be his first time playing for his flag as a professional. He will partner Christoph Bausek, who now focuses on teaching rather than tournament golf, and speaking at last week’s Austrian Golf Open, he expressed his excitement about competing in Estonia and the dream of qualifying.
“You only get one shot in this life and you have to take it,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to have been asked if I would like to play. You very seldom get the chance to represent your country, and I would love to go to Mission Hills. I think we have a good chance. I can’t tell you what it would mean to me if we did make it. Just to step on the plane, knowing you are representing Austria, would be a huge honour.”
The Estonian Golf and Country Club joined the European Tour Courses group in 2005 with the signing of a Licence Agreement in the Estonian Capital of Tallinn, and comprises an impressive 18 hole Championship course and nine hole links style South Course as well as first class practice facilities.
Situated within an ancient cultural setting, the history of the region can be traced back more than 5,000 years with official pre-historic burial sites, restored stone walls and huge old oak trees within the resort boundary. An ancient civilisation also once lived there with an archaeological excavation on the golf course in 2003 revealing the location of a village called Ristikangrumäe, which disappeared from the maps after the 17th century.
Valuable archaeological artefacts including arrow heads, coins and pottery have been found on the resort, and can be viewed in the ‘history room’ in the clubhouse where they are displayed in a time-cabinet, which charts the evolution of the tribe which once inhabited the land.
The two courses also feature natural ponds, the dramatic Baltic coastline, the delta of the Jägala River, Ice Age rocks and stunning wildlife and scenery, which all add up to create a resort which sits among the very best in Europe.
Just outside the club there is also the nearby Jõelähtme Church, Jõelähtme Museum and Jägala Castle which all date back to the 15th century, as well as the famous Jägala River, which has a 7.2 metre waterfall – the largest in Estonia – and there are more than 300 ancient burial sites, some of which date back as far as the 10th Century when the Vikings travelled to Rebala, in Jõelähtme.
All the sites are recorded in the national heritage program of Estonia, and 15 of them are situated within the grounds of the Estonian Golf & Country Club and can be viewed while playing the golf courses.
The Estonian Golf & Country Club is striving to become a symbol of national pride and this is reflected in the club’s logo which portrays a Viking coin and the national birds of Estonia, the Hirundo (Swallow).