Our press officer brings you all the action from behind the scenes at the Acaya Open…
Tough ruling for Jackson
Grant Jackson could consider himself the unluckiest golfer on the planet after a nightmare with his caddie in the second round resulted in him missing the cut thanks to a two-shot penalty. At the start of the week Grant was on the lookout for a caddie. The guy he wanted, a regular on the Challenge Tour, was taken by another player minutes earlier, so he was offered a local guy from Acaya Golf Resort. He agreed, but it later transpired that said caddie had no transport to the golf club, so his friend would do it instead. All seemed to be going smoothly until midway through the second round when the caddie jumped on a buggy his mate was driving in order to transport Grant's clubs the short distance from the ninth tee to the tenth. Grant tried to get him off, explaining that it was illegal to use a buggie at any point in the round, but he did not understand and just drove off. This was later explained to the referees, but rules are rules and Grant was given a two-shot penalty, meaning he went from seven over - right on the cut line - to nine over. It was a tough one to take as Grant has missed the cut in his previous three events, but now misses another one through no fault of his own.
T-shirt sun tan
The hotel on site at the Acaya Golf Resort has a lovely swimming pool, which the players have been making the most of when they are not on the course. There are also lots of tourists here, but it's so easy to spot which ones are the golfers from a distance because they all have brown faces, brown lower arms and completely pale everywhere else. Nice tan lines, boys.
No clubs dilemma
Spare a thought for Baptiste Chappelan, who was foreced to withdraw from the tournament before the second round after his clubs failed to arrive when he flew into Italy. Unable to do any preparation exceot walk the course, he borrowed a set from the golf club to play in the first round and shot a 13 over par 83 before throwing in the towel. Julien Grillon, on the other hand, who travelled with Chapellan, also had his clubs lost by the airline, but made the cut with his borrowed set. When he finally retrieved his own clubs after round two, he jokingly wondered whether he should switch back!
Bad luck Tamps...
We were sad to see Andrew Tampion forced to retire from the tournament just over halfway through his first round. The popular Australian injured his wrist when he was trying to hit out of deep rough, and despite strapping it and taking painkillers, it was too sore to continue. We hope it's not serious and that Andrew is back in action very soon.
Welcome, De Vries Snr
Wouter De Vries, elder brother of Floris, who graduated from the Challenge Tour last season, is playing his first Challenge Tour event this week in Acaya. Floris finished fourth in the Rankings last season, helped by his victory in the Mugello Tuscany Open, and he made a fine start to life on The European Tour this season before a knee injury sidelined him for nine weeks. He is playing in the Barclays Scottish Open this week, so Wouter will have one eye on results there as well as focusing on his debut. At least the weather's better here, Wouter...
There was a tour of Lecce one evening early in the week for players and staff staying in Acaya Golf Resort, giving us a glimpse of the historic city, which is about a 20-minute drive from Acaya. Known as the Florence of the south, Lecce has many impressive churches and cathedrals, fascinating Baroque architecture from the late 16th century and lots of narrow cobbled streets. There is also a Roman amphitheatre, kept in exactly the same state as it was all those hundreds of years ago, and we were all picturing the sort of things that took place there, such as the gladiators fighting to the death. The Acaya Open is pretty important and will be keenly contested this week, but at least no one dies if they lose!
A delectable feast
After the aforementioned tour, we went for dinner, and everyone knows Italian food is up there with the finest in the world. The lunch at the clubhouse had already set the bar high – fabulously sweet tomatoes, creamy buffalo mozzarella and delicious cured ham – and the evening meal did not disappoint. Having worked up an appetite walking the streets of Lecce, we wolfed down the antipasti, an endless stream of dishes to share between our large table. Bearing in mind we sat down at about 10pm, that would have been ample… but then out came two huge pasta dishes and then the main course. And of course how could we go home without dessert? We all had to be rolled back to the hotel to bed.
Caught in a storm
The south of Italy where we are this week – right down in the heel of the boot – is known for its fantastic climate with long sunny days in the summer, but on Tuesday evening a massive thunderstorm hit Acaya Golf Resort. Yours truly was about to set off on the quarter-mile walk along part of the course to the hotel (part of the same resort), and the sky looked dark but not too serious. The next thing I knew there was lightning flashing everywhere and deafening thunder rolling around – pretty scary stuff. Luckily a large buggy came past which three players were in, so I jumped on just before the heavens opened, although we were all soaked to the skin by the time we reached the hotel. Fortunately the forecast has returned to clear skies and high temperatures for the rest of the week.
Oldest clubhouse on the Challenge Tour?
The beautiful clubhouse here at Acaya Golf Resort dates back to the16th century and has a fort-like look about it. It is seeped in history and very beautiful; inside is a courtyard filled with bright pink flowers, lemon trees and olive bushes. It's easy to imagine life here several hundred years ago - but I wonder what people from back then would have made of the speedboats parked in the adjacent lake, the buggies driving around and the golfers everywhere hitting little white balls with sticks of metal...