Paul McGinley led the tributes to tournament officials and workers after the 2009 Ballantine’s Championship was completed amid some of the toughest conditions ever seen at a European Tour event.
Howling winds and unseasonal plunging temperatures had threatened to derail last week’s €2.1 million showpiece at Pinx Golf Club on the holiday island of Jeju in Korea.
But the show went on – with players, officials and volunteers alike braving the elements to ensure all four rounds were successfully completed before Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee emerged triumphant in a three-way playoff.
McGinley, who finished joint 46th after battling through some of the most trying conditions he could remember, was full of praise for Tournament Directors David Williams and David Parkin and Chief Referee John Paramor.
“They did a wonderful job in extremely difficult conditions and they should be commended for that,” said the Irish star. “I thought the golf course was very difficult, but it was playable.”
While some players – faced with hitting into fierce winds and contending with balls moving on the greens – felt the third round might have been halted, McGinley believed the decision to continue was correct.
“It’s all about opinion. Yes, it was very difficult, but there wasn’t a par three that wasn’t reachable, there wasn’t a par four that you couldn’t reach in two shots and there wasn’t a par five that wasn’t reachable in three shots,” he said.
“I can’t speak for other guys who maybe said their ball moved a few times, but nobody in our group had a ball move. On one hole, we had a ball blown off the tee four times, but other than that there was no problem.
“I thought it was very difficult but, at the same time, the golf course was playable, in my opinion.”
The extreme weather at the second annual Ballantine’s Championship meant that just one player – Frenchman Francois Delamontagne – broke par in the third round.
Conditions eased slightly for the final round and Thongchai birdied the first extra hole to beat Spain’s Gonzalo Fernández-Castano and Korea’s Kang Sung Hoon after the trio had finished on four-under-par 284.
The successful completion of the tournament left organisers and sponsors breathing a sigh of relief.
“Despite some challenging weather conditions, it was a great tournament and we are proud of the way we have built on our inaugural event last year,’ said Christian Porta, Chairman and CEO of Chivas Brothers, which owns Ballantine’s.
“For Ballantine’s, it was a great honour to once again see championship golf in Korea back on the world stage. Our sincere thanks go to everyone who worked so hard to stage such a world class event.”
The Ballantine’s Championship – co-sanctioned by The European and Asian Tours and the Korea PGA – will return to Pinx in 2010 when organisers will be expecting better weather.
“While Jeju is famous for its winds, it is fair to say such extreme weather conditions were freakish,” said Martin Capstick of event promoters Parallel Media Group.
“In the circumstances, the officials, staff and volunteers did a remarkable job in ensuring that the tournament continued and finished on time. It was a fantastic team effort by all involved.
“Now, the focus will turn to next year’s event and how we can build on the success of the first two tournaments.”