The arrival of the Trophée Hassan II on The European Tour International Schedule last year not only meant a return to Morocco for the first time since 2001, it was also the culmination of nearly four decades of investment in golf from the Moroccan Royal Family.
Next week the 38th edition takes place at a superb new venue in the international resort of Agadir, and a tournament with a history as rich and fascinating as the country’s own continues under the Royal Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and leadership of HRH Prince Moulay Rachid.
The event was created in 1971 by the late King Hassan II, who was passionate about golf and wanted the top professionals from around the world to play in Morocco, and it boasts a fine list of past champions such as Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie, Sam Torrance, Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els.
Santiago Luna is the only player to have won three times, in 1998, 2002 and 2003, and when he plays in the 2011 edition, it will be his 585th European Tour appearance – the most of any Continental European player.
Since King Hassan II’s death in 1999, his son, King Mohammed VI, has carried on the tradition of the tournament and his aim is to show the world that Morocco is a premier golfing destination. His brother, Prince Moulay Rachid, also shares the King’s passion for the game and was nominated by him to be President of the Hassan II Golf Society. The event’s arrival as a fixture on The European Tour last year was a major boon, as it meant worldwide screening of the live action and the widespread praise from the players of the course and facilities.
The Trophée Hassan II retains its original ‘Alliance’ (pro-am) format for the first two rounds, and this year will be played over the unique Golf du Palais Royal, designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior and considered by many to be one of the best in the world, and the superb new course, Golf de L’Ocean.
This year the tournament will also mark the first time a European Tour event is played in the same city in the same week as a Ladies European Tour event, with the Coupe Lalla Meryem taking place at Golf du Soleil. That venue also hosted the Moroccan Golf Classic, which was played on the European Challenge Tour between 2004 and 2006.
During the 2006 edition, Frenchman Adrien Mörk shot the first official 59 across all three European Tours in the second round to win the title by one shot.
Next week Welshman Rhys Davies will defend the title he won 12 months ago at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Golf Club in Rabat by two shots from Louis Oosthuizen, who would later in the year win The Open Championship.
The trophy for the champion is a magnificent gold, jewel-encrusted dagger, which only just made it on to the plane home with Davies 12 months ago, after special dispensation was given by the security officials at Rabat airport.
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