Santiago Luna knows more than most about winning the Trophée Hassan II, taking place this week in the Moroccan city of Agadir.
The 48 year old Spaniard has claimed the title three times, in 1998, 2002 and 2003, and is in the field at the Golf du Palais Royal and Golf de L’Ocean on a sponsor’s invitation for the 38th edition of the tournament.
The event has been part of The European Tour International Schedule since last year and has a rich history. In 1971 the Moroccan King, the late King Hassan II, established the tournament with a vision to attract the best players in the world to play golf in his country.
The list of past champions is impressive: nine Major Champions including Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh. No other player, however, has won the coveted trophy as many times as Luna, who recalled: “The first time, in 1998 at Dar Es Salam Golf Club, I won a play-off and it was definitely the most special of the three wins.
“It was really enjoyable and the place was fantastic. The golf course was unbelievable, especially considering it was about 30 years old. I love that golf course, I could probably play it with my eyes closed!
“The first victory is the one I remember the most because it was so special. Winning for the first time and being presented with the beautiful trophy – a gold dagger – by Moroccan royalty was amazing. I felt really good about my game and after that I always came to the tournament knowing I would win it. Of course, I didn’t win it every year but the times I didn’t win I was always near the top.
“I can’t explain it, but when I come to this tournament my game has something extra.”
Luna, who also won the 1995 Madeira Island Open, particularly enjoys the ‘Alliance’ (pro-am) format of the tournament, adding: “It is such a great event because it is a very relaxed week, very different because of playing with the amateurs and looking out for them as well, checking they are okay, whereas usually you would only be focusing on your own game.
“The Palais Royal is a great course – I think I’ve played it three times. It’s tough, especially if the wind blows.
“And of course it’s always a pleasure coming back to Morocco. It’s a fantastic country with great weather, great food, great people and great golf courses.”