A Final Slice of the Russian Action

9/5/2012 8:16:03 AM
A monument overlooking the 18th green at Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club  (EuropeanTour)
A monument overlooking the 18th green at Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club (EuropeanTour)

The oldest trophy in professional golf, Jack Nicklaus and helicopters await you as our Press Officer on the ground at the M2M Russian Challenge Cup brings you all the action from behind the scenes.

Gong with the wind at Tseleevo

After a difficult Saturday on the course, when winds blew and a chill was in the air, the players were given a chance to relax and have some fun with a barbeque ‘cut party’ followed by a gong challenge at the lake which guards the ninth and 18th greens.

Having been served some delicious burgers and a beer (for those who weren’t playing on Sunday, of course) some of the Challenge Tour’s top stars were given the challenge of striking a gong in the middle of a lake with a four iron.

Many had a go but only four managed to hit the target and claim the £100 prize. Mark Nicholls, an English pro based in Russia, made the most of the familiar Russian conditions as he made the bell toll first with an inch

perfect strike, much to the delight of the locals looking on.
Mark Tullo and Steven Jeppesen were the two other players in the field this week to claim the prize but there was a cameo appearance from the Tournament Director this week Neal Briggs.

Briggs’s name will forever be in the Challenge Tour history books as the man who won the tour’s first tournament back in 1989, when it was called the European Satellite Tour, and he showed that class is permanent by hitting the gong right on the button.

A special mention must go to Rafa Echinique, who was agonisingly close on a number of occasions, actually skimming his ball underneath the the gong at one point while also shaving the right edge on another attempt!

Russian extravagance on show in Pro-Am dinner

In Russia, they don’t do things by half measures and that was most definitely the case for this year’s M2M Russian Challenge Cup Pro-Am dinner.

Before even entering the party, you could see that this day was a big deal. There were massive BMW and Mercedes Benz cars parked up outside but they were duly overshadowed by a helicopter sitting on top of a grass mound just outside the clubhouse.

As pictured above, the chopper even had a golf bag sitting outside, so that the illustrious guest could just pick ‘em up, pack ‘em in the back and fly off home… as you do!

The Pro-Am dinner was MCed by a Russian television star and while yours truly didn’t catch a word, he certainly appeared to be an entertaining and charming character as he presented the spectacular gifts.

There were incredibly suave bicycles awarded to the closest to the hole and longest drive winners, while amongst the many gifts awarded to the Pro-Am winners, runners up and third-placed teams were solid bars of silver!

Daniel Vancsik has been on good form on the Challenge Tour of late and it was his team that claimed the number one prizes, including delightful glass trophies.

It was a truly glamourous occasion, with some of the female guests dressed as if they were at the Oscars, while cigars and bottles of wine were in full flow. They certainly know how to do it here in Russia!

Houston ‘Leeds the way’ after historic win

Welshman Garry Houston had an extra spring in his step entering this week’s M2M Russian Challenge Cup and came in to register for the tournament with a rather proud smile on his face after he put his name alongside some greats of the game by winning the recent Leeds Cup.

The Leeds Cup is a PGA regional event in the North region of England and boasts that it is the oldest recorded professional golf tournament having been established in 1902.

Indeed, Houston put his name alongside the likes of Harry Vardon and former Ryder Cup players Gordon J Brand and Howard Clarke, while Gary Player almost won the tournament as a 19 year old in 1955.

Houston almost didn’t play the tournament but was convinced by his friend Richard Bean to take part.

“My confidence was so low that I just wanted to have a couple of weeks off,” said the Chester-based player after his win. “Richard said that he realised that it was probably the last thing on my mind but felt entering wouldn’t do any harm.

“I took his advice but didn’t give myself any chance of success so it’s turned out to be a pleasant surprise.”

He will be hoping that that win now gives him a timely boost ahead of this week’s tournament at Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club, just outside Moscow, and judging by his mood prior to the M2M Russian Challenge Cup, it has certainly done no harm.

Tseleevo a true gem

The venue for this week’s M2M Russian Challenge Cup is a true gem, set about 42km from the Russian capital of Moscow and designed by none other than arguably the greatest player to have played the game, Jack Nicklaus.

They are some of the most picturesque holes on the Challenge Tour schedule, including the stunning par three 13th hole, where the green is guarded by a lake to the left.

There are plenty of water features scattered around the pristine parkland, which is built on land that is not even registered and didn’t require a land purchase.

It has been heralded amongst many of the players as one of the best courses they have seen all year and it’s no wonder.

Flying visit for Pro-Am guests

The M2M Russian Challenge Cup Pro-Am on Wednesday brought with it a flurry of activity around the Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club, with Pro-Am guests taking the opportunity to play on one of the most exclusive courses in the Moscow region and play alongside some of Europe’s top young professionals.

And some of them weren’t exactly inconspicuous on their arrival to the course, flying in on helicopters which landed right beside the spectacular clubhouse.

Indeed, the gardens in front of the clubhouse resembled a helipad with the number of choppers touching down to the awe and amazement of the players on the nearby range.