The third Praia D’el Rey Rover European Cup match between the European Seniors Tour and the Ladies European Tour takes place this week with the men looking to defend the trophy they retained in a thrilling 10-10 tie 12 months ago.
Tommy Horton and Maria-Laure de Lorenzi will once again lead the two teams for what promises to be another closely fought contest.
Indeed the match last year could not have been closer as the Seniors held on to the trophy by their fingertips thanks to a birdie on the final green by Brian Huggett in the last match out on the course.
The ladies looked destined to win the seven matches they required on the final day after managing just a half point in the fourball series, but Huggett turned back the clock to produce a magnificent four iron to the final green, hitting the ball to eight feet before rolling in the putt he needed for a birdie to halve his match with Catrin Nilsmark. That left the scores level and the men, as holders, retained the Cup.
This the year the Seniors team contains four players making their debut in the matches – Americans Bill Brask, Jerry Bruner and Alan Tapie and Australian Ross Metherell, a winner of two tournaments in 1999.
Antonio Garrido, the first Spaniard along with Seve Ballesteros to play in the Ryder Cup, and John Morgan both return to the team after missing last year’s match. The Ulster pair of David Jones and Eddie Polland, both of whom made a winning breakthrough in 1999, are back for a second successive year while Horton and 65-year-old Neil Coles make their third successive appearance in the team.
They will face a particularly strong Ladies European Tour team that includes Laura Davies for the first time. Sophie Gustafson, Maria Hjorth, Trish Johnson, Alison Nicholas, Lora Fairclough and De Lorenzi all formed part of the team that came so close last year while Raquel Carriedo, Sofia Gronberg Whitmore and Sophie Mendiburu will be making their debuts.
“This year will be very tough,” said Horton. “We’ve won one, halved one and now I am sure on this occasion the ladies will be looking to notch up their first win but we’ll have something to say about that.
“Last year was very close and if it wasn’t for Brian Huggett we would have lost the match. They have a very strong team with some long hitters. I think the presence of Laura Davies is going to elevate the matches and it is a great complement to the Ladies European Tour that she wants to play.
“But we’ve got a pretty strong team with a lot of gutsy players. Neil Coles is a very important part of that team. He is a steadying influence and still capable of beating players 15 years his junior.”
Peter Adams, Deputy Managing Director of the European Seniors Tour, said: “It is a pleasure to return to Praia D’el Rey, one of the best new courses in Southern Europe and I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to Rover, the sponsors of what is certain to be another exciting match.”
European Seniors Tour Ladies European Tour
Tommy Horton (Capt) Marie-Laure de Lorenzi (Capt)
Bill Brask Raquel Carriedo
Jerry Bruner Laura Davies
Neil Coles Lora Fairclough
Antonio Garrido Sofia Gronberg Whitmore
David Jones Sophie Gustafson
Ross Metherell Maria Hjorth
John Morgan Trish Johnson
Eddie Polland Sandrine Mendiburu
Alan Tapie Alison Nicholas