PGA professionals, representing some 30 countries, who collectively serve the community in clubs, resorts and academies across the continent and beyond, are preparing for a shoot-out this month to decide who will be the PGA of Europe’s best-of-the-best for 2012.
The UNICREDIT PGA Professional Championship of Europe, at Pravets Golf and Spa Resort on September 17-20, is effectively a champion-of-champions tournament, featuring national title winners who have qualified from the elite events staged in the country where they work.
Since its inaugural staging last year under a new sponsor and at a location that earned glowing and sincere praise from all who attended, the urge to metaphorically wear that European No.1 crown won by Portugal’s Hugo Santos, has increased and spread among member countries to become firmly established as a ‘must play’ event.
Santos, brother of Ricardo (winner of the Madeira Island Open in the European Challenge Tour last May) won in a sudden-death play-off against Holland-based Scot Ben Collier and he will be back to defend the title that he was visibly proud to have won…though the opposition will be even tougher second time around.
Collier will be there again striving to go one better this time but the competition will be increased by the presence of Simon Edwards who has qualified through the PGA of Wales route along with Lee Rooke.
Edwards will be not only one of the most experienced and battle-hardened pros in the field but also will be fired by a deep desire to win the European No.1 trophy. This ambition stretches back more than a decade to when the championship was staged at Pevero, Sardinia.
Though the PGA Cup player and former Glenmuir British Club champion, was a year-by-year challenger, he never quite managed to keep his nose in front to claim the title he so coveted. He will regard this latest chance to realise the ambition as too good to miss.
Unlike Edwards, many of the qualifiers will be involved in the most prestigious tournament of their careers while leaving behind, for a few heady days, those pro shop, academy or resort duties.
Politically and publicly the UNICREDIT PGA Professional Championship of Europe has created massive and wide-ranging interest in Bulgaria, a comparatively new golfing nation with a seemingly insatiable appetite to grow a golfing culture.
To this end a significant legacy is already being forged by a comprehensive junior programme introduced by Pravets, on the back of the main, annual event to enable schoolchildren whose interest has been stirred, to be coached and to take up the sport for themselves, along with their parents wherever possible.
UNICREDIT PGA PROFESSIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP of EUROPE
(Qualifers to date)
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Hugo Santos (Portugal)
AUSTRIA: Chrisotpher Bausek, Stephanus Waltman
BELGIUM: Gilles Monville, Arnaud Beaubain
BULGARIA: William Dow
CROATIA: Darko Ljubanovic
CZECH REPUBLIC: Lukas Lizanek, Jakub Janda
ENGLAND: Craig Shave, Steve Parry, Stuart Little
FINLAND: Sakari Aho, Joonas Paananen
FRANCE: Frederic Cuppliard, Benjamin Nicolay
GERMANY: Simon Brown, Mark Stevenson, Dennis Lohrmann
GREECE: George Diakou
HOLLAND: Rene Nijhuis, Ben Collier, Ralph Miller
HUNGARY: Roland Hahn
ISRAEL: Oren Geri
ITALY: Fernando Pasqualucci, Mattia Ratti, Andrea Pesce
NORWAY: Thomas Hansen
POLAND: Jan Lubieniecki
PORTUGAL: Antonio Rosado, Luis Franco
RUSSIA: Victor Ostankov
SCOTLAND: Ian Taylor
SLOVAKIA: Peter Bucko
SLOVENIA: Janez Grilc
SPAIN: Mikel Galdos, Juan Angel Rosillo, Inaki Alustiza
SWEDEN: Peter Grimjford, Frederic Almskoug, Tomas Setterhill
SWITZERLAND: James Johnson, Marcus Knight
WALES: Lee Rooke, Simon Edwards
INVITES: Danny Kraljic (Slovenia), Albert MacKenzie (Scotland)