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Published on : Friday, October 14, 2016
The first batch of qualifiers for the grand final of the 2016 Morocco Matchplay, powered by HowDidiDo, includes a chef who counts Hollywood A-lister Robert de Niro as a former employer and a man whose grandfather was legendary golf club manufacturer John Letters.
As always, the southern regional final of the event – this year held at the delightful Woodbury Park, in Devon – was closely fought and ended with tears of joy for some and heartbreak for others, who saw their dream trip to February’s grand final in Marrakech materialise … or disappear.
Bruce Chapman’s grandfather, John Letters, would have been proud of his descendant after he teamed up with East Devon GC club-mate Jim Colvin to win the senior pairs qualifier, with 42 points, two clear of runners-up Roger Moran and Chris White, from Coventry Hearsall GC, who will also be on February’s British Airways’ flight to Marrakech.
Chef Paul Knight has worked for de Niro at the star’s Tribeca Grill in New York City, and has cooked for the Queen and Madonna, and he served up a winning total of 43 points with partner David Grabham to secure a grand final place in the pairs competition. The West Middlesex club-mates were joined on that total by husband-and-wife pairing Steve and Toni Prince, from Donnington Valley GC, who excelled despite both feeling under the weather on the day.
And the third qualifying pair was Woolston Manor members Zulfi Ali and Munir Khan, who had to endure a tense 60-minute wait to discover whether or not their 41 points would be good enough to send them to Morocco.
Another husband-and-wife pair, Leah and Peter Fitzgerald, from Theydon Bois GC, headed the field in the mixed competition with 41 points and they will be joined in North Africa by Worthing’s Clare Weller and George Mero, who recorded 39 points to claim second spot.
Woodbury Park Hotel & Golf Club, near Exeter – founded originally by former F1 world champion Nigel Mansell – sits in 350 acres of beautiful Devon countryside and provided a stunning setting for the final. The 7,314-yard, par-73 Oaks winds its way through mature woodland and around attractive lakes, while offering some of the finest views on any track in Devon.
In total, 32 golfers from the two regional finals – the second takes place at Slaley Hall, Northumberland, this week – will enjoy complimentary return flights from Gatwick to Marrakech, courtesy of the event’s partner British Airways; five nights’ luxury bed-and-breakfast accommodation in the five-star Palmeraie Palace; four rounds of championship golf on the Robert Trent Jones-designed PalmGolf Marrakech Palmeraie; a welcome cocktail reception; and a last-night gala dinner and prize presentation.
Four competitions culminate at the grand final, sponsored for a second year by the Moroccan National Tourist Office (MNTO): singles, pairs, mixed pairs and senior pairs, with 32 golfers, from across the UK, ultimately fighting it out for the titles. Each finalist will have played up to four qualifying rounds merely to reach the regional final, with the knockout rounds taking place between June and September, and the regional finals in October.
Previously, the event – formerly known as the HowDidiDo Matchplay – was played in Rabat, in 2015, and Essaouira, earlier this year. And, as part of the continued partnership with the MNTO, the competition continues to visit different areas of the beautiful North African country
Palmeraie Resorts, spread out across almost 570 acres in the heart of the palm grove of Marrakech, includes hotels, a conference centre, a 5,000m² spa, more than a dozen restaurants, and 27 holes of golf, including the Robert Trent Jones-designed championship golf course, the PalmGolf Marrakech, Palmeraie.
This stunning course offers beautiful scenery – with views of the Atlas mountains and the positioning of 11 lakes – while still demanding technical prowess. Just 25 minutes from the international airport, the Troon Golf-managed course was voted Africa’s best, in the World Travel Awards, for 10 consecutive years from 2006 to 2015.
The elegant, yet contemporary, five-star Palmeraie Palace offers 314 rooms and suites, each with a terrace or balcony overlooking the swimming pool, golf course or gardens. It also has four restaurants and bars for relaxing ‘off course’.
The burgeoning Kingdom of Morocco has 37 golf courses to be enjoyed in year-round sunshine – plus eight more under construction – and, with flight times of less than three-and-a-half hours from the UK and Ireland, it is a hugely attractive alternative to the more traditional golf destinations of Europe.
HowDidiDo is Europe’s largest golfing community, holding in excess of 21 million rounds of golf along with the handicaps, results and scores of more than 1,300,000 UK golf club members. Around 2,000 golf clubs and more than 460,000 golfers currently use the HowDidiDo system.