Images Courtesy of Kevin Diss Photography
IT’S A bit like London buses – no sooner have we had one team event on the PGA Tour than along comes another in Europe, with the GolfSixes being staged at Centurion Club in St Albans.
Englishmen Matt Wallace and Eddie Pepperell, both European Tour winners in 2018, will represent the home side and go into the tournament as favourites. They are the highest ranked of the teams in an event that sees men and women playing together for the first time and will join defending champions Denmark and 14 other teams, including pairs representing France, Australia, Thailand, Italy, South Korea, South Africa, USA, Spain, Scotland and Sweden.
Pepperell claimed his long overdue maiden European Tour victory at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in February, while Wallace won a thrilling playoff against countryman Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston to win the Hero Indian Open.
Wallace is now looking forward to teeing it up in the unique GolfSixes event for the first time, and Pepperell says that he can’t wait. “Playing in front of a home crowd is an exciting prospect and something I’ve always looked forward to. Last year it looked as if there were a lot of kids enjoying the whole experience, so it should be a lot of fun to play in front of so many young fans and hopefully get them excited about golf. It’s a great idea to have new and different formats like this on the European Tour, and, with the wildcard teams in the mix this year, there could be some intriguing match ups. Eddie and I have both had good starts to the year, and the chance to team up to represent England is really exciting. I’m sure we’ll have a good laugh on the course and hopefully give the home fans plenty to cheer about.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn and Solheim Cup Captain Catriona Matthew will become the first male and female professionals to play together in a competitive matchplay format on the European Tour when they form the Captains Team as one of the four wildcard entries.
An England Women’s Team comprising Charley Hull and Georgia Hall will be joined by a European Women’s Team. It should have been Suzann Pettersen and Mel Reid, but Pettersen has been advised to withdraw as she is pregnant and will be replaced by Carlota Ciganda. Pettersen said: “This is a very happy time for me and my family but my pregnancy hasn’t been the most straightforward. I have taken the advice of my doctor and will sadly not be able to compete in GolfSixes this year, which is a real shame as I know it would have been a lot of fun. I wish Carlota and Mel the best of luck.” Reid and Ciganda are both ferocious characters and it would be seriously unwise to write off their chances.
Ciganda said: “Mel and I played in the Solheim Cup together and we complement each other’s games really well. We are both aggressive long hitters and we take risks on the course, so I think our style will suit GolfSixes well. We are great friends and extremely passionate about the game of golf. We are looking forward to playing against the men as the European Women’s Team and showing them how good our skills are!”
Defending champions Lucas Bjerregaard and Thorbjorn Olesen defend their title. The winners will collect €100,000 euros each from a total prize fund of €1m.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who won the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth, represents Thailand alongside European Tour veteran Thongchai Jaidee. Aphibarnrat, who is one of the most popular players among spectators, said: “I had a lot of fun taking part in GolfSixes alongside Thongchai last year and we’re looking forward to getting back to Centurion Club again. I enjoyed the team format, and it definitely seemed to be exciting for the fans too. Last year it was great to see so many kids around the course making noise and cheering on the teams, so it will be fantastic to see more of the same this year.
“We don’t get too many opportunities to play for our country as golfers, so it will be fun to team up with Thongchai again to represent Thailand. We got to the quarter finals last year, but we’ll be aiming to get our hands on the trophy this time around.”
France will be represented by Romain Wattel and the in-form Alexander Levy, while Australia are represented by Wade Ormsby and Sam Brazel. Former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari will be joined by 21 year old Renato Paratore, who won his maiden title at the 2017 Nordea Masters, in the Italian team.
Three-time European Tour winner Jeunghun Wang and 2016 Shenzen International champion Soomin Lee will play on behalf of Korea in the country’s debut GolfSixes appearance, while the South African team of George Coetzee and Haydn Porteous boast six European Tour titles between them. Julian Suri, winner of the 2017 Made in Denmark title, will play in a USA team along with David Lipsky, while Adrian Otaegui will represent Spain alongside Pablo Larrazabal, who has come close to securing his fifth European Tour title with three top ten finishes on the European Tour so far this season.
The Scotland team will feature two European Tour winners in Scott Jamieson and Richie Ramsay while Sweden took the final automatic qualification spot, with Alexander Bjork and Joakim Lagergren. The final wild card was awarded to Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan, who represent Ireland.
The format is totally different from anything else we see throughout the season with the 16 teams competing over six holes in a group stage, with teams split into four groups of four, before the top two teams from each group progress to the knockout stages – the quarter-finals, semi-finals, a third/fourth place play-off match and the final.
In the group stages, three points will be given for a victory with one point awarded for a draw and the matches will be played in a greensomes matchplay format. And, of course, with such a short format, there really is very little room for error. Make a slow start and the chances are that you will be losing. To add to the fun, there will be a shot clock, with a penalty imposed if players take longer than 30 seconds per shot, as well as the long drive and closest to the pin holes.
Hall and Hull will take on Pepperell and Wallace in an England v England clash in one of the standout matches in the group stage on Saturday May 5, while Ciganda and Reid will play Olesen and Bjerregaard, and what a feather it would in their caps to defeat the defending champions.
The innovative six-hole competition will have a festival feel with a centrally-located Fan Zone full of entertainment for all the family. Tickets costs just £5 for children and £16 for adults.
The groups are as follows:
Denmark – Lucas Bjerregaard and Thorbjorn Olesen
Thailand – Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Thongchai Jaidee
USA – Daniel Im and David Lipsky
European Women – Carlota Ciganda and Mel Reid
Australia – Sam Brazel and Wade Ormsby
South Korea – Jeunghun Wang and Soomin Lee
Spain – Pablo Larrazabal and Adrian Otaegui
European Captains – Thomas Bjorn and Catriona Matthew
France – Alexander Levy and Romain Wattel
Italy – Matteo Manassero and Renato Paratore
Scotland – Scott Jamieson and Richie Ramsay
Ireland – Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan
England – Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace
South Africa – George Coetzee and Haydn Porteous
Sweden – Alexander Bjork and Joakim Lagergren
England Women – Georgia Hall and Charley Hull
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