The AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at Heritage Resorts, the most important sporting event organised so far in Mauritius and bringing together for the first time players from three major professional golf tours, more than lived up to everyone’s expectations.
photos : deeneshen sabapathee | afrasia bank mauritius open 2015
It’s been an enormous pleasure and we’re very proud to have hosted such a fabulous event as this tri-sanctioned tournament – and in such a magnificent setting. It’s been a perfect golfing week. I never expected so many people to be here and I’m grateful to all of them. It all shows that the tournament has got off to an excellent start.” The words of Philippe Espitalier-Noël, Rogers’ Chief Executive Officer, speaking at the prize-giving ceremony of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at Heritage Resorts, sum up the enthusiasm generated during a week-long competition that was far and away the most important so far in local golfing history.
The build-up looked promising and, after that, the event itself lived up to everyone’s highest hopes, with the bonus of a double play-off in a grand finale that held the spectators on the Heritage Golf Club course in suspense right up until the end. Having led over the first two rounds, Thorbjørn Olesen from Denmark was caught up with in the third and then beaten by a whisker by the South African, George Coetzee, in the play-off (read the interview with him on page 12).
James Benoit, the Chief Executive Officer of AfrAsia Bank, the event’s main sponsor, must have sensed something in confiding to PRESENCE before the tournament that the ideal scenario would be a play-off, as it would increase the suspense. “Golf is a sport that embraces many of our own values and we were immediately attracted by the idea of associating ourselves with this unique event, sanctioned by the European, Sunshine and Asian tours.” The tone was set right from the launch press conference on Monday 4 May at the Heritage Golf Club, during which the tournament trophy, made by French sculptor Hubert Privé, was unveiled. The ProAm, played the next day as a warm-up to the tournament, was the occasion for sponsors, business partners and local golfing enthusiasts to play alongside famous professionals.
The competition was won by Nick Dougherty and his team, made up of amateurs Anton de Waal, Amin Jafar, Patrick Pearson and Kevin McNally. Another amateur, Reshad Purdasy, also distinguished himself (see later article).
The tee-off was given on Thursday 7 May when the professionals took over. With a total prize money of
€1 million, the competition, which took place on the Heritage Golf Club’s splendid course, saw the participation of 132 golfers, including some of the top professionals on the European, Sunshine and Asian Tours, as well as the tournament’s ambassador, Frenchman Thomas Levet, Ludovic Bax de Keating, the first Mauritian ever to play at this level, and the young Chinese prodigy, Guan Tian-lang.
To add to the pleasure, the tournament director was the South African, Pauli van Meersbergen, the first woman to have had that role on any of the three tours. Although no-one managed to win any of the special prizes at stake – a Villas Valriche residence worth US$1 million and a superb Jaguar XE R-Sport, Spaniard Javier Colomo made his mark on the event in shooting a hole-in-one at the 9th on the second day (see later article).
Ladies and youngsters also had the opportunity to enjoy themselves in special golf clinics. Elsewhere,
Mike Kerr, the Asian Tour’s CEO, and Keith Waters and Grant Wilson, the COOs of the European and Sunshine tours, agreed to captain teams consisting of players from their respective tours in a charity competition, the 3-Tour Charity Challenge.
Over and beyond a golf tournament, the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at Heritage Resorts was a real lifestyle event. As well as the multiple attractions of the Domaine de Bel Ombre itself, a range of leisure activities all added to the event’s appeal. As well as various amusements, there were test drives and demonstrations of such prestigious vehicles as the latest Jaguar and Land Rover, and a fun fair.
South African singer Ard Matthews brought a musical touch by giving a concert at the ProAm evening. There was also an intellectual element with the philosopher and former French minister Luc Ferry speaking about sports and ethics. Rogers’ gala dinner on Saturday 9 May at the Chateau de Bel Ombre was attended by many major public figures including the Prime Minister, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, and members of the Cabinet, as well the event’s partners, representatives of the three tours and leading members of the tourism and business communities.
The event has already had several tangible results. According to James Benoit, the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at Heritage Resorts has shown the ability of various public and business bodies to work together. “The government played a key role and it was a real public-private partnership. Even if some of the partners are perhaps business competitors, this kind of event can only grow the market for everyone.”
This historic event has given the country unprecedented visibility in reaching millions of viewers in markets where there might be interest in Mauritius. Ryan Dodds, the General Manager of the Heritage Golf Club and the man doing all the hard work behind the scenes in the tournament, sums up his reactions. “The international coverage has truly given Mauritius the recognition it deserves on the world stage and has better positioned us as the choice golf and business hub of the Indian Ocean. The AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open was an overwhelming success at every level!”