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During the week of 6 through 13 of May, the latest Ukrainian International
Golf Challenge was held at Marbella
(Puerto Banus), on the Costa del Sol in Spain. There were a total of 94 golfers competing from Australia
(32 players), Britain (11), Canada (25), Germany (4), the United States (22), and Ukraine (with 1). Among these
numbers, women players have at long last made their debut in the competition. In all, over 150 people including
spouses, family, and friends attended the event.
This is the fourth in a series of Ukrainian international golf competitions
held since 1993 when the Americans and
Australians inaugurated the event in Hawaii. Since then it has been staged in Australia in January of 1996 with the
same two participating countries where the Americans won. This was then followed up in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in
October of 1998 with expanded representation from Britain, Canada, and Ukraine. This time the Australians came
from behind in a close finish to take the trophy.
Ukrainian golf organizing bodies exist in most of the participating
countries. These include the Ukrainian Golf Association
of Australia, the Ukrainian Golf Association of America, the Ukrainian Golf Association of Great Britain, and most recently formed, the Ukrainian Golf Team of Germany.
These associations stage regular competitive tournaments for their members
on a country basis each year.
Australia and Britain are the most active with at least six tournaments each year.
To date, Canada has no comparable organizing body, but this is under consideration.
The originators of the competition are Ron Shymko from Australia and
Roman Luzniak from the United States who
were responsible for the planning, organization, and function of all aspects previous tournaments. Their vision, hard
work, and quest for competition has grown to provide a serious test of honest golf in the broad Ukrainian
The daunting task of organizing the Spain Challenge was shouldered by
members of the Ukrainian Golf Association
of Great Britain, headed by its president Mike Baraniak.
At each successive international event the numbers of players has grown
from 32 in Hawaii, to 53 in Yarrawonga,
Australia, then 74 in Ft. Lauderdale. The standard of the competition, though always high, has continued to surpass
itself at each successive tournament. It has become THE tournament to attend in the Ukrainian world community.
The tournaments are organized to feature both team competitions as well
as individual player champions. There
was to be an overall winning team for the Ukrainian World Golf Challenge n between Australia, Canada, team
Europe, and the United States. As well, it featured the traditional Australia vs. USA head-to-head competition. This
tournament also inaugurated the first Canada vs. Britain challenge.
In Spain, as the attending number of players representing each country
varied, only the scores of fifteen players
pre-selected each day were counted in the team competition. The top 12 scores are counted. Over the course of the
4 tournament days, every player had at least one contributing score for their team.
Individual awards were given each day for closest to the hole, long
drive, and highest point totals. The world points
champion with a total of 138 was Harry Lesiw from Australia, and the coveted best Scratch score was taken by
Ivan Furyk , of Melbourne, Australia.
Scoring was the modified Stableford points system applied to each competitor's
handicap. A net bogie par gives you
1 point, net par a 2, net birdie a 3, and so on. The major benefit of this system is that it forgives bad holes since a
player cannot have points subtracted for scores worse than net bogies. Players get a fresh opportunity to score
points at each hole. The more points scored, the better the round; over 30 points indicates a good round. Playing to
your handicap scores 36 points. Players are grouped into one of 3 flights based on their handicaps to allow them to
compete directly with players of similar abilities.
As at the previous tournaments, the play in Spain incorporated a practice
round on the Monday. This was held at
the narrow and hilly Marbella Golf and Country Club. No mountain goats were seen, though the terrain seemed
appropriate for them. The actual scoring rounds were played on Tuesday through Friday.
Tuesday featured the seaside Alcaidesa Golf Course with its rolling
links style hills and dramatic views of Gibraltar
and the Mediterranean. It was this day that the Canadian team set the pace with a strong lead. The defending
champion Australians locked onto second place.
On Wednesday, play was at Santa Maria Golf Club with more rolling hills
and tantalizing blind approaches. The
Canadian lead continued to grow, however, the grouping of team scores was still tight.
Thursday took the players back west to Almenara Golf Hotel & Spa,
just minutes up the road from the famous
Valderrama course. The course featured more side-hill lies than basic physics normally permits. The Canadian
team was still ahead with the biggest point spread; Australia remained the closest competition.
The showdown day was Friday at Los Naranjos Golf Club in the hills a
short distance north of the hotel. The final
hole, a par 5 dogleg, featured approaches forced over water to a narrowgreen, dominated by the brilliant white
stucco and tile clubhouse looming on the knoll only several short paces immediately behind. The clubhouse's sun
drenched balcony terrace was a popular gallery, (with table service), to further intimidate the foursomes as they
closed out their rounds. The gallery witnessed brilliant long approaches to within 2 feet of the flag as well as the
more creative double bounces off the clubhouse.
Australia overtook Canada's 25 point lead and grabbed the team championship
with 1457 points. Outstanding
scores from many of their players on the final day resulted in another come-from-behind victory, and featured in a
repeat booming rendition of "Waltzing Matilda" at the Gala. Canada fell off to second with a strong 1445, followed
by Team Europe at 1342, and USA at 1311.
Congratulations to Australia for their victory. A few shots going one
way as opposed to the other was the eventual
small difference. Look out for next time.
Between the Grand Opening/Welcoming reception held on the first Sunday
evening and the Gala Dinner and Award
Ceremony the following Saturday evening, there were many outings to visit sights of the surrounding country and
countless social encounters. Many enjoyed lavish dinners of local Spanish cuisine with views of jet setters' yachts,
casual drinks, or just sizzled by the pool. The hotel lobby bars served as the strategic crossroads for most, and the
bars were typically full of our participants past 2am on a nightly basis. One evening Ukrainian song sheets
appeared initiating an impromptu and surprisingly strong "opera chorus". Many people took advantage of the
regional cultural richness with day trips or after-play visits, (as most of the golf was played in the mornings), to
Morocco, Gibraltar, Ronda, Granada, and many picturesque villages between. Many participants made the
tournament a component of a more extended trip either coming to Spain early or tacking on more time after the
conclusion of the tournament.
As everyone stayed at the Pyr Hotel at Puerto Banus, there were many
opportunities to meet with new people,
socialize, and establish friendships with people from other countries. The golf was tremendous, a new experience
for many not accustomed to competitive tournament play. The real winners were those whole found new friendships
from other countries and sometimes from even their own country, to be renewed at the next tournament, or before.
The venue for the Tenth Anniversary Tournament returns to where it all
started, Maui in Hawaii. Scheduled for
October 2003, it is expected to be the biggest and best attended tournament to date. Numbers of players from each
country are initially expected to be limited to keep a balance for international representation. Registration will
begin in October of 2001.
For further information about the next Ukrainian
World Challenge tournament in Hawaii or about
the formation of
a Ukrainian Golf Association of Canada, you may contact me, Bohdan Kushnir, the Canada organizer and
coordinator, in Toronto at telephone 416-232-0998.
Click here for more pictures of the WORLD
UKRAINIAN GOLF CHALLENGE II - SPAIN 2001