The climax to the 2008 long drive season was a brilliantly spectacular affair held over the weekend of 13th & 14th of September in front of the imposing Whittlebury Park clubhouse. Players, qualifying from rounds all over Europe in three divisions (Open, Lady & Senior), gathered to challenge for the coveted title of RE/MAX European Champion.
A series of knock-out and seeding rounds on the Saturday saw the Open Division whittled down to the best 16 international hitters in Europe for the Sunday rounds. A huge deluge on the previous Friday meant the teeing area was virtually underwater but great work by Huxley Golf in setting up a mat meant the tee itself was near perfect. A sodden landing area meant that the distances were never going to be as great as the quality of players suggested. Nevertheless, drives of over 320 metres (350 yds) were achieved by several of the stars; notably Antii Saleva (Finland), Peter Carlborg (Sweden), Joe Miller (England), Adam Stacey (England), Niklas Fredriksson (Sweden), Dan Konyk (England) and Patrik Andersson (Sweden).
Patrik, protecting a back injury, always looked in charge of events, doing just as much as he had to, to progress in his quest to defend his European title from 2007. The title RE/MAX Champion awaited each divisional winner and a trip to the RE/MAX World Finals, held just outside Las Vegas in October, was on offer for the champions and top Open players.
Sunday saw a change in the weather. The grid remained wet and slow, with many of the biggest drives actually getting backspin! As if things were not difficult enough for the athletes, a cold wind started to gust into their faces meaning that any chance of record distances being recorded were totally gone.
Despite these disadvantages the Ladies Division saw last years champion Jessica Wallstrom driving the regulation Pinnacle balls to over 232m (255yds) to defeat fellow Swede Helena Rhodin in the head-to-head final and secure her place in the RE/MAX World Finals.
Reigning RE/MAX Senior Champion Stewart McMurran (Scotland) easily and confidently saw off all challengers on his route to top spot. Stewart was always the class of a strong field and his head-to-head victory over Ivan Sanders (England) by 12m in the final, driving 261m (287yds) saw him booking his flight to the States for October.
It was in the super-strong Open Division that the big guns showed their worth. Stacey (328m, 360yds), Mikael Lindblom (Sweden) (316m, 348yds) and Andersson (320m, 352yds) were the longest of the knock-out rounds. Swede Andreas Persson finished the day in fifth position to grab the last RE/MAX World Final place. The head-to-head final rounds saw an all Sweden match up in the first semi-final with Andersson narrowly losing out to Lindblom and an all England match in the second with past champion Paul Slater losing to former World number 3, Adam Stacey.
Mikael Lindblom finally overcame Adam Stacey in the Grand Final. Conditions were deteriorating rapidly and it only needed a 304m (334yds) drive for the Swede to claim number 1 in Europe and the crown of RE/MAX Champion after many years of trying.
Congratulations to all competitors for reaching the European finals but especially to those five Open, Lady and Senior who will make up arguably Europes strongest ever representation in the RE/MAX World Finals
RE/MAX European Champions
Mikael Lindblom Sweden
Jessica Wallstrom Sweden
Stewart McMurran Scotland
Additional qualifiers for the RE/MAX World Finals
Adam Stacey England
Patrik Andersson Sweden
Paul Slater England
Andreas Persson Sweden