The 29th and 30th June saw the second World Students Matchplay being held in Ingolstadt, Germany. The tournament is the brainchild of a group of enthusiastic, golf-crazy students from the Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt. The small team, led by Valentin Langen, started work on the project in September 2006, as an aside to their other studies. The innumerable hours they put in were rewarded with a tournament that was universally acclaimed as a simply stunningly professional event.
The Students Matchplay started in 2006 with 40 golfers from 5 different nations. The success of the inaugural tournament saw the competition expand in 2007 to include 100 golfers from 10 nations and 3 different continents. These golfers came to Germany in teams of four, representing 26 different Universities. The format of the tournament was a round of strokeplay on Friday, with the best three of the four scores counting towards the team?s overall position. The strokeplay day allowed the organisers to rank all the universities competing. The top ranked team then played the second ranked team in singles matchplay, competing for the impressive silver trophy. The third and fourth teams played for third spot, and so on all the way down to twenty-fifth place.
The golf was all played on the private course of HRH Duke Max of Bavaria, Wittelsbacher Golf Club. With beautiful sunshine and almost no wind it was the British teams who made the most of the conditions and produced the best golf of the weekend. With individual stroke-play scores of 67, 72 and 79 Exeter University were facing Cardiff University (70, 76, 78) in the battle for first place. It was Exeter who completed an excellent performance with a comprehensive 3.5 ? 0.5 victory on Saturday. The excitement was not reserved solely for the best teams as, however they performed in the strokeplay, every University was able to enjoy the challenge of team matchplay. This proved the sporting highlight of the year for many of the golfers competing.
Although the golf took centre stage it was the organisers? attention to detail that made the event so special. The players were all ferried from their accommodation to the course in brand-new, state of the art Audis. A welcome pack greeted all competitors on their arrival at the club, including products from L?Oreal and Callaway. The course was also prepared as if for a professional tournament. Every tee-box had a special Students Matchplay hole marker, sponsors? flags and banners were all around the course and marshals maintained calm with ?Quiet Please? hand-signs. A particular treat was the L?Oreal lounge, a luxurious tent erected by the side of the 18th green where spectators and golfers could relax and watch the action in great comfort.
Chief organiser, Valentin Langen, made it clear that ?The Students Matchplay is not only about excellent golf, but about international teams and encouraging inter-University spirit.? The success of this secondary aspect of the event was in the main thanks to the tournament?s hugely generous sponsors. The German car manufacturer, Audi AG, invited all golfers to a Welcome Dinner at the Audi Executive Restaurant on the evening of the arrival day. A number of the students were also treated to an exciting tour through the Audi production plant. On Friday the Bavarian Bank, HVB, organised a student evening at a local Beergarden, replete with Lederhosen, Dirndl and traditional Bavarian music. The tournament weekend ended with the Players? Party at one of Ingolstadt?s most prestigous hotels and party venues ? the Kult-Hotel.
Following the praise lavished on the 2007 event by all those fortunate enough to attend, the Students Matchplay continues to go from strength to strength. Unfortunately the organisers feel that they have reached their capacity limits and will be unable to host more than twenty-five teams in 2008. Langen is aware that they are likely to be inundated with entries in the New Year and says, ?we may use regional quotas to increase the international feel of our tournament. We have already had representatives from America and South Africa and next year hope to have teams from Asia!? In addition the social programme of the tournament also appears secure, with all the sponsors extremely keen to continue their relationship with Langen and his team.
The giant strides that the tournament has made in the space of only two years has encouraged Langen to confidently state that ?the Students Matchplay can develop to become one of the best student golf tournaments in the world, it?s just a matter of time.? Next year the organisers hope to slightly alter the format of the event, with the top four teams after the qualification round playing 36 holes of matchplay ? both singles and foursomes. In America University golf is massive, with universities providing large financial incentives to tempt the best players, many of whom go on to be hugely successful professionals. Although such a situation is unlikely to ever develop in Europe there is a surprising dearth of inter-University golf competitions. It is this void that the Students Matchplay has filled ? with staggering results