The final Nespresso Trophy UK Challenge Regional Qualifier took place at Foxhills in Surrey on Wednesday to round off a thrilling three-course series.
The weather was beautiful and the Bernard Hunt in pristine condition as 76 competitors played for an invite to a unique and exclusive ‘meet Jose Maria Olazabal’ event in San Sebastian, Spain.
The field was comprised predominantly of Nespresso Club members, with five Golf Monthly readers and some winners from Nespresso-sponsored club medals also invited along.
After a genial greeting from the Nespresso team, players received their bespoke Nespresso packs – complete with balls, tees, course planners and more – enjoyed a hearty breakfast and took to the course for a 10am shotgun start.
The firm, fast and occasionally windy conditions were seemingly no trouble for most of the field, and the scoring bore testament to that.
Indeed, three teams, playing better-ball 3/4 stableford, notched 43-point totals – comfortably the best return from any of the three regional rounds.
Agonisingly, though, only two pairs could qualify for the once-in-a-lifetime trip to meet Jose Maria in Spain.
With all three teams tied on 43 points, countback would be the ultimate decider.
Carl Rundle and Dave Breslin‘s 23-point back-nine points tally saw them through in first place, with the duo of Ryan McKinnia and Chris Gray pipping Jim Alsop and Kevin Cartlidge by a single point to take second.
Both pairs spoke of their sheer elation at earning their place in the exclusive event to meet Jose Maria – one of their golfing idols.
“It feels absolutely amazing. I’m ecstatic about it. Jose Maria is someone I look up to as a European golf fan, so it’ll be incredible to meet him,” said Carl.
“I won the junior club championships at my home club a few years ago, and that was pretty special, but this is definitely my best golfing achievement,” added Dave, who only met Carl – a fellow qualifier at a Nespresso-sponsored tournament at Frilford Heath – for the first time a week before the event.
“Nespresso put on a great event at Frilford and it’s been top class here again. It’s just been an awesome day, so thanks to everyone involved.”
Ryan and Chris, both 24, were similarly taken aback with their qualification and admitted the achievement still hadn’t sunk it.
“We’re extremely excited to be going away. It’s pretty surreal to be honest. It’s definitely my proudest golfing moment,” said Chris, who was called in last minute as Ryan’s initial partner didn’t have an official handicap.
“It’ll mean so much to go and meet Jose Maria, especially as I was just happy to be taking part as a last-minute replacement!”
“It’s just been fantastic day. The electronic scoreboard really made you feel like and pro and every aspect has been looked after brilliantly,” added Ryan.
Aside from the main competition, there were a handful of other accolades also up for grabs.
Jim Alsop won the men’s individual stableford and nearest the pin awards, with Gillian Brooks claiming ladies’ longest drive and individual ladies’ stableford.
After the awards ceremony in Foxhills’ impressive, balcony-bordering function room, Gillian, who qualified through Golf Monthly, said: “Me and my husband have been very impressed with the quality of the event – the welcome, the organisation, the attention to detail, everything.
“It’s been a superb day and I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for Nespresso golf events in the future.”
The Nespresso Club provides members with some exceptional experiences, including the trip to San Sebastian and the chance to play with brand ambassador Jose Maria Olazabal during the BMW PGA Championship Pro-Am at Wentworth.
For all the latest information, updates and results, head to the Nespresso Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nespresso?fref=ts
Huge congratulations to all the qualifiers and we hope you have a fantastic time with 2012 Ryder Cup-winning captain Jose Maria Olazabal in San Sebastian this October!