The Leuka Mini Masters began life on the 10th tee at Richmond GC one grey January afternoon in 2008, although its origins are more exotic. I had met Dougray Scott, star of Mission Impossible II, Desperate Housewives and more than 30 films, on the putting green at Carnoustie during the previous year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Our friendship, founded on a shared love of golf, developed over the rounds we played together following that memorable week in Scotland.
A St Andrews native and keen, single-figure player, Dougray had become a patron of Leuka, the leukaemia charity based at London’s Hammersmith Hospital, after visiting the specialist unit during the course of his research for a character in the movie ‘Ripley’s Game’.
Having played in countless charity events he announced that he wanted to create a fund-raising golf tournament with a difference. I had an idea, and spent the next few holes outlining what it entailed.
The Leuka Mini Masters would be a unique golfing cocktail: one part Ford Classic, the one-day jamboree of music, irreverence and extreme short golf devised by scratch golfer David Ford, and played on a fiendishly difficult course fashioned each year from an orchard and farmyard in North Devon, and an equal measure of the par-3 tournament curtain-raiser for The Masters. Added to the mix would be Dougray’s celebrity friends, an upmarket garden party vibe with gourmet food and drink and a pristine par-3 course.
The first Leuka Mini Masters took place that summer at Dukes Meadows in Chiswick, west London. For one day only, this nine-hole par-3 layout was transformed into a tongue-in-cheek golfing fun park, complete with commentary tower and big screen, bars on every other hole and music pumping out.
Eighteen teams of three paying guests joined up with celebrity captains such as Rob Brydon, Gianluca Vialli and James Nesbitt for a day of golf they would never forget. Two rounds and a delicious BBQ prepared by acclaimed Kiwi chef Peter Gordon later and the feedback was nothing short of rapturous.
There was no alternative but to ensure the next year was even bigger and better. John Jennings and his greenkeeping staff pulled out all the stops to ensure Dukes Meadows was presented as never before, while luxury brands such as Omega and Alfred Dunhill came aboard.
The word-of-mouth success of year one also ensured that Gabby Logan, Vernon Kaye and Mr Pro-Celebrity himself, Jimmy Tarbuck, swelled the ranks of the celebrity captains.
The tournament has continued to grow with a Jagermeister rock stage being added and the participation of Hugh Grant and Damien Lewis giving it a sprinkling of Hollywood glamour, while the support of Ian Poulter’s IJP Design clothing and TaylorMade adidas Golf help to consolidate the day in the golfing calendar.
In 2011, TalkSport broadcast live describing the event as ‘Golf’s Unofficial 5th Major’. We also passed the £125,000 mark in funds raised for Leuka.
This year sees the tournament move to Wentworth’s par-3 Executive Course. Headline sponsors are Spotify, with Omega, IJP clothing, HR. Owen and Virgin Atlantic all lending their support.
Being invited to stage the event at the historic golfing mecca in Virginia Water is proof of how far the tournament has come. But while the venue has changed, the spirit, music and humour will all remain.
VIP hospitality tickets are available at £180. Team participation is priced at £5,000. For more details visit leukaminimasters.com