Monday, April 23, 2012

Global Golf Post: Europe, Asia-Pacific Brace For Bonallack Trophy Battle

Andy Morgan will be hoping there are no last-minute hiccups as his European team assembles for this week's Sir Michael Bonallack Trophy against Asia-Pacific at  Monte Rei Golf & Country Club in Portugal.  Two years ago, the Welshman travelled all the way to India to captain the European side in the same competition but then watched on helplessly as the biennial match had to be cancelled due to the travel chaos caused by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland.  "I went out about 10 days before the match but then the volcano erupted in Iceland and I spent most of my time desperately trying to rearrange flights in an attempt to get our team over to India," the Welshman said. "We tried everything we could but in the end we had to admit defeat."

Defeat is something the current chairman of Golf Development Wales will

be keen to avoid once the 2012 match starts on Wednesday. On paper, at least he looks to have every chance of succeeding because he has at his disposal a strong team comprising 2011 European Amateur champion Manuel Trappel from Austria, Irish Walker Cup player Alan Dunbar, Englishmen Jack Hiluta and Ben Taylor, Welshman Rhys Enoch, Dutchmen Daan Huizing and Robin Kind Germans Moritz Lampert and Marcel Schneider, Belgian Thomas Detry, Swede Robert Karlsson (no relation) and Spaniard Jon Rahm-Rodriguez.  "I'm delighted with the team we have been able to put together," Morgan admitted.  "Several potential team members turned pro over the winter but I think we've got a strong side and one that is very capable of defending the title won at Valderrama four years ago."

The European captain is clearly determined to leave nothing to chance after the cancellation of the match at Karnataka.  He has even enlisted the services of Rory McIlroy, who played on the 2006 European team in Auckland, New Zealand, and is a strong supporter of the match.  "Rory played on the 2006 team so I wrote to him to see if he'd compile a message of support for this year's team and he did it with great style," said Morgan.  "It wouldn't be fair to divulge the contents but I will be sharing his thoughts with the players when we meet up."

Morgan freely admits the Asian team is something of an unknown quantity.  However, one name that will be instantly recognisable to many fans is that of Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, who has played at the last two Masters thanks to successive victories in the Asian Amateur.  He has also won on the Japan PGA Tour.  "Matsuyama is the one name which stands out but I have no doubt his teammates will be good players, too," said the European captain. "They are all there on merit and as we know Asian golf is getting stronger and stronger all the time." The rules of the match state there can be no more than two competitors from any country and, as a result, the Asia-Pacific team is as diverse as its opponents.

Matsuyama is joined in Portugal by compatriot Taihei Sato, Australians Jake Higginbottom and Cameron Smith, New Zealanders Benjamin Campbell and Mathew Perry, India's Seenappa Chikkarangappa and Khalin Hitesh Joshi, Koreans Chang-Woo Lee and Soo-Min Lee and Chien-Yao Hung and Natipong Srithong from Thailand.  "The Sir Michael Bonallack Trophy is not as well known as the likes of the Walker Cup and the Curtis Cup but I think that is primarily due to the fact it has not be around so long," said Morgan. "I consider it to be one of the best events on the calendar and I am sure it will grow in stature as the years go on."

The Sir Michael Bonallack Trophy was inaugurated in 1999 when the Europeans claimed victory at Lake Karrinyup GC in Australia. Subsequently, there have been five further matches with this year's home team currently holding a 4-2 lead in the series.  The contest has a similar format to the Ryder Cup. The first two days comprise five four-ball matches in the morning and five foursomes matches in the afternoon. On the final day, all 12 team players compete in singles match play.


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