A stunning 3-under par back nine allowed Sweden’s Joakim Björkman to dominate the finale to the Italian Open on Sunday – his round of 73 taking the trophy in this exciting European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) Premier Series event.
The weekend saw 26 high-standard golfers with disabilities compete for the Italian Open at the magnificent Miglianico Golf & Country Club, in the Abruzzo region, testing themselves on the Ron Kirby-designed, par-72, 5,878 metre course.
Joakim Björkman had been a stroke behind overnight leader Italy’s Federico Rocchetti as they had scored 80 and 81 in a tricky breeze and damp conditions, but the second round brought sunshine and clearly inspiration to the Swede, as he nearly aced the par-3 second to set up a first birdie of the day.
Both Björkman and Rocchetti absorbed the pressure of the occasion, reaching the turn in 40 and 41 respectively to leave the tournament scores level. From here Joakim lit the fuse, birdieing the 10th in style before a brilliant chip-in for par on the 11th, while Federico would reach this green in regulation but a costly 3-putt would leave him two behind.
The testing par-5 14th would be the Italian’s undoing as he laboured to an 8 following a horrible lie in a fairway bunker, while Björkman parred the hole to take a decisive 5-shot lead. His shot of the tournament came on the 392-metre 17th when he played a wonderful hybrid to 3 feet and another birdie. A growing crowd of spectators then saw Joakim win the tournament by reaching the par-5 18th in 2 shots and set up a final birdie to secure victory with a brilliant final round of 73.
Gross final positions
1st – Joakim Björkman 81-73 = 154
2nd – Federico Rocchetti 80-84 = 164
3rd – Nino Ourabah 90-91 = 181
Federico was the winner of the ‘Leading Italian Gross Player’. With Joakim’s great scores he would also be crowned the ‘Nett’ winner by a margin of 8 shots over Paolo Vernassa of Italy, with France’s Nino Ourabah in third place.
Nett final positions
1st – Joakim Björkman 78-70 = 148
2nd – Paolo Vernassa 83-73 = 156
3rd – Nino Ourabah 78-79 = 157
Category 3&4 players in this Premier Series event play in a Stableford tournament. Over-night leader Italy’s Angelo Casu held on to first place with a second round score of 32 points. Runner-up was Nicolas Grossia of France who started the day 5 points behind the leader, but an impressive final round nearly took him to the Stableford title.
A word also for the best female player, who was Alessandra Donati of Italy, playing her part in a great week for the Italian competitors.
Stableford final positions
1st – Angelo Casu 34-32 = 66
2nd – Nicolas Grossia 30-35 = 65
3rd – Enrique Ramirez 33-30 = 63
Craig Thomas, EDGA Tournament Observer, said: “Many great shots were played by all of the golfers and many of the spectators who have never observed a disability golf tournament were in awe of just what these golfers can achieve, and despite the bad shots they would always smile and ‘Never Give Up’. One spectator said, ‘I had no idea what to expect when arriving at the club today, I feel totally inspired, they are amazing to watch’.”
Craig added: “There is no question that the Italian Open is an extremely well organised tournament with 5-Star hospitality for all of the players. Thanks go to all of the staff and members of Miglianico Golf & Country Club for presenting a fantastic golf course and for organising a top class event.”
Article by Ben Evans www.cuttingedgegolf.com
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Day-1 Report by Ben Evans
Italy’s Rocchetti and Miglianico Golf & Country Club are the stars on day one of the EDGA Italian Open
The plaudits went to the home country after day one of the Italian Open when Federico Rocchetti shot an 80 to secure a narrow lead in the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) Premier Series event.
Credit also goes to the Italians for staging the tournament at the magnificent Miglianico Golf & Country Club, in the green Abruzzo region, where 26 high-standard golfers with disabilities lined up to test themselves on the challenging Ron Kirby-designed, par-72, 5,878 metre course, starting Saturday (26th September).
In the ‘Gross’ scoring for Category 1&2 players, Italian scratch golfer Federico Rocchetti navigated the course’s hazards best to shoot 80 on a track rated in excellent condition by the organisers, with immaculately manicured fairways and greens that wind their way among a legion of olive trees.
The players encountered a damp start and light and at times blustery winds. Sweden’s Joakim Björkman played well in these conditions, recording an 81 to chase Rocchetti on the final day, in second place.
France’s Nino Ourabah will have to have a great round on Sunday to catch the pair, following his opening 90. However, Nino leads the handicap ‘Nett’ category on 78, alongside Björkman (78) and Italy’s Antonio Mandich (79).
Category 3&4 players in this Premier Series event play in a Stableford tournament. The first day’s standings see a leader in Italy’s Angelo Casu (34 points), with Spain’s Enrique Ramirez closely following with 33, and Nicolas Grossia of France is in third place with 30 points. There are six players within nine points of the lead so it is all to play for in Round 2.
Sunnier weather is promised for the final round today so we will see if Federico Rocchetti can maintain his lead with a swing which, when working well, is smoother than the award-winning olive oil created from the trees on this course; while this course at Miglianico is shaping up to be the other true Italian star of the show this week.
Craig Thomas, EDGA Tournament Observer, said: “The course is in fantastic condition this week, the players have been hugely impressed. The course has been through some challenging times this summer due to the high temperatures so all credit to the team at Miglianico for presenting a beautiful course for us. We are all looking forward to the final round and some more great golf.”