BEL OMBRE, Mauritius (8 December 2019) – Danish teenager Rasmus Højgaard drew a finger across the face of his putter like it was indeed a blade, and then holed a 10-foot eagle putt on the third playoff hole to win his maiden professional title in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at the Heritage Golf Club on Sunday.
At the age of 18, Højgaard became the third youngest winner in European Tour history after Matteo Manassero and Danny Lee, and even eclipsed the Great Dane, Thomas Bjørn, in claiming his first victory in only his fifth European Tour appearance. With his victory he also received Lifetime Diamond Membership of Heritage Golf Club.
“I’m at a loss for words. It’s amazing and I’m over the moon. This is a dream come true for me,” Højgaard said after the third playoff in the tournament’s five-year history and all of which have come at the Heritage Golf Club.
At the closing stages of a frantic final round in which six players were tied for the lead at one point, Højgaard birdied the last for a 68 and a place in a three-man playoff with Frenchman Antoine Rozner and Italian Renato Paratore on 19 under par.
Playing the par-five 18th again, Paratore fell out at the first playoff hole, and on the third the young Dane made the eagle that secured him the title.
“I just kept telling myself to believe in yourself. I was obviously nervous, playing in my first playoff, but I was in a situation where I had nothing to lose. So I was confident especially with my shots coming in.”
It’s a dream start to a professional career many are expecting to deliver big things. After turning 18 in March, Højgaard finished tied second in his first Challenge Tour event and had seven top-10s on the Challenge Tour before earning his main European Tour card.
“It’s cool to win so early in my career and it’s something just amazing. I’m going to celebrate this victory when I get home to my family and friends.” And that will include his identical twin brother Nicolai with whom he won the 2018 Eisenhower Trophy for Denmark and also played in the Junior Ryder Cup together.
“I’m looking forward to the next challenge,” he said.
BEL OMBRE, Mauritius (7 December 2019) – Englishman Lee Slattery has been a professional for over 20 years and said even he was astounded at the large turnout of children from the Mauritius Golf Federation (MGF) who arrived for a golf clinic at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at Heritage Golf Club on Saturday.
Over 40 children turned up for the golf clinic with Slattery and other professionals from the European Tour, Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour during the third round of this tri-sanctioned tournament, and in partnership with the MGF, AfrAsia Bank and Heritage Golf Club.
The turnout certainly reflected the impact this tournament has made in only five years in terms of growing the awareness of golf on the island of Mauritius.
“I was very surprised at the turnout. I’ve done clinics all over the world and I’ve never seen as many kids turn up for a clinic. For a small island such as Mauritius to have such a golf interest is incredible,” said Slattery.
The two-time European Tour champion said he is impressed with how much more the game has started including young children into clinics such as these at tournaments.
“It’s just a great start for these kids, you know. For them to watch a tour professional hit shots and get advice, it can really be the start of something special.”
Slattery says he’s also seen a definite shift in the natural talent amongst the junior golfers of today compared with his era.
“The one thing I do see now is the kids turn up and they’re stronger and swing the club faster. I think that’s just the modern way of coaching. When I was younger it was all about rhythm and timing and short game, but the kids now smash it and they have these great clubs that are lighter. They have a better chance of progressing and starting the game better.”
BEL OMBRE, Mauritius (6 December 2019) – French golfers have moved closer to an historic first victory in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, and led by Matthieu Pavon as he goes into the weekend only one shot off the lead at the Heritage Golf Club.
Pavon signed for a 66 on Friday to climb to 11 under par alongside South Africa’s Brandon Stone and Belgium’s Thomas Detry. They are chasing the 12-under-par lead of Scotland’s Calum Hill who posted a second round of 64.
In the five years of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, the best finish by a Frenchman has been Pavon who finished runner-up last year. In 2017, Heritage ambassador Romain Langasque finished third while Pavon was fifth that year.
But this weekend, Pavon will lead a strong French challenge for the title. Behind him on 10 under par are fellow Frenchmen Benjamin Hebert and Challenge Tour graduate Antoine Rozner.
“It’s great. There are a few of us in the top 10 going into the weekend,” said Pavon. “This island is lovely and it’s always a pleasure coming here to play golf. This is definitely a place where I am comfortable. I feel great this week so I’m going to do my best and try to win this tournament.”
Should he go on and make history as the first French champion on the fifth anniversary of this tri-sanctioned tournament, then a South African will have played a part in his triumph.
South African coach Jamie Gough has been working with Pavon for about a year now, but the two have been working together fulltime for the past few weeks.
“I started working with Jamie and he is the right coach for me. We put together a plan and I’m really pleased with the result over the last few weeks,” said Pavon, who is also pleased with the growth he sees in French golf at the moment.
“We have some young golfers coming from the Challenge Tour. Then we had Victor Perez moving into the top 50 in the world, Benjamin Hebert is a great player and Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Romain Langasque are all good players. I think we have a group of strong players now. It’s a good time for French golf.”
Rozner is doing his best not to let the expectation of a French victory hamper his focus over the next two rounds.
“I’m very happy with my performance. I’m playing well and I’m looking forward to the weekend. This is a popular destination for French golfers. But I don’t want to put all of the pressure of the French population on me. There are a few of us playing well. But it would be quite cool if I can close it out here. I’ve been here before on holiday and the people in Mauritius are very friendly and nice,” he said.
Hebert is also doing his best not to get ahead of himself with two rounds left to play.
“Two shots off the lead is a good position to be in. I think it’s better to chase than be chased. But I have my friend on the bag so we’re just going to go out there and enjoy the golf course over the next two days, and the last two rounds of the year,” he said.
BEL OMBRE, Mauritius (5 December 2019) – It’s not something you’ll find in any golf instruction manual, but for Brandon Stone, lying by the pool and taking long walks on the beach proved the perfect preparation for his opening 66 and a share of the first-round lead in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at Heritage Golf Club on Thursday.
The South African ended day one of this tri-sanctioned tournament in a five-way tie for the lead with Frenchmen Romain Langasque and Benjamin Hebert, Danish teenager Rasmus Højgaard, and Scotland’s Grant Forrest.
They’re just one stroke clear of an equally impressive group of players in second place including European Tour winner Christiaan Bezuidenhout, the in-form Zander Lombard, rising Belgian star Thomas Detry and the experienced Keith Horne.
After what he described as a “tricky year”, Stone arrived in Mauritius seeking exactly the kind of de-stress he was hoping for. And the effects showed in his 66.
“This week consists of doing a little bit of practice, playing 18 holes and then putting your feet up by the pool. Yesterday for the first time this year I had a 45-minute nap poolside and then took a long romantic walk on the beach with my wife. It’s just spectacular. It’s a perfect way to end the year. You know, 2019 has been quite a tricky year with a lot of ups and downs, and to come here and de-stress is just fantastic,” he said.
Alongside Stone at the top of the leaderboard, Hebert also enjoyed what he said has been a relaxing start to this tournament.
“It feels a little bit like vacation. I have a friend on the bag, so we’re just trying to enjoy the tournament. Everything is so nice here. We’re just trying to enjoy it, and maybe that’s the way to have a good week.”
And Denmark’s 18-year-old Højgaard looked equally calm as he played his way into a share of the lead early in his rookie season as a European Tour member. The young star is looking to take his form on the Challenge Tour this year and turn it into success at this higher level of the game.
“I had a full season on the Challenge Tour, which gave me a lot of confidence in what I am doing. I just need to believe in myself,” Højgaard said of his approach to the next three rounds of this event.
The Dane had an incredible first season on the Challenge Tour this year. After only turning 18 in March, he finished tied second in his first Challenge Tour event and had seven top-10s on the Challenge Tour this year. He earned his tour card for the main European Tour and started the new season with a finish of tied 49th in last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship.
“It’s paying off right now and hopefully it will pay off in the long run as well,” he said of the confidence he’s playing with right now.
“The set-up is better and the players are better on the European Tour compared with the Challenge Tour. I’ll just try to play as well as I can and see where I end up.”
Justin Harding started well with a four-under-par 68 that included an eagle at the last, and former European Ryder Cup star Nicolas Colsaerts opened with a 69.
BEL OMBRE, Mauritius (4 December 2019) – Top-ranked Mauritian amateur Pierre Pellegrin will represent the island’s growing golf strength when he tees off in the country’s flagship professional golf tournament, the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at Heritage Golf Club on Thursday.
Pellegrin qualified for the tournament – which is tri-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour, European Tour and Asian Tour – by virtue of his victory in the Rogers Indian Ocean Amateur Golf Open.
He does so as one of the bright young stars of the Mauritius Golf Federation (MGF), which has enjoyed one of its most successful years ever in 2019 highlighted by a runner-up finish behind South Africa in the All Africa Team Championship in Mauritius.
“We have had a great year for Mauritian golf, and the second place at the All Africa Team Championship was something we’ve been working on for the last seven years,” said Christophe Curé, President of the MGF and President of the African Golf Confederation.
“I think it’s the goal of any Mauritian amateur to become the best and one day be able to play in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, and as the MGF we are very thankful to be partners with this great tournament.”
Pellegrin is certainly looking forward to playing in his second AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open starting on Thursday.
“I’ve been watching many of these professional golfers on TV so I’m really honoured to be playing with them in this tournament. It’s a dream come true. I’m just going to enjoy myself, and I’m very proud to represent my country this week.
“I’m hoping to make the cut and play four rounds of golf on this amazing course and with the great support I have. I just want to enjoy myself,” he said.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open as the country’s premier professional golf tournament, and Pellegrin believes the growth of this tournament has been reflected in the similar growth of Mauritian golf over the past few years.
“We’re starting to produce some great golfers in Mauritius. We had our best result with the Mauritian golf team in the All Africa Team Championship, so we’re getting there. I’m very happy to be part of that journey with the Mauritian Golf Federation, which is doing an amazing job growing the game. I think it will become something big in the future for Mauritian golf.”
BEL OMBRE, Mauritius (3 December 2019) – The AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open identifies itself as ‘The most beautiful week in golf’, and clearly the word is getting around amongst the players on all three of the major tours of the Sunshine Tour, European Tour and Asian Tour that jointly sanction this tournament.
A collection of Ryder Cup players, a major winner and multiple tournament champions have gathered for this week’s fifth anniversary of the tournament, which tees off on Thursday at the Heritage Golf Club. And all are increasingly impressed with an event that has successfully niched itself as one of the most special weeks on the global golf calendar.
“It’s my first visit to Mauritius and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s great to have so many players from the different tours playing. I’m looking forward to mixing with some of the younger players this week and trying to be as competitive as I can,” said 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie.
Belgian Ryder Cup player Thomas Pieters is also making his debut in the tournament. “I’m absolutely loving it here. I arrived five days before the start of the tournament. Come Thursday we’ll all want to do well, and I’m looking forward to it.”
George Coetzee, the winner of the inaugural AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open here at the Heritage Golf Club in 2015, is back for a week that gives him the water-sport distractions he so dearly loves. “This is a very special place for me. It’s just a great golf course. But there is also so much to do away from the golf course, which works for me. The year of my win here I went windsurfing on the Monday and hurt my back. I couldn’t play the pro-am or a practice round so I arrived on the golf course in the first round very relaxed and not knowing what to expect, and I guess that was kind of a winning formula.”
Another Ryder Cup star in Nicolas Colsaerts said the growth of the event is seen in the number of players talking to each other about what a unique week this is.
“I’ve been coming here for 20 years now. It’s always been a popular destination for golfers from Europe in the winter and the list of qualities that this place has is endless, and now it has a major golf tournament as well. The players are talking with one another about how nice it is to come and spend a week in Mauritius playing this tournament. We play a lot of competitive golf throughout the year so to have a week that marries both is great.”
Frenchman Romain Langasque is another big supporter of golf in paradise. “The first time I played here was two years ago and I finished third. The course is unbeatable. It’s one of the best tournaments of the year for me to be able to enjoy the golf course and the beach.”
And Indian star Shubhankar Sharma says the tri-sanctioning status of the event has a big role to play in the growth of golf in his home country. “For any sport to grow in a country it needs stars. Golf in India is growing now because we have stars the kids can look up to. So it’s great that this tournament is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and with so many Indian golfers playing in, and which will be showcased on television in India.”
The corporate supporters of the event are equally attracted to a tournament that offers something different in the tournament golf space.
“This tournament has helped us position the Mauritius brand and sell this destination as a great tourist destination and a great financial services destination,” said Sanjiv Bhasin, CEO of title sponsor AfrAsia Bank.
“We have seen the participants increasing in numbers and the public interest increase significantly. The live broadcast now reaches 350 million households. We have customers living in 163 countries, and this tournament gives them an excellent impression of Mauritius and us as a bank.”
The tri-sanctioned status is a particular source of pride for Selwyn Nathan, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour. “This was the first tournament we tri-sanctioned with the European Tour, the Asian Tour and ourselves. This partnership is very special to us and this tournament has grown immensely over the past five years.”
For Thierry Montocchio, CEO of VLH Ltd., the tournament validates to an international audience the world-class golf offering at Heritage Resort.
“The Heritage Le Telfair has for the past two years won the award for ‘The Indian Ocean’s Best Golf Hotel’, and our golf course has for the sixth consecutive year been voted ‘The Indian Ocean’s Best Golf Course’. Golf is at the heart of our resort, and now we are constructing our second golf course, designed by Peter Matkovich and Louis Oosthuizen. It will be an iconic course that we hope will set a new standard for the region. It will be the first links-style course in Mauritius, and you’ll see the sea from every hole.”
And from Thursday, golf fans worldwide will also be able to see exactly what makes this the most beautiful week in golf.
Photo (From Left to Right): Top-ranked Mauritian amateur Pierre Pellegrin, Shubhankar Sharma, Romain Langasque, George Coetzee, Nicolas Colsaerts and Thomas Pieters at the official press conference for the 2019 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
European Tour champions George Coetzee, Justin Harding and Brandon Stone have added their names to an already strong field for the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at the Heritage Golf Club from 5-8 December.
The trio of South Africans join a field including Major winner Paul Lawrie, Ryder Cup stars Nicolas Colsaerts, Thomas Pieters and Edoardo Molinari, former Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Shubhankar Sharma, and top amateurs Matthias Schmid and Pierre Pellegrin.
Coetzee returns to the Indian Ocean island as a four-time European Tour champion and the winner of the inaugural AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at Heritage Golf Club in 2015. The South African is seeking to win a European Tour event twice for the second time in his career after he won the Tshwane Open in 2015 and 2018. He also recently claimed his 10th Sunshine Tour title when he won the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final at the beginning of November.
“I feel like I’m in a good space now and playing pretty well. I’m looking forward to the summer season and hopefully my golf will be good. It’s an exciting time for me,” he said.
Harding, currently ranked 23rd on the Race to Dubai, made his breakthrough on the European Tour this year with his victory in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which was his fifth victory in 12 months wherein he also won on the Asian Tour and Sunshine Tour and broke into the top 50 on the world ranking for the first time in his career.
And Stone heads to Mauritius as a three-time European Tour champion, including his Rolex Series victory in the 2018 Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
Korean professional Taehee Lee will be amongst those leading the Asian Tour challenge in this tournament as the highest ranked player on the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Standings in fourth place.
The €1-million tournament is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year as a leading tri-sanctioned tournament between the European Tour, Asian Tour and Sunshine Tour.
Open champion Paul Lawrie has added his name to the field for this year’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at the Heritage Golf Club from 5-8 December, joining a unique set of winners of the Claret Jug who have played in this tournament.
The winner of the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie is the fourth Major winner to play in this tournament following fellow Open champions Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen and Darren Clarke.
The Scottish professional is also part of a growing list of European Ryder Cup players, captains and vice-captains to have featured in this tournament, which is tri-sanctioned by the European Tour, Asian Tour and Sunshine Tour.
Lawrie represented Europe in the 1999 and 2012 Ryder Cups as a player, and then as a vice-captain in the 2016 Ryder Cup. This year Belgium’s Thomas Pieters and Nicolas Colsaerts and Italian Edoardo Molinari join him at the Heritage Golf Club as fellow European Ryder Cup players, while in the past former Ryder Cup captains Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjørn have also played in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
The eight-time European Tour winner heads to Mauritius with his game in good form after winning the Scottish Senior Open this year.
But Lawrie is most remembered for his 1999 Open triumph at Carnoustie, where he staged a remarkable comeback in which he made up 10 shots in the final round to win the Claret Jug.
Lawrie adds significantly to a field that also includes Indian star Shubhankar Sharma and Benjamin Hebert, who is currently the leading player from France on the Race to Dubai in 17th position.
The field will also include two exciting amateur talents in European Amateur champion Matthias Schmid and Mauritian Pierre Pellegrin.
Schmid makes his debut in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open after becoming, at the age of 21, only the second German golfer to win the European Amateur Championship at the Diamond Country Club in Austria in June and with a course record nine-under-par 63 in the third round.
Pellegrin joins the field thanks to his victory in the Rogers Indian Ocean Amateur Golf Open in October, and which was played at Heritage Golf Club.
A strong contingent of French professionals have confirmed their presence in this year’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open as they edge closer to a first French champion in this tri-sanctioned tournament between the European Tour, Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour.
French golfers have finished third and second in the past two editions of this €1-million tournament, which this year will be played at the Heritage Golf Club at Heritage Resorts from 5-8 December. In 2018, France was second only to South Africa in the number of its golfers who finished within the top 20 in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
The French challenge will be led by Benjamin Hebert, currently the top French golfer on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai ranking in 15th place and within the top 100 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Heritage ambassador Romain Langasque, currently 21st on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings, will also be in the field.
In 2017, when the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open was last played at the Heritage Golf Club, Langasque finished third and only two shots out of the playoff between champion Dylan Frittelli and Arjun Atwal of India. Langasque again came close to securing a maiden European Tour title when he finished third in July’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, a tournament that is part of the European Tour’s prestigious Rolex Series.
Matthieu Pavon flew the French flag at Anahita in 2018 when he finished tied second and just two strokes behind eventual winner Kurt Kitayama. Pavon has also shown signs of becoming the next French champion on the European Tour with his finishes of tied 10th in both the BMW International Open and the Scandinavian Invitation this season.
They will be joined at Heritage Golf Club by Heritage ambassador Clément Sordet, who finished 11th in last year’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, and who this year had his best European Tour finish of second in the Oman Open in March.
Victor Perez, who finished 14th in the 2018 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, and Raphaël Jacquelin, who finished tied 17th last year, add to a very strong French line-up for the fifth edition of this tournament.
“We are extremely proud of our Heritage ambassadors and their performances in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, which is a flagship event for our award-winning resort. We look forward to welcoming them back to our magnificent Heritage Golf Club, which has been recognised as one of the top 10 golf courses in Africa and the ‘Best golf course in the Indian Ocean’ at the World Golf Awards for the past five years,” said Thierry Montocchio, CEO of Veranda Leisure and Hospitality (VLH).