GOLF - Amateurs gear up for huge tourney

  • 2008-08-06
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

TEE OFF: One of the most prestigious amateur golf tournaments in the Baltics is set to kick off on Aug. 8.

The courses are mown, the clubs are ready and the prices are affordable. The crowds, however, are still noticeably absent. Baltic golf is still in it's infancy.
Golf is traditionally seen as a past time for the wealthy, but in the West it is becoming a leisure activity for all types of people.

It's not lack of resources that is slowing development, it is lack of information about the game.  Many people think it's too expensive, dull and elitist 's in a word too Anglo-Saxon.
This may have been true once, it is no longer the case.

Golf needn't be expensive. The equipment for playing ice hockey is comparable in price.  As for being dull,  it's a well known fact that it is one sport that even athletes in very different fields are enthusiastic about.
The sport is rising in popularity both for locals and for people coming into the region just to play.
Lithuania has excellent course facilities and Latvia has an upcoming amateur golf tournament that will attract people from all over Europe. We may not be at the stage yet of  making important business decisions on the golf course, but we are getting there.

RIGA - Amateur golfers from all across Latvia and beyond are waiting with barely-checked excitement for Aug. 7, when nearly 150 of the best non-professional golfers in the region will pull out their clubs for one of the biggest tournaments in the region.
The Hansabanka Latvian Open, which will take place from Aug. 8 's 10, is one of the largest and most esteemed amateur golf tournaments in the Baltic states. It will draw 144 golfers from the Baltics, Russia and Scandinavia.

The timing is perfect and the country is ripe for a huge amateur tournament. With the huge Baltic Open 's which allowed professional players to participate 's still fresh in people's minds, the region's amateurs are now training hard for their own shot at a trophy.
"I think it [the competition] is going to be good. We already saw amateurs in the Baltic Open, they did a really good job. I think amateurs are really getting to that level. They are coming to train every day now," said Inese Sermuka, club manager at the Ozo Golf Course.

Ozo is the most prestigious and technically difficult course in Latvia and has received numerous honors for its design. The course was founded by Latvian hockey legend Sandis Ozolins from the San Jose Sharks and fashioned by golf course designer Rob Swedberg from the U.S.
In 2005 the course earned the title of Latvian National Sport Facility, making it home to the country's national team. Ozo will host the Latvian Open, as it did the Baltic Open a few weeks before.
Though golfers from many different countries will participate in the event, a local Latvian is the favorite to win the men's tournament.

"For the last two years it was a Latvian who won. We have a really good [amateur player], he is one of the best, and he has a really good chance. He did a really good job in the Baltic Open. Even among all the professionals he was like number 50," Sermuka said.
There has also been a huge level of interest in the women's competition, a relatively new aspect to the Latvian golf scene. Though only 24 women will participate in the Latvian Open, enthusiasm for the event is high.
"As for the women's event, I already spoke to some [competitors] and there is a really big amount of interest," the golf course club manager said.

The tournament will last for four days. The first day, Aug. 7, will be the "official practice day," where golfers have a chance to warm up and get a feel for the competition. Aug. 8 and 9 will each see an 18 hole round where competitors have to claw for a position in the finals.
Aug. 10, the final day of the tournament, will narrow the field down to the best 72 men and 18 women in the tournament. If there is a tie for first place after the third and final day of the event, the two players will have a "sudden death" playoff on the 18th hole until one emerges victorious.

Though it is too late for new golfers to register for the tournament 's the registration deadline passed on Aug. 4 's any who want to go and see Latvia's best amateur golfers in action can head to Ozo golf course, on Milgravja Street in the suburbs of Riga.