TEAM MALTA composed of Nicholas Beck, Andrew Borg, Ruud Critien and JJ Micallef Verelst managed to defend and retain the bronze position in the third edition of the European Team Shield Championship organised by the European Golf Association and hosted by the Bulgarian Golf Federation at the Pravets Golf Club between the 2nd and 6th August 2017.
The format of the championship was a stroke play qualifier on the first day; followed by three match play knockout rounds. In the match play rounds the teams were required to play two singles and one foursomes match with the condition that play continues until the knockout winner is determined. Two wins out of three identified the team that would proceed to the next round and the eventual winner and final placing of the teams. All the championship was played off scratch.
Twelve other countries fielded a men’s team for this third edition of the ETSC. These were Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Macedonia, Turkey and Ukraine.
In the stroke play qualifier only four players out of fifty-two managed to play to par or better… two from Turkey and two from Lithuania. These players together with their other colleagues eventually featured through to the final day. Our own Nicholas teed off Malta’s experience at 7:40 and returned a +9 eventually placing him right in the middle of the stroke play leader board. His colleagues came in an hour interval behind each other. First Ruud with a +4 (tied 14th overall), then JJ with a +3 (tied 10th) and Andy with a +1 (tied 5th) for a team aggregate of +8 placing Malta third overall behind Turkey with a -1 and Lithuania with a +1.
The other countries making it to the match play rounds were Croatia, Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Liechtenstein and of course Turkey and Lithuania. Malta’s third place meant that they had to play Bulgaria (the host team) in the quarter finals of the match play knockout. Without much deliberating, it was decided for Nick and Ruud to be the foursomes pair with JJ and Andy to play in the singles matches.
Nick and Ruud won their foursomes match with a 7&6 with Andy securing Malta’s place in the semi-final with a 4&3 win soon after. This allowed JJ (then on the 16th fairway and all square) to offer a half for the match which his opponent duly accepted. [Malta 2.5 vs Bulgaria 0.5]. This win meant that Malta had to play Lithuania in the semi-finals.
The foursomes pair prevailed with a 5&4 win but our singles players struggled to find their best form. Andy lost on the 13th hole whilst JJ lost his match on the 17th hole [Malta 1 vs Lithuania 2] allowing Lithuania to proceed to the final round leaving Malta to contest Greece for Bronze.
Nick and Ruud started well and were never down in their match and eventually won it on the 16th, Andy’s confidence returned on the back nine holes of his match and was 1 up with three holes to go. Bringing up the rear, JJ started well and was never down throughout the match. Indeed, he closed his match on the 15th hole allowing Andy to extend a gesture to half the match to his opponent [Malta 2 vs Greece 1].
The championship was actually won by Lithuania whilst Turkey placed second. With their third placing the Maltese team retained their bronze position attained in last year’s tournament that was played in Hungary.
Malta’s participation in this tournament is through the funding made available from Sport Malta whilst Nike Golf and Bortex Fine Tailoring provided the playing kit and official uniforms respectively.
7th August 2017
Photo caption: from left to right Nicholas Beck; Andrew Borg; Jean-Marc Mommer (EGA President); William Beck (MGA President); Ruud Critien; JJ Micallef Verelst.