Team Malta composed of Andy Borg, Ruud Critien and JJ Micallef have just returned home from the World Amateur Team Championship after a gruelling four-day stroke play tournament where they placed 60th out of 71 teams in the Eisenhower Trophy.

Indeed, Malta ended with a score of +29 (58 strokes better than their previous experience in the tournament) equivalent to 148 strokes better than Armenia who placed last and 68 worse than the Danish winning team. Level par for the tournament would have meant a placing in the top 40 position.

On an individual basis, out of 213 players, Ruud placed tied 164th with a four-day score of +18; JJ placed 167th with +19 and Andy placed 179th with a +24. The best two players were from Spain and Japan with scores of -23 and -22 respectively whilst the worst score was registered by a player from Armenia with a +144. Five players did not complete four days of play.

The championship was played on the two courses at Carton House – which is also the home ground of the Golf Union of Ireland – a short drive from Dublin. The O’Meara Course with a par 73 playing 7165 yards is a parkland course with the longest hole being the 17th at 561 yards and the shortest the 7th at 154 yards. Water comes into play on three of the ending holes. The Montgomorie Course is a harder links test with a par 72 and 7301 yards in length. Its longest hole is the 4th at 605 yards and the shortest is the 17th at 162 yards. Montgomorie is devoid of water hazards but its 130 pot bunkers – approximately half of which protect the greens – defines its character more so given that their average height is more than 6 feet.

The main test of both courses was on the greens due to their slopes and fast speeds. Additionally, drives on the longer holes had to carry a minimum of 290 yards, over strategically placed bunkers, to have any chance to make the greens in regulation. Anything missed left or right carried with it the possibility to incur an additional dropped shot.

All the teams got to play two rounds on each of the two courses. After a practice round on each, Malta’s experience started on Wednesday 5th with a first tee time of 12:15 hours drawn with Maldova and Iraq on the O’Meara course. The best score of the day was returned by Ruud with a +2 followed by JJ with a +3 and Andy with a +6 for an aggregate of +5 placing the team in 53rd position.

Team flights were retained for Thursday. Starting just before 08:00 hours on the Montgomorie, the round was characterised by a continuous drizzle adding to the difficulty of the course. Andy’s +3 was followed by Ruud’s +6 and JJ’s +9 for a day’s aggregate of +9 to place the team in tied 57th after two days of play.

The third day of the tournament saw Malta back on the O’Meara course this time with Slovenia and Luxembourg as fellow competitors. JJ started Malta’s input just after 13:00 hours in breezy wind followed by Andy and Ruud. JJ’s scores of +4 was followed by a +6 and +8 respectively by the other two players for a team’s aggregate of +10 to retain their 57th place.

The final day was played on the more difficult Montgomorie this time with Panama and Liechtenstein as fellow competitors. Andy started Malta’s round early afternoon followed by Ruud and JJ. On another breezy day, with rain always threatening, Andy returned a score of +7, Ruud +2 and JJ +3 for a team aggregate of +5.

Despite four days of heavy and difficult golf, our players retained their composure and positive spirits throughout the entire experience and were exceptionally good ambassadors for club and country.

It was also nice for RMGC member – Chris Kinsella – to come, see and encourage the players during the third day of the tournament.

The WATC always attracts the best and strongest players in the game and is a springboard to those wishing to turn professional. Past notable participants include the likes of Nicklaus, Tiger, Rory, Montgomorie, Mickelson, Sergio and the Molinari brothers. The field this year included Viktor Hovland from Norway who is the recent winner of the US Amateur as well as three Americans who rank 2nd, 5th and 7th in the world amateur golf ranking.

The General Meeting of the IGF approved a resolution which has removed the need for the host country to provide two golf courses. 2024 will see the tournament played on one course which would mean that only 48 teams will be able to participate. The IGF has until then to come up with some sort of qualification process which would somehow still retain Eisenhower’s wish for these games to be a potent force for establishing goodwill and friendship between nations.

Our appreciation is extended to the Maltese Olympic Committee for partially facilitating this participation, Bortex Finetailoring for the official uniform and Nike Golf for providing the playing kit to our players.