THE CROATIAN (9th – 12th JUNE)
The 30th Croatian International Amateur Golf Championship was played recently at the Riverside Golf Club in Zagreb. Built to the strictest golf design standards, the par 72 course is over 6400 metres in length with a course rating of 73.5 and slope rating of 129 off the championship tees.
Only twenty-one players from ten different countries registered to play. But fifteen out of these players had a handicap of -1 or better. This indicated a very competitive and tough tournament before it even started. Three national team players travelled to Zagreb – Andy Borg, JJ Micallef and Laurens Schulze Doering – the latter still fresh from his win in the Cyprus Amateur Open but in Croatia experiencing his first championship over four days of play.
At the end of Day 1, Jan Sustek from the Czech Republic led the field at 3 under par for the course after having gone round out in level par but then hitting three birdies on the back nine.. Second place was enjoyed by Beau Coenraad for the Netherlands who carded a score of 35 on both the front and back nine holes. With 36 on the front (2 birdies and 2 bogeys on the first five holes) and 35 on the back (2 birdies and 1 bogey on holes 10 to 14), Laurens sat on third place. With similar rounds of +3, Andy and JJ finished in a group of five players all tied in sixth position.
On the second day only two players played under level par for the course. Importantly for Laurens, these were none of the previous day leaders who played +5 and +7 respectively. Laurens was three over par for the first five holes but steadied himself and played one under par for the next thirteen holes to come in at 74. A similar score was carded in by Andy who played one over par for each loop of nine. JJ had a more difficult day and his six over par dropped him to tied 12th at the end of day 2. Andy remained in tied sixth position but Laurens relative better score to the rest of the field leap frogged him to lead the field by one stroke after 36 holes of play.
The tournament turned into an exciting nerve-wrecking scenario on its third day especially for the players enjoying the top positions. With scores of 37 out and 38 in, Andy’s three over par dropped him a couple of places to finish in tied 8th position with an aggregate of 8 over par. JJ found his game and returned a score of one under par moving him up four places to tie with Andy. The incredible thing was that four other players came in with scores of 71 – including Laurens. The day did not start well for the young player who had jotted down three over par for the front nine. But a strong back nine, bogey free with four birdies brought him back in contention and to remain leading after 54 holes of play. Sustek from the Czech Republic sat one stroke back whilst local bay, Ninkovic, held third place with two strokes behind Laurens.
JJ and Andy continued to play good golf on the last day of the tournament and carded in scores of 75 and 76 respectively. This meant that they finished tied 6th and tied 8th for the tournament but it is worth noting that they played to an average of three over par over the four days which is considered quite an acceptable score over a very difficult course.
Only three players played under par for the fourth day. The best score was a 69 from Lovro Horvat of Croatia but, due to his previous rounds, Lovro remained out of contention. Eyes were turned onto the last flight containing the two leaders – Sustek and Laurens.
Laurens gave up his lead on the 5th hole with a double bogey to Sustek’s birdie so that it was the latter that now led the tournament by one stroke. With a birdie on the 10th, Sustek increased his lead to two shots. The players then played the next holes to par so that Sustek still leads by two shots on the 13th tee. He goes bogey, double bogey to Laurens’ par, par. Laurens leads by one shot on the 15th tee. He goes par, par, par, par. Sustek goes par, birdie, birdie, bogey to tie the tournament with Laurens on 287 strokes after four days of hole.
The competition proceeds to the 10th hole for a sudden death play-off. Both players hit par on this par four hole, and both proceed to the 18th for a second play off hole. Laurens hits the green in two strokes. Sustek hits his approach shot to a watery grave. He goes down in double bogey to Laurens’ regulation par. And thus, Laurens wins his second summer 2022 international tournament.