With just 100 days to go until the first tee shot is struck in the Olympic Games, both the male and female professional golfers on the PGA and Ladies European Tours are getting into the spirit at Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat this week where both the Lalla Meryem Cup and Trophée Hassan II will be played concurrently on different courses.
Hosted by Moroccan royalty, it’s a unique week for many reasons and the players are enjoying the special atmosphere, created by the Association Trophée Hassan II (ATH).
The ‘Race to Rio’ is reaching the home strait and the jostling for position continues this week in the Moroccan capital. Victory on the Red Course for either Alex Levy of France or New Zealand’s Ryan Fox would all but guarantee their places in the 60-man field, while nine players competing in the Lalla Meryem Cup – the Ladies European Tour event being held simultaneously on the Blue Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam – are currently inside the automatic qualifying places for the women’s event. They include Levy’s compatriot Gwladys Nocera, who is virtually assured a starting berth when golf makes its Olympic return following a 112-year absence.
Both agree that this week’s joint venture – which includes a mixed exhibition match on Wednesday morning – can only benefit both the men’s and women’s games.
Levy said: “It hasn’t been done before, so it’s really nice. We are sharing a players’ lounge this week, so it will be good to have lunch with the ladies and get to know them better. Hopefully in the future we will have more events like this one, and maybe one day we might have a mixed event because it would be fun.
“I knew a few of the LET players because I played with them as amateurs, because we don’t have any tournaments together I haven’t seen them for a while, so it will be nice to catch up with them and see how they’re doing.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Nocera, who will defend her Lalla Meryem Cup title this week.
She said: “I think it’s pretty special to have both events in the same week at the same club, and I’m really grateful to the people who had this amazing idea. I’m looking forward to the crowds coming to watch the ladies, then the men.
“I know a lot of the French players but we don’t get to see each other very often, so this week will be a great opportunity to catch up. And I’m really looking forward to the exhibition match… that should be a lot of fun.”
Nocera’s fellow Olympic prospects agreed. Fabienne In-Albon of Switzerland commented: “I think it’s great and very good for the ladies’ tour as well and will attract a few more people, because we’re playing at the same place as the men. For us players it’s nice to share a tournament and see a bit of the other side on the men’s tour. It’s definitely exciting.”
Her compatriot Melanie Maetzler added: “I’m very excited because it’s the first time that the men and the women have played together at the same venue. I would like to see more events with the men because I think it’s good for media and spectators and players. I could also imagine us having a team event where we really play together as a team.”
England’s Florentyna Parker commented: “It’s a great concept. Every year we come to Morocco and team up with the European Tour and it’s great for both male and female golfers and we enjoy the week. The players’ lounge is mixed so it’s nice that after the round you can mix with the European Tour players and have a drink and either talk about golf or something completely different.”