Monte Carlo Golf Club – Thirty Years On & The Memories Return.

Thirty-years after my first and only prior visit the memories naturally came flooding back in re-visiting the Monte Carlo Golf Club.

It was July 1990 and just two over years since my ‘career-changing’ moment in winning an all-expenses paid trip to the 1988 Players Championship in Florida.

A year later in 1989 I attended the first of now over 80 Major Championships in reporting that year on the Open Championship at Royal Troon.  I then returned to Europe in 1990 for my first European Tour tournaments on the continent.

The first was the Belgian Open (May 10th to 13th) and a second being the Italian Open a week later and with the Monza course lying adjacent to the Monza Autodrome.

I remained on the continent for the next few weeks reporting on rounds of the World 500cc Motor Cycle championship as the sport was really taking off back home in Australia.  That was no more evident three years earlier when Wayne Gardiner, as the 1987 World 500cc motor cycle world champ, knocked fellow Aussie and Wimbledon winner Pat Cash out of the honour of 1987 Australian Sportsman of the Year.

My third European Tour event of 1990 on the continent was the Torras Monte Carlo Open (July 4th to 7th) and played very high in the mountains over-looking Monte Carlo but in France and not Monaco as some websites state.

History of the course … 

The Monte Carlo course was designed in 1911 by Scottish-born Willie Park Jr who had won the 1887 Open Championship at age just 23 and two years later the 1889 Open Championship.  Park Jnr was the son of Willie Park who had captured the first Open Championship in 1860 and then won three other Open’s.

Park Jr turned his hand to golf course design work in his mid-30s and before passing away at age 61, he had designed nearly 170 golf courses in the UK, Europe, Canada and the U.S.

The Monte Carlo course was modified a number of times, including 2000 with the remodelling of the 11th hole.  The golf course commands spectacular views not only over the Monte Carlo and the Mediterranean but also the Italian Alps. It also boasts a rare world golfing privilege in standing on the spectacular fifth tee as you can look out over three countries – Italy, Monaco and France.

Indeed, the majority of the opening nine holes, and except for the first and second, are played on the Mediterranean side of the Swiss chalet-looking clubhouse and the remainder take in the opposite view of the spectacular-looking Italian Alps.

Monte Carlo Golf club is officially 2.953-feet (900 metres) above sea-level.

Thirty-years is a long time and remembering all that took place that week has been a real test of the ole grey matter.

I recall making my way by train to the Italian town of Ventimiglia and right on the Mediterranean Sea border with France, and from there I took the 30-minute or so bus ride to Monte Carlo.

The Monte Carlo Open … 

Competing that week in July 1990 was a who’s who of European golf stars – Seve Ballesteros, Tony Jacklin, Sam Torrance, Costantino Rocca plus future stars of Europe including Miguel Angel Jimenez, Matts Lander, Phillip Price, Mark Mouland and Thomas Levet.

There was also a strong contingent of Aussies that I recall kept me busy including Peter Senior, winner of the event in 1987, Rodger Davis, Wayne Riley, Peter O’Malley and Mike Harwood who would stamp his presence in 12 months time.

What remains more etched in my mind was a then 32-year old Ian Woosnam reigning supreme in coming from three shots back heading to the final round and producing a stunning last day a nine-under par 60 on the tree-lined par-69 layout and defeat Italian Costantino Rocca by five shots.

I think back in typing this wondering how close did Woosie come to shooting 59 and how much I would love to look at his winning scorecard.

Looking at the photographs within the Monte Carlo clubhouse Senior, as winner of the 1987 event, is top right and Woosie bottom right.

 

Ian Woosnam (bottom right) wins the Monte Carlo three years running from 1989 to 1991. (Photo – www.golfbytourmiss.com)

Ian Woosnam (bottom right) wins the Monte Carlo three years running from 1989 to 1991. (Photo – www.golfbytourmiss.com)

The inaugural Monte Carlo Open had been held in 1984 and the last in 1992 when Woosnam won the title for a third year running.

‘Woosie’ was definitely ‘King of the Mountain’ or in this case Mont Agel winning his hat-trick of titles by an amazing 11-strokes at a combine 48-under par.  The Monte Carlo Open was one of two events Woosnam won three times in his 29 victories on the European Tour as he also captured the 1987, 1990 and 1996 Scottish Open titles. Indeed, his 1990 Scottish Open success at Gleneagles was in the week following his 1990 victory at Monte Carlo.

Woosnam was the then first in European Tour history to win a Tour event with a final round 60 before being joined by Jamie Spence in 1992 who also shot a closing day 60 to win the Canon European Tour Masters in Switzerland.

On two players in the near 50-year history of the European Tour have achieved this feat.

In attendance at the presentation ceremony was Prince Rainer and I recall Princess Caroline walking the course during a round in the company of a friend.

Prince Reinier looks as though he’s about to come crashing out of his chair at the presentation ceremony for the 1991 Monte Carlo Open (Photo – Getty)

There was one moment that week I clearly remember, and excuse the word ‘clearly’, as I recall sitting the tented media centre and I wondered what was this substance emerging under the tent flags and through the doors of the centre.  I walked outside and you could not see more than 15-feet in front of you as the whole course was engulfed in a passing cloud.

It’s the first time in my life I can say I’ve actually had my head in the clouds.

Where I stayed that week I cannot remember but it did involve, and those working the European Tour continue to do to this day, and that was finding our way to the official hotel to board a bus to the golf course and in all my near 40-years reporting on golf there has not been a bus ride to match.

If anyone has seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie To Catch A Thief who will understand what I mean though unlike the low profile of Grace Kelly’s 1955 Sunbean Alpine sports coupe, we travelled in a bus that commanded remarkable but also nerve-wracking views down the sheer drop to the city well below.

My return visit to the course 30-years on was no less daunting and not for a second can you take your eyes off the snake-like narrow road that ascends and descends the course.  And, if anything, the view from the bus was knife-edge stuff  with no sight whatsoever of the barricades lining the road and just the view straight down the slopes.

Overlooking the golf course is a feature I had not forgotten from my 1990 visit and that is the fortress-like structure perched atop of Mt. Agel at 3,668-feet (1,118 metres) and now run by the French Air Force and boasting a series of radome’s or all-weather shelters for radar antenna (See photo below)

Mt. Agel towering over the 15th hole at Monte Carlo Golf Club and perched atop of the 3,668-feet (1,118 metres) is the French Air Force radar station. (Photograph – www.golfbytourmiss.com)

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