ON one of the most historic days in Welsh sporting history the Celtic Manor got a piece of the pie with the inaugural PowerPlay golf event in Newport yesterday.
For the first time the event dubbed golf’s equivalent of Twenty20 cricket hit Europe and was enjoyed by a better than expected crowd.
An estimated 5,000 spectators returned to the scene of Europe’s triumphant Ryder Cup win in October and a large television audience was also expected as the galleries saw a day of golf that could’ve been re-named ‘GirlPowerPlay’ with Swedish rookie Caroline Hedwall just pipping Helen Alfredsson and Paula Creamer in an all-female one, two, three.
The early morning weather was more suited to ducks and swans and the afternoon was dominated by Swans and Swanns of a different variety, but the Celtic Manor will be pleased with healthy ticket sales despite the action at the Swalec Stadium and Wembley.
With star names such as the legendary Gary Player, Ian Woosnam, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Creamer in the field, the action was fast and furious – as promised – as the 5pm start brought to mind some of the truncated action last October.
With players given the choice of two flags to aim at over nine of the most spectacular holes at the Celtic Manor – now fully revitalised after a £750,000 turf upgrade after it was trodden to death by 200,000 fans last year, it was compelling stuff, so much so that even the elusive sun decided to pop out and have a look.
With PowerPlay moments restricted the tournament becomes a tactical minefield and with a stunning par three drive it was US Open champion Creamer who put herself in command with her final PowerPlay, firing a beautiful iron to around two foot as some of the gentleman floundered.
Creamer was imperious throughout and the ‘Pink Panther’ beat her playing partner and fellow US Open winner G-Mac by some 12 points.
Victor Dubuisson, one of three younger amateur stars to be invited into the 12 player field, showed plenty of flair as he stormed to the top of the leaderboard, but poor decision making on when to take his PowerPlays proved costly, whereas Casey paid the price for missing a couple of short putts.
Poulter was in contention until the final hole.
However, consistency was key as Hedwall, who won her maiden European Tour event just 24 hours earlier, came on the rails to move into the lead on the 18th.
A delighted Hedwall, who netted a £100,000 cheque for her two-and-a-half hours work after completing nine holes in five under par, commented: “It’s been an amazing 24 hours.
“I really can’t believe it.”