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ITALIAN OPEN 2005
The fourth Italian Pitch & Putt Open was held in the superb "Centanni" complex on the outskirts of Florence on 4-5 June 2005. The best players from a dozen clubs from all over Italy attended and there were players from France, Spain and San Marino. The organisation was smooth and efficient, the whole Centanni complex ideal for this kind of event and the setting was the outstanding Tuscan countryside.
The Open was played over 36 holes, with the best performers from Saturday's round teeing off last on Sunday. The course was in excellent condition as the green-keeper had spent the previous week preparing for the event. The raised greens were true but quite hard and only the best players succeeded in pitching them regularly.
During the first round, Jean-Claude Richard had a putt to go 6 under on the 13th green and seemed ready to walk away with the title. However, the putt lipped out and two bogeys on the tricky downhill 15th and 17th holes left him clubhouse leader on 51. Lorenzo Gagli, 2003 European Boys' champion and 19 year old veteran of the British and Italian amateur opens, aced his way under par on the back nine, but could only manage a 53. The players on 58 and 59 looked to be out of the running.
The morning clouds had disappeared by the time the leaders teed off on Sunday and the relentless heat was an added difficulty as the greens had dried out long before. Nothing was going for Richard on the front nine as he made the turn on 5 over. Lorenzo had fared a little better on 3 over to draw level, but a new threat emerged in the shape of the seasoned club champion from the neighbouring Ugolini course, Savino Pruscetti. Fabrizzio Frassoldati from Rome and the president of the San Marino federation, Elia Casali were also moving up the leader board.
It is said that a competition only starts on the back nine on Sunday and Jean-Claude heeded the adage by spinning back to within six inches of the pin for a welcome birdie on the tenth. His tee shot was short on the eleventh but his beautifully controlled chip dallied with the stick and the cup before deciding to hang out on the lip. He was back in control but the Italian players and spectators were doing everything they could to keep the first prize of a highly artistic Florentine statue on home soil. Aces on the 3rd and 4th holes by the penultimate group, the first by a local youngster and the second by Fabrizzio, who was now moving into contention, were greeted with a roar from the tense crowd.
Draped in a wet towel to fend off the burning sun, Jean-Claude managed to resist the course, the heat and the friendly but partisan crowd all the way to the 18th. He finished in style and with a two-shot lead and proved that his victory last year in the seniors event in Sardinia had not been a fluke. His decision to concentrate more on Pitch & Putt than the longer game is now paying dividends and he will definitely be back next year to defend his hard-won title in one of the most beautiful settings in the world. With hosts like the Bianchi family, all the visitors felt at home in this historic paradise on earth.
Leading Final Scores
Jean-Claude Richard France (51, 59, 110)
Savino Presciutti Italy (58, 54, 112)
Lorenzo Gagli Italy (53, 59, 112)
Fabrizio Frassoldati Italy (59, 56, 115)
Elia Casali San Marino (59, 57, 116)
Antonio Trasforini Italy (61, 57, 118)
Duccio Cappelletti Italy (60, 58, 118)
Jordi Clotet Spain (65, 54, 119)
Alessandro Menna Italy (62, 59, 121)
Franco Salmina Svitzerland (61, 61, 122)
Course of the Month.
Central Park, Dagenham, UK. More...