Capping a glorious 12 months for South African golf, Durban Country Club captured the 2011 World Club Championship in emphatic fashion. Say what you will about the recent exploits of Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, but in amateur golf, Durban's WCC team of Michael Hollick and Murray Gilson must be mentioned in the same breath. To their opponents, Hollick and Gilson could have passed for Gary Player and Ernie Els in their primes. Durban was simply that good.
The World Club Championship is a week-long competition that pits 20 clubs representing 15 countries, the common denominator being membership on the list of GOLF Magazine's Top 100 Courses in the World. Each course nominates its club champion, who then selects a partner. Both must carry handicaps of three or better, though in fact, the majority of players are scratch or lower.
The eighth edition of the World Club Championship took place at The Club at Nine Bridges on Jeju Island, South Korea, ranked No. 55 in the World in 2009, and No. 49 in 2011. New wrinkles this year included a combination of stroke play and match play, as well as a practice round at the stunning new Haesley Nine Bridges Club in Seoul. The holdover from previous events was the superior quality of play from start to finish notably from Durban.
Durban met the Royal Portrush team of Patrick McCrudden and Anthony Murphy in the final. While the contest to claim the Jay Lee Trophy was hardly the most dramatic in the tournament's history, it may well have been the most impressive. The 6-and-4 victory proved an exclamation point to the week, when Durban never trailed at any point. Durban shredded Nine Bridges for a first-round, four-ball stroke-play 63, a total that was five ahead of its nearest pursuer, Winged Foot Golf Club. A second-round 68 put Durban seven ahead of Portrush; perhaps it was no surprise that each forged ahead in the match play portion to meet in the final. Both Seminole Golf Club (Kelly Miller and David Abell) and defending champion Los Angeles Country Club (Jerry Chang and John McClure) battled heroically in the semifinals but fell just short, leaving the door open to an intriguing international final.
Durban'sHollick fired an opening birdie to set the pace, and his veteran partner Gilson matched that at the beguiling par-4 eighth, where he stuck his approach to eight feet at the skyline green, giving Durban a four-up lead. Two more Hollick birdies at 11 and 12 put one hand on the trophy; they hoisted with all four hands at the 14th after one final conceded birdie by Hollick. Royal Portrush competed admirably they might have won every other final but not even Portrush regulars Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell might have beaten Durban on this day.
More suspenseful was the match for third place, where Seminole nipped Los Angeles, earning the final automatic invite for the 2012 World Club Championship, to be played in the fall at Diamante in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, the World's No. 58-ranked course.
Boiled to its essence, the World Club Championship embraces the finest in amateur golf. The key ingredients are superb players competing on a great golf course, remarkable camaraderie and sportsmanship and unforgettable pageantry. That might explain why Durban traveled for 24 hours and close to 10,000 miles, making four connections, merely to compete. What it adds up to is one of the most coveted invitations in amateur golf.
Viewers can watch the 2011 World Club Championship highlights on Golf Channel in the U.S. on Dec. 8, from 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m. ET. Re-broadcasts will follow its initial airing. Sky Sports U.K. will televise the event twice on Nov. 10, at 8 p.m. on Sky Sports 4 Digital and at midnight on Sky Sports 3 Digital. It will air on Sky Sports 2 Digital on Dec. 10 at 10:30 a.m. and again at 2:30 p.m.