Rob Sequin | Havana Journal
On May 2nd, 2009, Palmares SA, the organization responsible for golf in Cuba, hosted the inaugural Montecristo Cup at the Varadero Golf Club in Varadero, Cuba. The competition, which was open to amateurs and professionals alike, was oversubscribed and exceeded expectations. The event was a truly international competition, with golfers representing many countries including the UK, Canada, Spain, Andorra, Korea, Vietnam, Japan as well as Cuba.
Guest of honor, Ernie Els, a three-time major championship winner and currently ranked among the top 20 golfers in the world, said “I’m very pleased to see so many people enjoying a wonderful day on this great course, and I look forward to coming back and seeing much more Cuban golf.”
The 18-hole tournament began with a shotgun start under clear blue skies at the beachfront course and ended with a win for Xavier Espot Miró, the Andorran Ambassador to Spain, with the lowest net score of 67 playing off a handicap of 14. He accepted a magnificent Cuervo y Sobrinos watch as well as a framed photo of Che Guevara playing golf. In second and third places were Cubans Leonel Darias and Juan Manuel Lopez and the longest drive competition was won by Miss Baik Yeonim from Korea, playing off a handicap of 8. The awards were presented by Ernie Els together with the event’s organizing committee which included the President of Palmares, the Vice Minister for Tourism in Cuba, and representatives from Esencia and Habanos.
Sandino Fernandez, the representative of Palmares, said: “We are extremely happy. It was an exciting tournament and the first of many.”
Cuban national Yorkis Cabrera won the Esencia Cup for the lowest gross score. An initial draw with the Spanish player, Jerome Schiele with a score of 72, resulted in an exciting sudden death putting competition.
Andrew Macdonald of Boisdale, CEO of Esencia Hotels & Resorts, presented a set of junior golf clubs to the Cuban Vice Minister for Tourism, kindly gifted from the Royal & Ancient in Scotland, the original home of Golf, in support of the growth of golf among Cuba’s youth. He said, “As a British company from the original home of golf, we are excited to work with Palmares in the development of golf in Cuba. The tournament is a great launch of a new era for the game in Cuba.”
Habanos S.A., the main sponsor of the competition, agreed that the day was the perfect occasion for enjoying their new Montecristo ‘Open’ range of cigars. Made from the finest ‘vegas’ in the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba, and designed for “new generations who enjoy the pleasures of living ‘alfresco’. The cigars were enjoyed by the spectators, and also during the cocktail and dinner offered to the competitors that followed The Montecristo Cup. “We look forward to sponsoring the second Montecristo Cup in 2010 after such a great success,” said Jorge Maique, Director of Marketing for Habanos.
Varadero Golf Club
The Varadero Golf Course is a par-72 course running 6,856 yards (6,269 meters) and features several salt water lakes that connect directly with the sea, a rare feature in golf course design. This is the first and (currently) only 18-hole Cuban golf course, designed by Canadian golf architect Les Furber (once an associate with Robert Trent Jones), which offers luxurious surroundings and an entertaining round of golf, both for beginners and experts. The course hosted two European Challenge Tour Grand Finals in 1999 and 2000.
The main sponsor of The Montecristo Cup is Habanos SA, the world’s leading premium cigar company and purveyor of the famous Montecristo brand and other supporters included Cuervo y Sobrinos, Virgin Atlantic, Havana Club, Bucanero Beer, Cuba Direct and Floridita Travel. The event was co-managed by Palmares and Esencia Hotels and Resorts, one of the supporters and developers of golf in Cuba.
Palmares S.A. is a Cuban organization supervised by the Ministry of Tourism. Palmares has developed over 1,000 projects throughout Cuba, including the Cabaret Tropicana, La Bodeguita del Medio, El Floridita and the Varadero Golf Course.
Esencia Hotels & Resorts, associated with Havana Holdings Group
Esencia Hotels & Resorts was incorporated to embrace the Cuban in-country business opportunities. Contracts have already been signed for a chain of boutique hotels throughout Cuba with the leading hotel group Gran Caribe. The first hotel in Havana, Hotel Victoria, is due to open early 2010, followed by a hotel and spa in Vinales, a UNESCO world heritage site.