Donaldson Leads Challenge For First Home Winner at ISPS Handa Wales Open

Posted at 12:05 on 28 May 2012


Jamie Donaldson will lead the home challenge hoping to produce a first Welsh winner of the ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor this week.

Donaldson is currently the only Welsh golfer inside the world’s top 200 and has taken over the mantle of Wales No 1 from Rhys Davies and Bradley Dredge.

No Welshman has ever triumphed at Celtic Manor with Davies and Dredge having come closest to thrilling home crowds by finishing second, in 2010 and 2007 respectively. Davies also holds the course record having fired a stunning 62 in the closing round two years ago to push eventual champion Graeme McDowell all the way.

Donaldson, who played in the same Great Britain and Ireland international team as World No 1 Luke Donald and Paul Casey, is still awaiting his first tournament victory but no fewer than seven top 10 finishes last season saw him climb to a career-best 38th in The 2011 Race to Dubai.

He closed with a stunning 61 to finish third in the Trophée Hassan II this March and was on the leaderboard once again during the first two days of last week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club.

The Pontypridd-born golfer is the highest-ranked of nine Welshmen in the starting field for the ISPS Handa Wales Open from Thursday 31st May to Sunday 3rd June. The other established stars teeing up include Davies, Dredge, Phillip Price and Stephen Dodd, who have nine European Tour victories between them.

Walker Cup star Rhys Pugh and fellow Wales amateur internationals Jason Shufflebotham and Rhys Enoch have been given special invites and another exemption has been given to US-based Welsh professional Richard Johnson.

Johnson teed up with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on the US PGA Tour after winning the second division Nationwide Tour in 2007, when he recorded the last of his four tournament victories, and has banked more than $1m in career prize money.

“Playing the Wales Open for the first time is going to be a heap of fun for me,” said Johnson. “I brought a bunch of guys over from the States to play the Twenty Ten Course at the Celtic Manor last summer so I know what to expect out there.

“The course is pretty long which should suit me as I like to stick the ball in the air for a pretty long time.”

Reigning champion Alexander Noren from Sweden faces stiff competition for the £300,000 first prize from the likes of Paul Lawrie, Thomas Bjorn, Tom Lewis, Matteo Manassero, Oliver Fisher and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

Also in the field are four heroes from the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, Francesco Molinari, Edoardo Molinari, Miguel Angel Jiménez and Ross Fisher. Their skipper Colin Montgomerie tees up for the 10th successive year at Celtic Manor, while his successor as Ryder Cup Captain, José Maria Olazábal, plays in the event for the first time.

ISPS (International Sports Promotion Society) was founded by Japanese philanthropist, Dr Haruhisa Handa, in 2006 and has fostered partnerships with golf governing bodies worldwide to help develop the game at every level and promote blind and disabled golf.

As well as the new title sponsorship, which will run for the next three years, the ISPS Handa Wales Open is also supported by funding from the Welsh Government as part of its major events strategy. Spectators attending the tournament spend more than £1.5m in Newport and South Wales during the week, according to an economic impact study commissioned in 2010.

As well as top-class golfing action, the tournament offers a great day out for all the family with a tented village including bar, food outlets, shops selling golf merchandise and opportunities for youngsters to try their hand at golf.

Advance tickets are available to purchase via our print at home online service or from any Resort retail outlet. 

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Daily and season tickets, priced £30 and £65, are available on the gate.

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