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1st Messinia Pro Am: Big Names in Golf Get Ready to Tee Off at Costa Navarino in Greece

From top left clockwise: Tino Schuster, Graham Fox, Antonis Sotiropoulos and Ralph Miller.

From top left clockwise: Tino Schuster, Graham Fox, Antonis Sotiropoulos and Ralph Miller.

By Nikos Krinis

Preparations are currently underway for the launch of the “1st Messinia Pro Am” international golf tournament at Costa Navarino, the Mediterranean’s prime sustainable golf destination.

Top professional and amateur golf players, celebrities and special guests from all over the world are getting ready to compete in Greece’s sole signature golf courses in Greece —“The Dunes Course” and “The Bay Course” — at Costa Navarino

Taking place February 21-24, the “1st Messinia Pro Am” will aim to become an established institution and host the golfing elite from around the globe, as well as promote golf and golf tourism in Greece.

The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) managed to get exclusive comments from four big names in golf that are getting ready to tee off in the inaugural Messinia Pro-Am tournament: Graham Fox, Ralph Miller, Tino Schuster and Antonis Sotiropoulos. Among other things, the four professional golf players share their thoughts on the 1st Messinia Pro Am tournament, Costa Navarino and Greece establishing itself as a worldwide golf destination.

Graham Fox – ‘Greece has the perfect climate for golf…’

Bio: Graham Fox lived and grew up in West Kilbride, Ayrshire, 30km from Troon, Scotland. Used to playing golf in cold, wet and windy conditions, he has a successful amateur career, playing for Scotland at boys, youths and senior level tournaments. Fox studied in the United States on a golf scholarship, returned home and was qualified to play on the European tour. He also played challenge tour for a few years after losing tour card. Fox currently combines playing and teaching golf in Scotland. He qualified for the PGA at Wentworth this year. Fox is a big arsenal fan. In his free time, he enjoys reading, music and films. He is married to Claire and has two children, son Arran and daughter Trudy. Strangely enough, his nickname is “Foxy”.

How do you feel about your participation in the 1st Messinia Pro-Am?
Graham Fox: I feel incredibly fortunate to be involved in the first Messinia Pro Am.  I’m sure I’ll be able to look back in years to come and proudly say that I was a part of the very first event. These will be fond memories for life.

Have you ever played golf before in Greece and specifically in the award-winning courses of Costa Navarino?
Graham Fox: One of my ambitions was to come on holiday to Greece. I had never thought of the country as a golfing destination nor had I ever heard of any tournaments there. When I saw the event on the PGA of Europe’s website I was intrigued. I then saw the pictures of Costa Navarino, which were stunning. I spoke to a few people that had been there and they said it was truly beautiful. I knew I had to try and get in the event. I’m so grateful to be playing.

In your opinion, can Greece be a worldwide golf destination?
Graham Fox: Absolutely. Greece has the perfect climate for golf and with championship golf courses to play, it’s only a matter of time before many visitors come and play during their holiday.

Golf is considered an elite sport. Is more promotion of the sport needed to attract the young? What can one learn by playing golf?
Graham Fox: I understand that golf is still an elite sport in many countries. In my opinion there is only one way to attract the young to this great game. It must become a part of primary/secondary schools curriculum. There are some great companies (Golphin for Kids) that make clubs only for children aged 4 to 11 years. If golf is accessible to kids then the more will try and the more they will continue to play. I’d like to think that when courses are built there would be a 6-hole course for juniors only (wide fairways, flat bunkers, holes that are considerably bigger). This would allow them to enjoy the game more whilst not holding up play or irritating adults.

Ralph Miller – ‘I definitely believe Greece can be a great golfing destination…’

Bio: A professional golfer from 2000-2017, Ralph Miller has played on the European Challenge Tour and European Tour. He is now the Head professional of Golfsociëteit De Lage Vuursche in The Netherlands, a Kyle Phillips design Golf Course. He coaches a number of young Dutch talents that are a member of the Dutch junior squads, and aspire to become future golfing stars. Miller recently won the PGA’s of Europe Individual championship, and has won various events throughout his career.

How do you feel about your participation in the 1st Messinia Pro-Am?
Ralph Miller: I am very much looking forward to playing in the first Messinia Pro-Am as it is the first time that I will be traveling and playing golf in Greece! So I am very excited!

In your opinion, can Greece be a worldwide golf destination? As a professional golf player what would you recommend for tourism authorities to do more?
Ralph Miller: I definitely believe Greece can be a great golfing destination. I know that the weather, food and Greek people are very nice, and I think that the Greek history and its place in Europe — both past and future — are important. The growing number of pensioners that have the time and finances to travel and play golf is also growing throughout Europe, so I feel this is a great opportunity for the Greek tourism board to target this market.

Golf is considered an elite sport. Is more promotion of the sport needed to attract the young? What can one learn by playing golf?
Ralph Miller: Golf is more and more becoming less elite. To attract more juniors, golf can be promoted in schools and/or other sporting clubs. The addition of Golf to the Olympics will also have a positive impact in attracting junior golfers.

Please comment on the fact that golf has again become an Olympic sport for the first time since 1904.
Ralph Miller: Golf has its four major championships, however having Golf in the Olympics again can only boost our game even more. Competing for a gold medal at the Olympics is the pinnacle for any competing sports professional, and Golf is not an exception. I think it is great!

Tino Schuster – ‘Costa Navarino is for me the nicest golf resort in Europe…’

Bio: Based in Munich, Germany, Schuster began playing golf at the age of 6. A member of the German national team beginning in 1993, Schuster won many national and international titles and was a top-10 amateur golfer in Europe before turning professional in 2000. He went on to become a two-time German professional champion and a member of the PGA European Tour. He achieved widespread recognition as a result of his successes in European Tour events such as the BMW Open, German Masters, and Omega German Bank Players Championship. Since moving on from professional golf in 2010, Schuster has moved into sports business, working primarily in consulting and development. He has worked with companies including BMW, Hugo Boss, Hartl Resort (one of Europe’s largest golf resorts) and the luxury resort Costa Navarino in Greece.

How do you feel about your participation in the 1st Messinia Pro-Am?
Tino Schuster: It’s very exciting to participate. Costa Navarino is for me the nicest golf resort in Europe. I love the area, the landscape and the vision of the whole project!

Have you ever played golf before in Greece and specifically in the award-winning courses of Costa Navarino?
Tino Schuster: Yes many times. For the last 4 years I have stayed 7 weeks each year. Whenever I visit Costa Navarino I bring many people with me to show the beauty of this resort.

In your opinion, can Greece be a worldwide golf destination? What would you recommend for tourism authorities to do more?
Tino Schuster: Yes! Greece could be the nicest golf country in Europe in the next 20 years for winter golf.  The weather conditions are great. Investors must be attracted to build more golf courses. In addition, there is a big opportunity now that golf courses in Belek/Turkey do not attract so many golfers.

Golf is considered an elite sport. Is more promotion of the sport needed to attract the young? What can one learn by playing golf?
Tino Schuster: I think it is not elite anymore.  For young people there are many attractive offers to start golf in every country.  Golf is a great sport for kids. It is significant for improving some of their skills such as their education, concentration, punctuality and coordination.

Please comment on the fact that golf has again become an Olympic sport for the first time since 1904.
Tino Schuster: It’s great! The whole world can see golf now during the Olympics. 2016 was a big success.

Antonis Sotiropoulos- ‘Greece is more than qualified to be a worldwide golf destination…’

Bio: Antonis Sotiropoulos comes from a professional golf family. His father and uncle were both golf professionals and founding members of the PGA of Greece. Sotiropoulos studied Golf Management and course design in England and joined the PGA Greece in 2000. He has been elected several times on the Board of Directors of the PGA of Greece. He is currently serving as association’s president.

How do you feel about your participation in the 1st Messinia Pro-Am?
Antonis Sotiropoulos: As a professional golfer and the president of PGA of Greece, I am very pleased to see the Greek tournament calendar expanding especially when the amazing golf venues of Costa Navarino are involved.

Have you ever played golf before in Greece and specifically in the award-winning courses of Costa Navarino?
Antonis Sotiropoulos: I have played on all golf courses in Greece and many times on both of Costa Navarino’s courses — The Dunes and The Bay — since they were built. I have participated in other big tournaments that have taken take place at this beautiful golf resort, played the courses with student golfers and golf agents from other countries. The feedback was always positive.

In your opinion, can Greece be a worldwide golf destination? As a professional golf player what would you recommend for tourism authorities to do more?
Antonis Sotiropoulos: Greece, with its a deep culture of hospitality and high quality tourist services, is more than qualified to be a worldwide golf destination. The country also has ideal weather for outdoor sports like golf all year round. In order to become a golf destination, more golf courses are needed, concentrated especially around the areas that attract a lot of tourism. As a professional golfer I would recommend that the tourism authorities employ a dynamic strategy in facilitating and promoting the construction of new golf courses. When the product is available, the demand will be created.

Golf is considered an elite sport. Is more promotion of the sport needed to attract the young? What can one learn by playing golf?
Antonis Sotiropoulos: Golf has a very special charm and it is a fascinating sport that tends to magnetize its fans regardless of age, social class or gender. It combines elements from many other sports thus covering a wide range of participants and playing intensity, which explains the fact that we see golfers from 5 to 95 years old! All of that, wrapped gracefully in a beautiful package of nature, undoubtedly creates an attractive athletic “playground” for the young. Strong promotion, more facilities and necessary reforms and adjustments of the game of golf to the era we live in, will definitely help embed this sport into the culture of Greek youth.

Please comment on the fact that golf has again become an Olympic sport for the first time since 1904
Antonis Sotiropoulos: Golf was only twice in the program of the Olympic Games prior to 2016. It could have been three but surely it could not be played in Greece during the first modern 1896 Olympics due to the fact that there were no golf courses in Athens then! I believe we understand two significant things about golf from that story; one is how old really the game of golf is, and two, the incredible evolution of this sport and its market in 112 years. The return of Golf in the Olympics of Rio was crowned with success beyond expectations.

The 1st Messinia Pro Am will be held under the auspices of the PGAs of Europe, the PGA of Greece, the Hellenic Golf Federation and the Hellenic Olympic Academy.

GTP is a communication sponsor of the “1st Messinia Pro Am” international golf tournament at Costa Navarino

#messiniaproam


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  1. JANHEIN VAN DE WATERING Reply

    Hello,
    How can we get an invite as a Dutch Golf Touroperator.
    We would love to play in Greece at such a nice destination, which is also new for us.
    And we are always looking for new destinations.
    Don´t hesitate tot contact me if you need more information.

    Kind regards,
    CITY 2 CITY GOLF: JanHein van de Watering (HCP 6.8)

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