By Nick Bonfield published
Nespresso Trophy: finalists enjoy 'unbelievable' experience
The Nespresso Trophy Grand Final took place in San Sebastian last weekend, with 12 lucky UK qualifiers treated to an intimate 'Meet Jose Maria Olazabal Experience' at the Nespresso ambassador's home city in Spain.
After welcome drinks, the UK contingent - who were joined by players from Brazil, Germany and Spain - headed to Bar Valles, Jose Maria's favourite tapas restaurant, to meet the two-time major champion and 2012 Ryder Cup captain.
"This is overwhelming," said Carl Rundle, who qualified through the regional final at Foxhills.
"Jose Maria is hero of mine. It's completely surreal and an absolute honour to have had dinner win him. What a legend."
After a hearty Basque-style dinner, the players headed back to the hotel to rest ahead of the Nespresso Trophy final at the Olazabal-designed Real Nuevo Club de Golf de San Sebastian Basozabal.
Jose Maria treated the qualifiers to a private golf clinic - which included advice on chipping, iron play and driving - and they subsequently headed off to the first tee to do battle for ultimate glory.
The players - competing in an individual 3/4 stableford competition - were also given the chance to play with Jose Maria on the par-3 4th hole in Nespresso's Beat Jose Maria Challenge.
Chris Gray, a qualifier from Foxhills, made a three on the 169-yard hole to defeat the six-time Ryder Cup player, prompting the latter to say: "Oh god, this is going to be all over Twitter now!"
Scoring was fairly high on a tough, undulating golf course, but all the players reflected it was a fantastic layout with some exceptional views.
Following a quick shower and change, the Nespresso bus took all the finalists to the three Michelin Star Martin Berasategui restaurant - one of only 71 such restaurants worldwide.
Jose Maria presented the prizes before dinner, with Chris winning the Beat Jose Maria Challenge, Ryan McKinnia claiming longest drive, Martin Routley (38 points) winning the Stableford competition and an overwhelmed Simon Svender-Cain triumphing in the scratch competition.
"I had no idea I was going to win. It was very emotional. Jose Maria is a hero of mine and it's been such a pleasure meeting him," said Simon, a Nespresso Club member who won the Woburn regional qualifier.
"It's been a fabulous weekend and one I'll never forget. How often do you get a chance to play golf with a two-time major champion? He's such a nice guy and it was a privilege to meet him. Huge thanks to Nespresso for putting on such a wonderful event," he added.
Simon also sat with Jose Maria during the 12-course dinner, along with nine other UK qualifiers.
The experience prompted an emotional Gary Townley - a last-minute addition to the field - to give an impromptu speech.
"I'm still pinching myself, and I have been all weekend. I've just had a dinner with a legend of the game - an experience I'll never forget.
"I just entered a free competition with Golf Monthly and now I'm sat here having dinner and chatting to one of the best ball strikers that's ever lived. What an absolute honour. I'm so grateful to Nespresso and everyone that's been involved in this fantastic experience."
To see some images from the event, click here.
The Nespresso Club provides its members with some exceptional golf experiences including the Nespresso Trophy and exclusive chance to play alongside José María Olazábal in the Pro-Am tournament at the BMW PGA Championship. To find out more about the world of Nespresso and the benefits of being a Club Member visit www.nespresso.com
Nick Bonfield joined Golf Monthly in 2012 after graduating from Exeter University and earning an NCTJ-accredited journalism diploma from News Associates in Wimbledon. He is responsible for managing production of the magazine, sub-editing, commissioning and feature writing. Most of his online work is opinion-based and typically centres around the Majors and significant events in the global golfing calendar. Nick has been an avid golf fan since the age of ten and became obsessed with the professional game after watching Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel with The Masters and USPGA respectively in 2003. In his time with Golf Monthly, he's interviewed the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel and has ghost-written columns for Westwood, Wayne Riley, Matthew Southgate, Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell. Nick is a 12-handicap golfer and his favourite courses include Old Head, Sunningdale New, Penha Longha, Valderrama and Bearwood Lakes. If you have a feature pitch for Nick, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Pitch' in the subject line. Nick is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade M1 Fairway wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Hybrid: Ping Crossover Irons (4-9): Nike Vapor Speed Wedges: Cleveland CBX Full Face, 56˚, Titleist Vokey SM4, 60˚ Putter: testing in progress! Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
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