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60 players will take on the San Domenico Golf Course in Puglia as the Tour returns here for a 2nd visit, a venue which has also hosted the Challenge Tour Grand Final eight times.
Last time out here for the Legends Tour, in 2021, the South African James Kingston emerged victorious by a single shot ahead of Sweden’s Joakim Haegman to be the man holding the trophy, in what was an emotional win. It was his first victory in 65 attempts on the Legends Tour – he went on to notch up another victory at the 2022 Swiss Seniors Open and claim the Road to Mauritius honours last year too.
He’s glad to be back at the site of his breakthrough Legends Tour win and feeling good about the challenge ahead.
“It’s a great place and holds special memories, looking across to the 18th green again all those emotions just come back so quickly.
“If you look at the golf course, compared to a lot of others, it’s not that demanding off the tee but what protects it is the wind. It’s so easy to run the ball off the greens here and that then makes for a really hard chip, especially when you’re chipping downwind.
“You’ve just got enough rough to get your attention and enough undulation to make it really tricky when you find yourself out of position.
Peter Baker leads the Road to Mauritius standings coming into the final four events of the season and has been in fine form.
“I think it’s just gone really well, I wasn’t expecting that – I don’t think you ever expect those sort of things, but I wanted to win at the start of the year and it sort of snowballed from there. To get three wins is absolutely fantastic, I never had that on the agenda, so it has just been going really well and I’ve kept it going so that’s my aim now to play well through to the end of the season.
“There’s a long way to go, there’s a lot of points to play for and I know I’ve got to play well from now through to the end of the season, obviously there’s a few players behind me who are really good players and have won a lot of events so I need to keep it going.”
He’s excited too about the prospect of a windy test on this open coastline links-style layout.
“I’ve been here a few times now and it’s always a nice breeze blowing, the course is in good condition. It’s a good test, you’ve got to hit the right shots and control your ball flight, so yes I am looking forward to it.”
Ricardo Gonzalez is the defending champion this week, winning this title at the Argentario Golf Club in Tuscany twelve months ago, seeing off the challenge of James Kingston by three shots.
“Great memories from last year, this is a great tournament and a great country to play in. Coming to San Domenico to defend the title is an honour for me.
“The challenge here is the wind, it’s a windy course and that’s the biggest problem when you’re trying to hit the fairways and greens. The key here is the greens, if you can make some putts then you will make a good score.
Philip Archer came close to a maiden Legends Tour win in his last event – missing out by a single shot at the WINSTONgolf Senior Open in Germany.
“Unfortunately, last time out Scott Hend went on a bit of a birdie-fest towards the end and pipped me by one, but if I keep knocking then the door will open, but I’m playing good stuff and that’s why I’m playing to get into contention, in those spots and hopefully when I get a win it’ll be like buses and two or three will come along.”
Archer is another player hoping the conditions become testing around this course, relishing some windy weather:
“I love the wind, I played nicely in Porthcawl at the Senior Open, I play well in the wind usually and control the spin of the ball. I played the Challenge Tour Grand Final here a long time ago, so it’s a while since I;ve played it but some nice memories came back so I’m looking forward to the week really.”
Opened in 2003, the San Domenico course plays as a par 72 at 6,889 yards on the scorecard this week and features undulating Bermuda grass fairways, some big swales and plenty of bunkers protecting the large greens too which are renowned for being fast surfaces.
The site features century-old olive trees throughout and is bordered by the Adriatic Sea.
Puglian entrepreneur Sergio Melpignano was the man responsible for bringing high-end golf to the Puglian region and a Mediterranean links course deemed among the best in Italy as he sought to develop golf and tourism in the area.
San Domenico Golf lies opposite the Borge Egnazia, which has gained a reputation as a high-end travel destination and is something of an icon of Puglian hospitality.