QUANG NAM, Vietnam (April 26, 2010) – It’s difficult to tell who enjoyed Colin Montgomerie’s visit to the Danang area earlier in the week more – the members of Montgomerie Links, who got to play a few holes with the European PGA legend, or Colin Montgomerie himself.
"It’s very humbling to come to a different country and see one’s name attached to a facility as marvelous as this," said Montgomerie, who last visited the course in the latter stages of the course construction process, some two years ago. "To see the clubhouse and the villas and all the rest, it fills me with admiration for [project developer] Indochina Land and all they’ve done here. And the course" – recently voted the best new layout in Vietnam – "has turned out even better than we had envisioned when we designed it."
Montgomerie’s enthusiasm seemed infectious throughout the festivities, which included a clinic for club members and their guests at the Montgomerie Links Golf Academy. This was followed by ribbon-cutting ceremonies and a round on the golf course in which members and executives from Indochina Land had the chance to play three holes with Montgomerie.
The 2010 European Ryder Cup Captain and eight-time European Order of Merit winner, Montgomerie responded by setting a new course record, 68, which included six birdies to offset two bogeys. Here and there he suggested tweaks to a couple of the holes to course superintendent Lucas Skelton, but the experience convincingly validated the execution of Montgomerie’s vision for the playing experience.
"I was happy with the firmness of the turf and the variety of options available for approach shots: You can lob the ball, putt it, or pitch and run. My amateur playing partners were having difficulty stopping the ball on the greens and were winding up in the runoff areas we designed specifically with that in mind. So those are the links characteristics you want in a course that’s only a few metres from the coast."
At a press conference later in the day, Montgomerie took note of the phenomenal expansion of the Danang area as a golf-and-beach resort center. He also touted both Vietnam’s overall potential as a golf destination and Montgomerie Links’s suitability as a venue to host a professional tour event.
"The course is almost there already – conducive to a tournament setup," he said. "And the way the European PGA Tour has expanded to include an Asian swing, this would be a superb addition."
Montgomerie added, "We look forward in the years to come to seeing what we can do," noting that he’d certainly be in the field of any such tournament.
Peter Ryder, Managing Director of Indochina Land, observed that such an event would be a logical component of the game’s growth here.
"Vietnam is following in the footsteps of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and elsewhere, and this is reflected in our membership roster, the great majority of which are Vietnamese nationals," he said. "It’s happened in stages in other countries, like China, and that’s the case here, too. But give it time and you’ll see it."
"Our job is to facilitate the process," added Jon Tomlinson, general manager at Montgomerie Links. "That’s what our junior golf program is all about, and also why the range resembles a golf course. It’s not just a place to hit golf balls, it gets people to understand the concepts of golf."
Members seemed reluctant for the day to end, which meant that Montgomerie’s visit to The Nam Hai, the five-star, design-driven resort nearby, also developed by Indochina Land, didn’t begin until after nightfall. This made for an entertaining exhibition in which Montgomerie hit golf balls from The Nam Hai’s reception area to the beach below.
The evening concluded with Montgomerie being feted by officials from Indochina Land.