The curtain fell on the 47th edition of the Hassan II Trophy and the 26th edition of the Lalla Meryem Cup, organized from February 6 to 11 at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. Their Royal Highness. Prince Moulay Rachid and Princess Lalla Meryem presided over the award ceremony and presented the prizes to the winners: Canadian Stephen Ames and Swedish Maja Stark.
A golf week that will remain engraved in the memories, since it marked the return of very high level golf in the Kingdom. But these few days will mark the beginning of a new chapter for Moroccan golf, which made a remarkable headway. For the first time, seven national golfers took part in the Lalla Meryem Cup and three managed to make it beyond the cut. Two records, to which is added an exceptional record written in gold letters by Sofia Cherif Essakali, the youngest participant (13 years old) in the history of the Lalla Meryem Cup. With Maha Haddioui and Inès Laklalech, Moroccan golf can be proud to count players among the best prospects on the circuit, now and in the future.
After taking control from the first round, Stephen Ames won Saturday at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, the 47th edition of the Hassan II Trophy. The Canadian handed in a 73-shot card on the Red course, par to clinch a third PGA Tour Champions title. Things could have turned against the leader, but Mark Hensby, who had managed to cut his deficit to one shot, conceded two double-bogeys on the 13th and then the 14th holes, leading the way ahead of Ames. “I knew everyone was chasing me,” Ames said. “I played the right game. I had a few opportunities that I did not take advantage of. Mark unfortunately made two double-bogeys”, he explains. “The public was fantastic. A lot of people came to watch, which is fabulous. I think everything about the event was very well done and organized,” rejoiced the 58-year-old golfer, who has become the first Canadian to put his name on the list of the prestigious competition. Ames returns home with the famous dagger and his legendary fame among golf professionals around the world.
Mark Hensby can console himself with his second-place solo finish, his best performance on the PGA Tour Champions in 11 tournaments played. His compatriot Richard Green, who is celebrating his debut on the circuit after qualifying, finished in third place. “I’ve come and played here before with the European Tour, but I’ve never played better. I feel like it’s a reward for my patience,” Green said. The Red course has therefore kept all its promises. During this last day, only Miguel Angel Jimenez played below the 70 strokes mark. His score (69 shots, 4 under par) allowed him to climb to seventh place, alongside the no less legendary Colin Montgomerie.
Among the ladies, the Swede Maja Stark won the 26th edition of the Lalla Meryem Cup, returning a card of 69 shots, 4 under par. The 23-year-old Stark once again demonstrated that she is a champion. Despite an entry bogey, Stark raised the bar by slamming 6 birdies, which protected her from a return from her rivals, in particular her compatriot and rival in the Race to Costa del Sol, Linn Grant. In 2022, Grant had finished first at the end of the LET season. The meeting at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam gave the opportunity to closely follow a new round of this very high level duel. “The birdie on 14 was very important, because I saw Linn producing birdies a few times,” Stark said. “I continued to move forward, to be aggressive and in the end, that’s what paid off,” says the Proette, who now has 6 victories on the Ladies European Tour and won the prestigious minaudière. Grant finished second, while Aditi Ashok (India) finished third, but retained her lead in the Race to Costa del Sol, followed by Stark and Grant. The duel between the two compatriots, which is one of the best rivalries on the LET at the moment, experienced a new episode in Rabat. The sequel is already shaping up to be an epic golf tale.
After three years of absence, the Hassan II Trophy and the Lalla Meryem Cup returned with more enthusiasm, a better sporting level and an organization hailed from all sides.
See you next year !