The excitement in the Worldwide Golf office is palpable and it’s not because the distant sleigh bells of Father Christmas approaching can be heard. It’s better than that. Much better. The reason for the barely concealed hysteria spreading around WG Towers is the team’s impending return to the Sub Saharan delights of Mongomo, deep in the Equatorial Guinean jungle, for the 2017 3e Actuaries Open which takes place at the Presidential Golf Course from December 14-17.

The prestigious event, Equatorial Guinea’s Golf Championship – which aims to become ‘Africa’s Major’ and is open to both men and ladies – has grown in profile rapidly in its four years of existence and, under the astute guidance of Tournament Host Olawale Opayinka, is now one of the world’s finest stand-alone tournaments.

We made our first foray to the little-known country located in northeast Africa for the 2016 event and were pleasantly surprised to find a warm and welcoming nation with world-class hotels and facilities, not to mention a golf tournament of the highest quality played on the stunning Presidential Golf Course and featuring a melting pot of nationalities from a host of top quality tours including the PGA Tour, the LPGA, the Ladies European Tour, the Sunshine Tour and the Tour de Las Americas. This year promises to be even better with a field of 110 players – 101 pros – representing 34 different countries with a prize fund of US$150,000 for the men and US$100,000 for ladies – with the split for the top three, the same for each.


“2017 is brewing up to be a magnificent edition,” said Opayinka. “We are thrilled to have arrived at a place where the some of the best golfers in the world will be taking part. Africa’s best men and women, will be matching up against their counterparts in Equatorial Guinea at the heart of Africa as well as host of top class players from around across the globe. We are looking forward to great golf and champing at the bit to offer our best hospitality to date in our normal tradition. “This year is very special because it elevates us to the platform we always aspired to reach and gives us the motivation to believe that by 2020 we will be the incontrovertible African Major.”

Heading the field is England’s Craig Hinton, who booked his spot in the 2016 event by securing the last place in the DSA Architects ‘Road to Mongomo’ Qualifier presented by Worldwide Golf via a play-off at the now departed Al Badia Golf Club. The 28 year old, who topped the 2016 MENA Tour Order of Merit, went on to win the main event in Equatorial Guinea and he’s relishing his return visit to Equatorial Guinea.

“I managed to squeeze my way through the play-off and then to go on to win in the main event which truly was a great way to close out the year,” said Hinton. “One of my friends on the MENA Tour, Luke Joy, had told me great things about the event, and I’ve always enjoyed seeing new places. It was certainly a very different experience to any event I had competed in before. We normally travel alone or in a small group, whereas this felt like all the players were brought together. Like all the players that took part in the 2016 edition, Hinton was extremely impressed by the Presidential Golf Course which really is a hidden gem in Equatorial Guinea. “The golf course is an outstanding layout and one that I would certainly not get bored of playing day in day out,” he said. “It is a wonderful track and all the players loved playing it last year.”

The USA’s Charlie Wi, who earned close to US$10 million playing on the PGA Tour, made his debut at the 2016 event, and the 45 year old was quick to sign up for a return trip to Mongomo this year.

“I was playing the Sanderson Farms Championship on the PGA Tour when Olawale sent a LinkedIn request and I accepted,” recalled Wi. “I was little skeptical at first so I did some research about the tournament. We went back and forth via email and I agreed to play the tournament. I was really curious about the tournament and Equatorial Guinea. It was a long journey to get there from Los Angeles but I’m glad I took it. When I got there, I met Olawale and what a gentleman and a great person he is. The hotel is truly 5 star and the golf course is very challenging and well laid out.“I’m looking forward to going back this year as I had a great experience, meeting players from all over the world and helping to promote golf in Equatorial Guinea and Africa.”

The star-studded ladies field includes three Olympians – Belgium’s Chloe Leurquin and Austria’s Christine Wolf, both Ladies European Tour players, and the LPGA’s Maria Jose Uribe, who all competed in Rio last year. Also teeing it up in Mongomo will be five-time Longest Drive World Champion Sandra Carlborg from Sweden and compatriot Linda Wessberg, who has won three titles on the LET and played in the 2007 Solheim Cup, the same year she finished tied seventh in the Women’s British Open.

“The ladies field for 2017 is one that gives us great excitement and is evidence of how far we have come with this event,” said Opayinka. “It promises to be a fascinating competition this year with some of the finest international talents competing alongside the best women African players.”

GRAND HOTEL DJIBLOHO

The Grand Hotel Djibloho will once again be home for the players and officials at during the 3e Actuaries Open tournament week and what a hotel it is. Located in the heart of the Equatorial Forest this place offers accommodation of a truly international five-star standard. Featuring 380 spacious rooms, four suites and a sumptuous Presidential Villa, the hotel offers the height of comfort and relaxation. There are three world-class restaurants and four bars along with an onsite nightclub and state-of-the art gym, wellness centre, tennis courts and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. There is even a golf course!

“I literally had no idea what to expect when I arrived in Mongomo the first time I played the event in 2015 – the hotel could have been a shack with a roof for all I knew,” said Luke Joy, a MENA Tour player who is attached to Yas Links. “But I can honestly say it’s probably the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in – and I spend a lot of time in the UAE where they have some of the nicest hotels in the world so that’s saying something!”

While the hotel and golf course made an impression on everyone at last year’s event and for Hinton, the US$24,000 winner’s cheque he received for his victory was the perfect end to a great 2016 season. But above all else, it was the warm reception the people of Equatorial Guinea extended to the players and the heartfelt hosting meted out by the 3e Actuaries CEO, which had the biggest impact.

“Olawale Opayinka’s hospitality during the week was outstanding,” recalled Hinton. “What a genuine, kind and giving person he is. His positive attitude the whole time allowed for such a great trip. “One moment in my life I will never forget, and I’m truly thankful to have experienced, was the closing ceremony. I was surrounded by local boys and girls, cheering and chanting. It was so humbling and really gave a meaning to the tournament. I can’t wait to get back and defend my title this year.”

And neither can we.

Flights from Dubai to Equatorial Guinea can be booked using Ethiopian Airlines and with the journey taking around 10 hours including a short stop in Addis Ababa we’d highly recommend the excellent ‘Cloud 9’ service with reclining extra leg room seats, great F&B and inflight entertainment and exclusive service. www.ethiopianairlines.com

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