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Stockport duo survive passport drama but miss out on national title

A PAIR of amateur golfers from Stockport just missed out on a prestigious national title when they competed in the senior pairs final of the 2016 Morocco Matchplay, powered by HowDidiDo, in Marrakech – but they were fortunate they were able to compete at all following a passport mix-up.

Kennels owner Philip Housley, 56 – who lives in Woodford and is a member at Davenport – was refused entry on to the complimentary British Airways flight from Gatwick, when it was discovered he’d brought the incorrect passport.

The six-handicapper explained: “I ended up taking my son’s passport to Gatwick. The kind people at Gatwick let me go through check-in and security, all the way through to final boarding where they decided that, having put my bags on the plane, understandably, I couldn’t travel on my son’s passport.

“So I reorganised myself. Travelled back to Manchester, found another flight from Liverpool, picked my passport up and flew out the next morning … after the plane was delayed for a drug search and a technical problem.

“I arrived here to find that our kind opponents had waited as long as they could, because they heard I was on my way, and I joined them on the third hole. And we managed to win the match.”

His playing partner, retired police officer Ian Appleton, 56, from Mellor – who plays off 14 at Mellor & Townscliffe – joked: “I held it together until he got there! I could have been two down – but I wasn’t. We thoroughly enjoyed it and we’ll definitely be entering the competition again next year.”

Housley added: “It’s been worth all the stress. It’s been good company, a good bunch of lads, lovely weather – I can’t complain at all. I’ve enjoyed the event. It’s a good holiday resort course.

“The way they run it – playing matchplay every day and then coming to a final – is the best way of doing the event. Everybody’s got a chance – if it was a Stableford that would be it. But every day is different. We’ve had some really competitive matches all week.”

The affable duo may have won that first dramatic encounter, but it was their only success of the four-day event as they lost two and then halved their third-and-fourth play-off match on the final day.

But they still enjoyed the experience in Morocco, where they received complimentary return flights from Gatwick, courtesy of the event’s partner British Airways; five nights’ luxury bed-and-breakfast accommodation in the five-star Palmeraie Palace; four rounds of championship golf on the Robert Trent Jones-designed PalmGolf Marrakech Palmeraie; a welcome cocktail reception; and a gala dinner and prize presentation.

Four competitions culminated at the grand final, sponsored for a third year by the Moroccan National Tourist Office (MNTO): singles, pairs, mixed pairs and senior pairs. Each finalist played up to four qualifying rounds merely to reach the regional final, with the knockout rounds taking place between June and September, and the regional finals in October.

Palmeraie Resorts, spread out across almost 570 acres in the heart of the palm grove of Marrakech, includes hotels, a conference centre, a 5,000m² spa, more than a dozen restaurants, and 27 holes of golf, including the Robert Trent Jones-designed championship golf course, the PalmGolf Marrakech, Palmeraie.

The stunning course offers beautiful scenery – with views of the Atlas mountains and 11 lakes – while still demanding technical prowess. Just 25 minutes from the international airport, the Troon Golf-managed course was voted Africa’s best, in the World Travel Awards, for 10 consecutive years from 2006 to 2015.

The elegant, yet contemporary, five-star Palmeraie Palace offers 314 rooms and suites, each with a terrace or balcony overlooking the swimming pool, golf course or gardens. It also has four restaurants and bars for relaxing ‘off course’.

The burgeoning Kingdom of Morocco has 37 golf courses to be enjoyed in year-round sunshine – plus eight more under construction – and, with flight times of less than three-and-a-half hours from the UK and Ireland, it is a hugely attractive alternative to the more traditional golf destinations of Europe.

HowDidiDo is Europe’s largest golfing community, holding in excess of 21 million rounds of golf along with the handicaps, results and scores of more than 1,300,000 UK golf club members. Around 2,000 golf clubs and more than 547,000 golfers currently use the HowDidiDo system.