The Côte d'Opale Pro Am celebrated its 30th anniversary last week.e anniversary. The opportunity to look back on this great golfing and human adventure with the founder and organizer of the event, Christophe Cantegrel.

  • Christophe-Cantegrel-“-The-30-editions-of-the-Pro-Am-de-la-Côte-d’Opale-have-passed-at-a-crazy-speed
    Christophe and Patricia Cantegrel, organizers of the Pro Am de la Côte d'Opale.

Today, the Pro Am International de la Côte d'Opale has 400 participants who have the chance to play four of the most beautiful French golf courses (Belle Dune, Le Touquet, Hardelot and Wimereux) in four days. How did you come up with the idea, thirty years ago, of organizing a competition of such magnitude?

I spent all my childhood in Wimereux, where I played until I was 18. My local friends regularly pushed me to organize a Pro Am in the area. Initially, I imagined doing it in Wimereux, Hardelot and on the two courses in Le Touquet. But the trigger was the game I played in September 1993 with the Belle Dune golf director at the time, Jean-Christophe Cornette, for the inauguration of the course. I told him about my project and he was interested in being part of it. The following year, the Pro Am of the Côte d'Opale was born. At the time, there was not yet the whole stretch of motorway that there is today, it was finalized a few years later. But we have nothing to do with it (Laughter).

How many golfers during the first edition?

The first time, there were 130 participants. Success soon followed and the number steadily increased. For ten years of Pro Am, we already had 100 teams and 400 players. That seemed like a good limit to me, 25 teams on four courses. This year again, we have filled up. Three years ago, we implemented two starts on each course to make games run more smoothly and end earlier in the afternoon. This has the additional advantage of being more convivial, people are more numerous in the club house and cross over snacks halfway through.

Among the pros, Christophe Pottier won the first edition and José-Filipe Lima the thirtieth, last Friday. Who are the best-known players who have taken part in the Côte d'Opale Pro Am adventure?

We had Philip Golding, former winner of the French Open (In 2003), but also Fabrice Tarnaud, Sophie Gicquel, Christophe Muniesa our DTN. A certain Victor Dubuisson, then 14 years old, came to participate in the Pro Am as well. He was 2 index and played in the team of Vatanen, the son of the rally driver.

He's the youngest participant in the Pro Am?

This year, a young girl and a young boy of 14 years old were registered. A few years ago, a 12-year-old player also participated in the tournament.

And the oldest?

Gérard Gattegno has participated in 29 of the 30 editions of the Pro Am. This year again, he was with us, at 84 years old. The owner of the Red Fox hotel in Le Touquet, Gilles Kaufmann, competed in all the editions and won the first one. It is one of the tournament sponsors and allows us to offer gifts to players before each departure.

Your best memory?

I am very proud that Pascal Grizot came to celebrate our 30th anniversary, during the closing party last Friday. It's not every day that a president of the federation travels for a Pro Am.

And your worst memory?

The year of the Covid, in 2020. We had been forced to postpone the tournament to the end of October, with particularly difficult organizational conditions, a prize giving by videoconference, etc. The tournament was abruptly interrupted after two days when the second confinement was announced. I remember watching President Macron's speech on TV, I had tears in my eyes, everything fell suddenly. We were forced to do an individualized awards ceremony at the Hôtel du Manoir. We were all masked. It was a creepy...

The number of holes in one in 30 editions?

There have been so many! This year again, Frédéric Grosset-Grange managed one on the 17th at Hardelot and Frédéric Bouvier on the 11th on the same course. José-Filipe Lima even made an albatross on the 18 in Wimereux.

The Côte d'Opale Pro Am traditionally takes place at the end of April. The weather conditions can be very changeable in the region at this time of the year…

Yes, we have known everything weather-wise. There are editions where golfers ended up on the beach after their game. I remember once when the weather was super nice in Le Touquet while at the same time it was hailing in Wimereux, the course was all white. Another time, it was at the beginning of the 2000s I believe, someone from my team called me to tell me that the games had been stopped in Wimereux, because the course was waterlogged due to the rain. I immediately went to the golf course, it was still raining but with less intensity. Everyone had taken refuge in the club house. With the greenkeepers, we took the squeegees to remove the puddles that had formed on and around certain greens. The work finished, I returned to the club house announcing to the players: “Come on guys, we'll be back there in a quarter of an hour! ". Some had ordered food in the meantime, but they had no choice (Laughter).

The Pro Am of the Côte d'Opale is also a prize giving ceremony every day at the Palais des Congrès in Le Touquet and nice gifts offered...

This year again during the draws, there were five days at the Ness by D-Ocean hotel in Reunion to be won, with two green fees at the Bourbon and Bassin Bleu golf courses, participation in the Reunion Pro Am , a helicopter flight, car rental… All for a value of 3 euros. We also offered four nights at the Park Hyatt in Dubai, with green fees on the most beautiful courses in the city. Since 800, we are the first to have developed a live scoring system. As soon as the card is returned, players can see their ranking on our site. Our computer system has evolved a lot in thirty years. I remember that at the beginning, a young person had specially developed a computer program for the tournament. Except that the first time we used it, the winners weren't those who had played on the right golf courses... (Laughter).

What can we wish you for the 40e editing ?

That we are always there to organize it and above all, that all the friends, those who have been faithful to the meeting for so many years, are also present so that we all celebrate it together. Ten years go by so quickly. The thirty editions have gone by at breakneck speed…

Interview by Franck Crudo

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The Pro Am International Côte d'Opale is celebrating its 30th anniversary!