A noisy demonstration by about 60 to 70 Spanish men and women eventually forced the abandonment of play for the day in the first round of the PGAs of Europe international team golf championship, supported by Glenmuir, at Atalaya Golf & Country Club’s Old Course, Estepona on the Costa del Sol today.
The protestors, deprived of their employment and allegedly due wages following the closure of the Don Miguel Hotel – the sister hotel of the Atalaya Park Hotel, where the PGAs of Europe Congress is being held this week, arrived on the perimeter of the course around 11.30am and began to beat drums and blow horns and whistles in an attempt to disrupt play.
Tournament director Steve Cox suspended play at 11.40am, calling the field of 63 professionals from 21 countries back to the clubhouse so that there was no danger of a confrontation between the golfers and the demonstrators.
Spanish policemen were present but kept a low profile.
The protesters did throw some tee markers and flagsticks into bushes but no damage was done to the greens, the most vulnerable part of the course which is on either side of a public road.
After a couple of hours it seemed as if the demonstrators had dispersed but Steve Cox’s planned resumption of play at 1.50pm had to be called off when the disruptive group reappeared. Some took up position on the second green.
None of the players, starting from both the first and the 10th tees, has completed the first 18 holes of what is a scheduled 72-hole tournament. The backmarkers were on the sixth.
Lawrie Thornton, general secretary of the PGAs of Europe, explained, “We were made aware shortly before the commencement of the championship that this kind of disruption was possible. It is not our wish to become embroiled in any dispute that does not concern us. Nor would we allow any of our players to become involved in any way.
“Consequently our tournament staff and the players have been advised to treat any demonstrations as they would, say the threat of lightning. This is to cease play immediately on the sounding of a klaxon and to return to the clubhouse in an orderly fashion.”
Discussions promptly took place among the tournament organisers to plan future actions in the event of further disruption of the tournament.