JOOST Luiten posted a six-under par 66 on the Old Course for a two-shot victory in the inaugural edition of the BMW Indoor Invitational at St Andrews, on Saturday.
The Dutchman finished top of a leaderboard featuring 18 European Tour players in the first of five events in the new series of virtual golf tournaments – using the latest simulator technology.
As a result, he claimed the first prize of €10,000 towards a charity of his choice.
The six-time European Tour winner opted to split the proceeds between his own charity, the Joost Luiten Foundation, and Eramus Medical Centre, a hospital in his native Rotterdam, which has been on the front line in the battle against coronavirus.
Luiten and the rest of the field, which included former World No. 1s Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, competed virtually over the Old Course at St Andrews from their own homes in the one round, 18 hole strokeplay event – powered by TrackMan.
“It’s a good feeling to win the inaugural event,” said Luiten. “St Andrews is such an iconic course to play.
“Everyone knows it from the TV, so it is a great place to start this.”
“We’ve been doing nothing for such a long time, so it is nice to get that feeling of competition going again.
“You try to stay fit and practise the way you can indoors, but it is different.
“So it is good to have the some nerves and that feeling of actually competing and trying to beat everybody else.
“That’s the most fun for us and that is why we are golf professionals. We have been missing that feeling for a long time, and it was good to get it back and to do well as well.
Luiten birdied the fifth, eighth and ninth holes in a front nine of 33, and then picked up four shots between the 12th and 16th, with just the tricky uphill, long 13th not yiedling a birdie.
The Dutchman then carded his only bogey of the day on the 18th after failing to get up and down from the famous Valley of Sin.
The 34-year-old finished two shots clear of Frenchman Damien Perrier, who fired seven birdies in his opening 14 holes – but then carded three consecutive bogeys from the 15th in a round of 68.
South Africa’s Dean Burmester holed out for an ace at the short par three eighth – the first hole-in-one in BMW Indoor Invitational history.
$10k prize goes to two good causes
LUITEN was also pleased to be able to claim the first prize of $10,000 for his two charities.
Each of the five tournament winners in the BMW Indoor Invitational – powered by TrackMan – receiving $10,000 towards good causes of their choice.
“Charity is really important, especially in these times,” Luiten said.
“There is so much going on in the world that just needs money. So it is always good to give back.
“I started my own foundation at the beginning of this year to get kids into golf, so I’m going to give 50 per cent to help get that up and running and to help kids enjoy golf.
“The other 50 per cent will be donated to Eramus MC, a hospital here in Rotterdam and one of the biggest hospitals in Holland.
“They are trying to do a lot of research into stopping coronavirus so hopefully they can do a lot of good things with the money.
“It’s also important to raise awareness too. If everyone gives a little or helps out as much as they can hopefully the situation gets better and we can beat this virus.
“That is the most important thing at the moment, to beat this virus and keep the older people safe too and try to get back to normal life,” said Luiten, whose last real victory came in the 2018 Oman Open.
“It’s always special to win but I’m really proud we can give this money to good causes and every little helps.”
Luiten’s fellow Dutchman Wil Besseling shared third position with Poland’s Adrian Meronk on three-under.
France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera, Spain’s Adri Arnaus and Somerset’s Laurie Canter tied for fifth after posting 70s.
Wiesberger outscores Major man Kaymer
MEANWHILE Kaymer – the two-time Major Champion – joined Austrian Wiesberger in the interactive feature group.
Wiesberger edged the contest with a level-par 72, while Kaymer took two shots more.
The Austrian said: “It was good fun. It was nice to interact with Martin although I can assure you it wouldn’t normally be like that in a tournament.
“Martin is a great guy so and I enjoyed playing St Andrews, my favourite course, with him on the indoor TrackMan set-up.
“All of us, not just golfers but all athletes, are looking forward to getting back into competition again so it was fun to have set this up and for a good cause too, so thanks to the European Tour, BMW and TrackMan.
“It’s crazy where technology has taken us to that we can play golf tournaments indoors like this – and interact with each other – and still have a lot of fun – even if we have a couple more weeks until we get out there with a scorecard in our hand.”
Kaymer added: “To interact with another player again was nice. That’s what you miss most – the competition, to compete against someone who is as good as you.
“I was quite surprised at myself that I was excited to play, and I also had a bit of nervousness at some stage, which is a bit strange. But I look forward to doing the same again next week.
“For BMW, TrackMan and the European Tour to do a good thing was fun. The winner can donate to their charity every week for five weeks in a row.
“This is a beautiful idea. Especially at this time we’re in right now, giving is more important than ever.”
Watch coverage of BMW Indoor Invitational
TOURNAMENT footage was shown on the European Tour’s social media channels and https://bmw.trackmaninvitational.com
Fans were able to follow using #BMWTrackManInvitational.
Footage of the BMW Indoor Invitational is now available on the European Tour’s social media channels – Twitter: @europeantour; Instagram: @europeantour as well as YouTube: EuropeanTour.
This week’s featured course will be Royal Portrush (Saturday, May 16), followed by Golfclub München Eichenried (Saturday, May 23), Real Club Valderrama (Saturday, May 30) and Wentworth (Saturday, June 6).