Last weekend five HBS students escaped Boston’s version of spring for a little sun, fun and golf in Barcelona, Spain. Intense competition, not relaxation, was the goal as Anthony Fernandez (OG), David Fiorentino (OH), Gog Boonswang (OA), Justin Crandall (NA) and Luis Graziani (OC) joined 16 other MBA students in representing the United States versus their European counterparts in the 1st Annual MBA Golf Challenge (www.mbagolfchallenge.com).
The Challenge, brainchild of two IESE Business School students in Barcelona, brought together MBA students from U.S. schools Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, and Kellogg in a Ryder Cup-style golf competition against their counterparts from European schools IESE, INSEAD, London Business School, Rotterdam and Bocconi. The charity tournament raised nearly $25,000 for the Johan Cruyff Foundation, a charitable organization founded by Europe’s greatest soccer player to benefit through the power of sports children with physical and/or psychological disabilities.
The event kicked off with a Pro-MBA event the first day. 21 teams each consisting of a player from Europe, a player from the U.S. and two business executives, competed in a scramble format. Players from Europe and the U.S. had the opportunity to interact both with each other and with sponsors such as Rabobank, Philips, Roland Berger, and Rolex prior to the MBA Challenge contest.
The relaxed atmosphere of the first day quickly dissipated on day two, as the intensity rose with the commencement of the real competition. The day began with foursomes matches in which teams of two students from each continent competed in a match-play alternate shot format. Fourballs followed in the afternoon with teams of two from each continent taking the better of two scores on each hole in a match play format. The American schools overcame jetlag and a long winter layoff to jump out to an early 111/2 to 81/2 match lead after the first day’s matches. HBS’ Anthony Fernandez and Justin Crandall each contributed two wins in the first day’s matches, with Gog Boonswang also contributing a point for the Americans in the fourball event.
However, the traditional long late-night Spanish dinners caught up with the Americans on Sunday as the U.S. lost its lead in the singles match competitions. In the one-on-one matches the Europeans jumped out to a big lead that the U.S. players were unable to overcome. Anthony Fernandez and Luis Graziani contributed two of the U.S. six wins but it was not enough to overtake the Europeans. Europe retained The Cup, probably a fitting result given the effort they put into organizing the event.
Next year The Cup will journey to the U.S. for the contest. With the sting of this year’s defeat fresh in their minds, the U.S. schools have no intention of allowing its return to Europe. The rivalry has officially begun.