COLIN Montgomerie is hoping to end 21 years of hurt when he leads his Great Britain & Ireland team into Seve Trophy action at The Wynyard Club tomorrow, after admitting that a decades-old defeat to opposition skipper Jose Maria Olazabal still gives him sleepless nights.

Despite appearing in countless matchplay events together during their lengthy careers, the two Seve Trophy captains have not gone head-to-head since they met in the final of the British Amateur Championship back in 1984.

An 18-year-old Olazabal was the victor on that occasion - trouncing his opponent 5&4 at Formby - and the Spaniard has gleefully reminded Montgomerie of his win on a number of occasions since.

The setback hardly hampered Montgomerie's career - since then he has gone on to win 28 European Tour tournaments and once topped the Order of Merit for seven seasons in a row - but it continues to rankle with a player who has carved a successful career from his unquenchable will to win.

With the two captains lining up against each other in the first match of Sunday's singles programme, this week's event offers a chance of redemption and, while a personal win would taste very sweet indeed, the Scot is more concerned with retaining the trophy his Great Britain & Ireland side won at Valencia two years ago.

"I got heavily beaten the last time myself and Jose Maria played and I haven't slept much since," admitted Montgomerie, who will partner Newcastle United striker Alan Shearer and Durham fast bowler Steve Harmison in the Seve Trophy's curtain-raising Pro-Am later today.

"Let's hope I can finally get some rest after 21 years.

"With the two captains playing each other, I think the fair result this time would be for us to finish all square so we can let our teams decide what happens.

"If we can get around all square, it will have been a great game. The whole tournament will be close and we are looking forward to every single game, but I think mine against Jose will be particularly special.

"It means a lot to me because of everything that happened in the past, and I'm sure it means a lot to Jose as well."

While Montgomerie's primary goal this week is to retain the Seve Trophy, the efforts of the 42-year-old's team could also help to promote the North-East as a viable destination for top-class golf.

The region has suffered a considerable drop in profile since Slaley Hall lost its European Tour status but, with the eyes of the golfing world firmly trained on The Wynyard Club this week, a successful event could lead to further top-class tournaments in the future.

"This is a big sporting area of Britain - if not the biggest - and we are just delighted to bring our sport to this region," said Montgomerie.

"We saw the Great North Run on Sunday and 20,000 people weren't able to get a place to run in it.

"We also saw what happened when Michael Owen joined Newcastle - thousands flocked to the stadium to see him put on his shirt and, now he has scored, all hell has broken loose.

"That shows what sport means to the North-East and we hope now that golf can get back onto the map in the area."

Montgomerie could have helped to generate local interest by naming either Ashington's Kenneth Ferrie or Hartlepool's Graeme Storm in his team for this week's event.

The duo were both in the running for the Scot's wildcard pick but, instead, he plumped for Paul Casey after he narrowly failed to qualify for the tournament automatically.

"I feel sorry for Ken," admitted Montgomerie. "He has done very well in winning at the K Club earlier in the year, but I have a policy of picking the top-ranked world player who hasn't otherwise qualified and I have stuck with it for the fourth time in a row.

"On this occasion it was Paul Casey, and the second best ranked player happened to be Ken Ferrie. If I had two picks, he would be in. There is always someone second on the list and it just happens that, this time, he was a player from the North-East.

"I felt for Ken, although I am very happy with my selection. Paul Casey is a current Ryder Cup player and he will bring great strength to the team."

Olazabal's wildcard pick was rather less controversial. The Continental Europe skipper opted for Frenchman Thomas Levet, one of the heroes of Europe's record-breaking Ryder Cup win last year.

The Seve Trophy is often viewed as a breeding ground for future Ryder Cup stars - two years ago David Howell played a key role in Britain's win before repeating the trick for Europe 12 months later - and Olazabal feels the introduction of the event has helped Europe's golfers dominate their American counterparts.

"It is important for all of the players to enjoy the competition and enjoy the experience they are going to go through," he said. "It is going to be an important learning experience when it comes to the next Ryder Cup.

"Since we started playing the Seve Trophy, Europe has managed to win the last two Ryder Cups. If you are looking for a reason, that might well be it. A lot of the players who play in the Ryder Cup have already played in the Seve Trophy and that has been a good breeding ground for them."

It is not only Olazabal's team-mates who will be learning valuable lessons this week either. The two-time US Masters champion has designs on a future captaincy role at the Ryder Cup and is hoping to pick up as many pointers as he can over the four days of competition.

"There is no doubt that this can be a forerunner to being Ryder Cup captain for me," said the Spaniard. "I an going to learn a lot of things.

"This is a new experience for me and I am looking forward to it. I should be able to learn a few things this week that might be very helpful for the future."