Spain Aces Golf Wish List

    Top courses: iconic Valderrama

    It would have been a shock to learn otherwise but Spain has been suffering something of a battering in recent years on various well-documented fronts. On this occasion, however, no unpleasant surprises: according to a new study of European golfers, the country maintains its supremacy as the most popular travel destination for visitors from the UK, France, Germany and Scandinavia.

    More than 28 per cent of the respondents had played golf in Spain over the previous 12 months, citing such favourable key contributing factors as the standard and range of the country’s golf courses, consistent levels of high quality accommodation and the favourable year-round climate.

    The findings were part of a new research document entitled “European Spotlight on Golf Tourism to Spain”, commissioned by Reed Travel Exhibitions, organisers of IGTM (which will be held from 11 to 14 November at Costa Daurada in Cataluña) and produced by Sports Marketing Surveys Inc.

    Second in popularity behind Spain was Portugal (17 per cent), followed by Great Britain & Ireland (16.1 per cent), Turkey (7.5 per cent), France (7.1 per cent) and United States (6.9 per


    Favourable climate: azure Costa Adeje

    Of the 28.5 per cent of golfers who visited Spain to play golf, just under half (12.7 per cent) opted for the Costa del Sol, with the Costa Brava region and the Canary Isles attracting 3.9 and 3.2 per cent, respectively – and 8.7 per cent travelling to other areas.

    Noted IGTM exhibition manager Peter Grimster, “This latest study proves that Spain remains at the heart of the European golf tourism industry and illustrates why thousands of golfers still put its golfing regions at the top of their wish list.”

    The Spanish study also revealed that a golfer’s nationality has an impact on the choice of region they are likely to visit: British and Scandinavian golfers prefer the Costa del Sol; French golfers are more likely to visit Costa Brava; and German golfers travel to all regions.


    Other highlights of the research showed that:

    • The average duration for a Spanish golf trip is seven nights.
    • Golf visitors to Spain predominantly stay in four and five-star accommodation.
    • Visiting golfers spend between €170 (British) to €230 (Scandinavians) per day. 
    • Golfers arrange between five and six rounds of golf during each Spanish holiday.
    • During the course of a week’s holiday, golfers play up to four different Spanish courses.
    Hospitable welcome: Spanish Armada at 2011 Andalucía Masters (Photo: Fernando Herranz)

    Added Peter Grimster, “As Spain is the host country for this year’s IGTM we will, of course, be welcoming a host of representatives from across the country, including 100 resorts, clubs and tourist boards, showcasing the country’s finest golf spots including host destination Cataluña, as well as Andalucía and the Balearic and Canary Islands.”

    The Catalan region of Costa Daurada is rapidly boosting its reputation as a golf destination. Three years ago, less than two per cent of total rounds played on the Costa Daurada were by international golfers: today, that ratio has increased to 30 per cent and continues to grow.



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    Valderrama launches major renovation plan to upgrade the golf course and practice areas

    Valderrama(4-14) _Page_05_Image_0001

    Club de Golf Valderrama, the most known Spanish golf course internationally, has announced a series of improvements to the field with a total investment of 3 million euros.

    The venue for the 1997 Ryder Cup, two World Golf Championships and 16 editions of the Volvo Masters, is currently undertaking major investments. Valderrama has been consistently ranked among the best courses, recently ranked in 45th place in the World and number 1 in Europe by Golf Architecture Magazine, this top 100 ranking is elaborated with votes from the most prestigious golf course designers and architects in the World.

    The first investment undertaken has been the complete renovation of the pumping system, this  new system has significantly reduced water and energy costs. The second major improvement on the course has been the new bunkers. All traps have been renovated by installing new drainage, liners and sand. The new sand conforms with USGA specifications and has been chosen after months of testing. “Bunkers have always been an issue at Valderrama. We have rebuilt the bunkers following the strictest and highest specifications and I am proud to say they are now matching the quality of our greens and fairways” says Valderrama’s general manager, Javier Reviriego.

    This is only the first phase of the renovation project, Valderrama is currently working on the improvement of many cart paths and the landscaping of the course, in order for the greens and fairways to be free of bad weeds.

    Planned for the immediate future is the construction of a new pitching and chipping green,  in a large area next to the current practice range.

    With the announcement of these improvements and the mention in the press release itself, one would think that a major golf tournament might be soon announced for Valderrama.



    Vintage Feat

    (Photo: Getty Images)

    Barely five months ago, Miguel Ángel Jiménez was laid up in a hospital bed recovering from an operation to his tibia, which he had broken in a skiing accident in Sierra Nevada. Now, in just his second tournament appearance since putting the crutches aside (he missed the cut in the Spanish Open in El Saler in April), the European Tour’s oldest winner produced a remarkable performance to close birdie-eagle at the daunting Wentworth course and finish joint fourth (with overnight leader Alejandro Cañizares) in the flagship BMW PGA Championship.

    It was the Málaga-born star’s 600th Tour appearance – joining Sam Torrance (706), Barry Lane (682), Roger Chapman (619), Eamonn Darcy (610) and Malcolm McKenzie (605) in that select group – an achievement that was officially recognised on the eve of the tournament with a special presentation by chief executive George O’Grady and tournament chairman Thomas Björn: a tantalus decanter containing a 600-year-old whisky

    “It’s been an amazing journey,” said Jiménez, during the presentation at the Players’ Awards dinner. “The game has given me an amazing life and amazing experiences and I have enjoyed almost every minute of it. I have had some special victories and experiences and it is difficult to pick out one


    “This year is my 25th year in a row on the European Tour and I have seen so much change, and so many players. I think I have survived four generations on the Tour. When I started I was playing with Seve, with Lyle and Woosnam and all those players. Then came Olazábal, Faldo and Monty and their generation. Then you had Clarke and Westwood, guys like that. And now when I go on Tour they are kids. Rory and all of the these young boys are children!”

    The post Vintage Feat appeared first on Oz in Spain.

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    Golf’s Bold New World

    While the men’s game has, in many ways, become tediously predictable in recent seasons, the Ladies European Tour offers a marked contrast: blossoming new talent, exotic horizons and a sparkle of sensuality… all with a rich Spanish flavour.

    In 2012 Carlota Ciganda from Navarra became the first Ladies European Tour player since the irrepressible Laura Davies 27 years before to secure the LET Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season.

    Last week, Lydia Ko, the world’s number one ranked amateur, won her third event as a professional, at 15 years, eight months and 17 days becoming the youngest LET champion, the first home winner of the New Zealand Open and the third amateur to win an LET title.

    In between, Belén Mozo, who features on the promotional poster for this week’s Australian Open in Canberra, posed nude for ESPN Magazine.

    Fellow Spaniards Ciganda, Beatriz Recari  and Marbella’s Azahara Muñoz (a winner on the US LPGA Tour in 2012) join her in the field at Royal Canberra Golf Club.

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    Final Adios to a Golf Visionary

    José María Olazábal, Jaime Ortiz-Patiño, George O’Grady and Ángel Gallardo (Photo: Getty Images)

    It was July 1990, the British Open was being played at St. Andrews, and an earlier (and less bald) incarnation of OzinSpain was sipping a Scotch in the downstairs clubhouse lounge area set aside for press and players that week. (Those were the good old days when press and players cheerfully mingled – some even bought us drinks!)

    Mid-afternoon, Jaime Ortiz-Patiño walked in, espied yours truly (we had first met in 1985 when OzinSpain and Spain-based US journalist Charlie Beck exclusively broke the news, in Costa Golf magazine, about Jimmy’s purchase of and ambitious plans for Las Aves, later to become Valderrama), joined our group in front of one of the TV sets and ordered a vodka and tonic (if memory serves me correctly).

    Some time, and various additional drinks, later R&A secretary Michael Bonallack poked his head through the door, noticed the Valderrama president, and moved over to recriminate him – gently.

    “You know, Jimmy, that as a member (“overseas” in his case) you’re not supposed to be in here.” “No, I didn’t,” he replied, remaining seated and returning his gaze to the TV set as Nick Faldo headed inexorably to his third Open


    Bonallack grinned sheepishly and left. Jaime remained in the press lounge long enough to finish his drink before generously picking up the by-now-substantial bar tab, bidding a warm farewell and heading off to wherever R&A members were supposed to be.

    Valderrama’s iconic 17th (Photo:

    Apart from highlighting the absurdity of the R&A’s “rules” (at least back in the ‘90s), this anecdote is just one example of how Jaime Ortiz-Patiño endeared himself to the press over the two decades that Valderrama was in the international spotlight. He might have been a self-described “dictator” when it came to Valderrama but this friend and golfing partner of royalty (Prince Andrew) and world leaders (George Bush – the smarter senior one) was just as comfortable in the company of journalists. And the affection and respect was mutual.

    The announcement of his death, in Marbella on 3 January, aged 82, has prompted reams of richly deserved tributes. He truly was inimitable, a passionate lover and student of the game who did it his way… a pioneer and indisputably key figure in the global promotion and development of the 21st century “Costa del Golf”. Golf in Sotogrande, Andalucía and Spain is incalculably poorer for his sad parting.

    The Valderrama Story

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    The Secret… Rioja and Olive Oil

    (Photo: Getty Images)

    It’s now official: Miguel Ángel Jiménez is the oldest winner on the European Tour. It took two years after his last win (Omega European Masters in Switzerland) but, with 11 of his 18 Tout titles having come since turning 40, few were surprised when the 48-year-old Málaga-born star triumphed in the UBS Hong Kong Open. It was his third victory in the event (following 2005 and 2008) and meant he was six months older than Des Smith when the Irishman won the 2001 Madeira Islands Open.

    “It’s very nice – I hope it’s not the last one,” joked the Spaniard, who carded a closing five-under 65, for a 15-under total at Hong Kong Golf Club and a one-shot victory over 40-year-old Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed, who had made 14 trips to the Qualifying School before winning his first (and to date only) European Tour title in Italy two years ago.

    “I really love this place. I love the golf course – it’s a great golf course where you have to control the ball very well, it’s not a matter of distance,” said Jiménez, who did not card a single bogey over the last three rounds (and just two in 72 holes, with 17


    Rafael Cabrera-Bello in Dubai (Photo: Getty Images)

    Asked about the secret of his longevity (this was his 597th Tour start), he said, “This is maybe the olive oil in my joints, and the nice Rioja wine and those things keep you fit and flexible, no? The most important thing, I do what I like to do in my life, and golf has given me all of this pleasure. Winning now, as you say, the oldest winner on the Tour, 48, my goodness, 24 years I’ve been on the Tour – I’ve been around.

    “I still love it and I think that is fantastic, to love what you’re doing, and enjoy yourself, keep fit, keep working myself a little bit and stretching a lot, and that’s the main thing to keep the body to compete with the new guns.”

    The win extended his own record for most victories by a player aged 40 and over (12 of 19 overall); created a new record for European Tour victories on Asian soil (six, passing Ernie Els’ previously shared best of five); was the third by a Spaniard in 2012 following Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Omega Dubai Desert Classic) and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño (BMW Italian Open presented by CartaSi); and was the 166th Spanish victory in European Tour history.


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    Chip Shots

    Crocodile Men

    Confirming he had accepted an invitation to compete in the Hong Kong Open in Shanghai in November, 2012 Ryder Cup captain José María Olazábal noted that the final of the Lacoste Promesas final – bringing together 20 of Spain’s most talented young golfers – would be postponed to 30 November. In addition to the tournament, the finalists will have the opportunity of training with Olazábal, Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Ignacio Garrido at La Sella Golf Resort in Alicante.

    Next Mission: Main Tour

    A man clearly in form after his third place in the 2012 Open de Andalucía, Eduardo de la Riva secured his first European Challenge Tour victory with a flawless final round of six-under 65 in the Fred Olsen Challenge de España at Tecina Golf in La Gomera (Canary Isles).

    “I felt very comfortable out there, especially with my putter. I started playing with it last week where I had two bad rounds but was not the putter’s fault. This one is going to stay in my bag for a while. After so many years with belly and long putters now I feel I am a better player with the regular one.

    “I’m not sure of my schedule now. I have been diagnosed with two disk protrusions in my back and I have to treat them, and then I will decide. My goal has always been the European Tour. Since I got the card nine years ago I have grown up as a player, as a person and in every sense. Now everything is going perfect and I want to play. I made the right fitness preparation and it has worked. I have been close to a win on the main tour a couple of times lately. I know I can trust on my game and trust myself; I just have to hole the putts the way I did


    Spanish Fiesta Continues

    Just two weeks after winning the first European Senior Tour event of the year (see below “Mallorca Launch for Seniors”), Gary Wolstenholme made it a Spanish double with victory in the Benahavís Senior Masters at La Quinta (Marbella).

    “It’s just brilliant,” said the 2011 Rookie of the Year. “Obviously I’m delighted. I had five months off and I had no idea what I was going to come out with this season but to win the two events in Spain and make the cut in America (at the US Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid), having shot a 79 in the first round, is more than I could have possibly predicted… I’m pleased I got things going so early in the season and we have a great run of tournaments now and it’s up to me to continue doing what I know I can do.”

    Mark James and Mark Mouland shared second place one stroke behind Wolstenholme, while Australian Mike Harwood was joint fourth with Barry Lane. One week after becoming the first Englishman to win the US Senior PGA Championship (first of this year’s majors on the US Champions Tour), Roger Chapman finished 20th at La Quinta.

    Azahara Breakthrough

    It was controversial – a dubious slow play ruling and alleged grounded putter in the morning semi-final – but Marbella-born Azahara Muñoz finally broke through for her first US LPGA Tour win, beating Candie Kung in the final of the Sybase Match Play Championship in New Jersey. Muñoz, who won the 2009 Madrid Ladies Masters on the Ladies European Tour in her first start as a pro and was the 2010 LPGA Rookie of the Year, thus became only the second Spaniard after Marta Figueras-Dotti (1994) and Beatriz Recari (2010) to win on the US tour.

    Mallorca Launch for Round-Bellies

    Gary Wolstenholme might consider buying a lottery ticket featuring the number two. England’s most capped amateur before turning professional in 2008 at 48, he made European Senior Tour debut two years later and won the Casa Serena Open in the Czech Republic in his second start. He had to wait another two years for his second Tour win, the 2012 Mallorca Open Senior, at Pula Golf.

    Wolstenholme’s final-round 69 gave him a two-stroke win over second-placed South African Chris Williams, Australia’s Mike Harwood and Englishman Paul Wesselingh in this opening event of the 2012 European Senior Tour season. Australian Peter Fowler, attempting to become the first player since Sam Torrance in 2006 to retain the John Jacobs Trophy as order of merit leader, finished 16th, while Spaniard Miguel Angel Martin, the three-time European Tour winner who celebrated his 50th birthday on the Wednesday, was 34th.

    Dream Debut

    (Photo: Fernando Herranz)

    Milan-born Alessandra Averna won her first title in her professional debut, beating joint second-placed Spaniards Laura Cabanillas and Raquel Carriedo by two shots in the opening event of the 2012 Banesto Tour in Málaga. “I’m very, very happy,” said the 23-year-old. “I came to the Parador – a real paradise with beach and golf! – without any expectations and I’m returning home with the trophy. It’s an incredible sensation… Funnily enough, I picked up my first golf club when I was three, also here in Málaga (province), at Guadalmina, where we used to come for our family holidays.”

    Spanish Crown for Englishman

    Young English golfer Jack Hiluta defeated German rival Marcel Schneider 4&3 in the 36-hole final of the Spanish Amateur International event played at Mallorca’s Alcanada Golf. One of Europe’s most prestigious competitions, dating to 1911, the King’s Cup has previously been won by such luminaries as José María Olazábal, Darren Clarke, Sergio García and Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño.

    Women Power

    (Photo: ElMarcoRojo)

    (Photo: ElMarcoRojo)

    The fourth season of the Banesto Premium Tour was launched at Málaga’s Parador course – as reigning World Cup football champions Spain blitzed Venezuala 5-0 just down the road at the La Rosaleda stadium in an international friendly. This year’s tour, open to Spanish and foreign women professionals and invited amateurs, comprises seven events between March and November, held throughout Spain.

    (Photo: Rafa Cabrera)

    The Parador tournament was preceded by a “closest to the pin” competition among the press covering the event, with each journalist paired with a pro. After an entertaining repertoire of diverse shot-making, the prize was won by Laura Cabanillas (a winner in each of the three previous seasons, including 2009 at the Parador) and Golflog cameraman Arturo Caballero. The other two professional participants were Itziar Elguezábal and Mireia Prat.

     Aloha from Marbella

    (Photo: Jorge Andréu)

    Former British Open champion (1999) Paul Lawrie will return to the Costa del Sol from 15 to 18 March to defend the Open de Andalucía title he won last year at Málaga’s Parador course. Colin Montgomerie and his successor as Ryder Cup captain José María Olazábal have also confirmed their presence in the 2012 European Tour event, which returns to Aloha (where Lee Westwood and Thomas Levet won in 2007 and 2008, respectively). The tournament is hosted, promoted and organised by 18-time Tour champion Miguel Ángel Jiménez’s MAJ Group.

    Senior Moments

    Juan Quirós

    The Benahavís Senior Masters returns to La Quinta Golf for a fourth consecutive year, but moves to an earlier date: 1-3 June. Englishman Carl Mason won the inaugural event in 2009 and last year (for his record 25th European Senior Tour title), while Thailand’s Boonchu Ruangkit was victorious in 2010.

    Meanwhile, European Senior Tour star Juan Quirós has indicated he will be supporting the Gecko Winter Pro Tour in southern Spain. “Set up by professional golfers for professional golfers”, the fledgling circuit runs from September to April with a 36-hole event every week.

    Spanish Hat-Trick

    (Photo: Getty Images)

    Twenty-seven-year-old Rafael Cabrera-Bello made it a Spanish triple when he held off the challenge of Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy to win the 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February. It was his second European Tour victory after the 2009 Austrian Golf Open and followed Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Álvaro Quirós’s victories in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

    Masterful Comeback

    (Photos: Volvo in Golf)

    (Photos: Volvo in Golf)

    Two-times US Masters champion José María Olazábal showed he still had the skills to compete at the top level when he led his other four Spaniards colleagues home in the Volvo Golf Champions event in South Africa in January. Olazábal, who has been unable to play a full schedule in recent years due to injury, finished joint sixth four shots behind the winner Branden  Grace, while Miguel Ángel Jiménez was 24th, Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño 26th, Pablo Larrazábal 32nd and Pablo Martín 34th.


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    Royal Seal of Approval

    Spain’s King Juan Carlos was presented with a European team replica polo shirt from the 2012 Ryder Cup’s “Miracle Sunday” when he received the three Spanish members of the triumphant team for a private audience at the Palacio de la Zarzuela. Joining the monarch for a 40-minute chat about the event were captain José María Olazábal, vice captain Miguel Ángel Jiménez (also a vice captain at Valderrama in 1997, when Juan Carlos officially inaugurated the Cup match eventually won by captain Seve Ballesteros’s European team) and the only Spaniard who made the team in Chicago, Sergio García.

    (Photo reprinted courtesy of Royal Household)

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