5 Dec

Uhh, but what about that other one, the World thingy?

Felipe Ortiz, Luciano Alonso and Keith Waters (Photo: Juan José Úbeda)

Best Friends For(now): Felipe Ortiz-Patiño, Luciano Alonso and Keith Waters (Photo: Juan José Úbeda)


MAYBE IT WAS the winter chill drifting across the peninsular, causing temporary memory loss. Perhaps it was a simple oversight by an inattentive press secretary? Or, more likely, it was a deliberately and carefully calculated way of saying, “Toma ya! (loosely translated as “Up yours!”).

Something strange happened in Los Barrios – the rather oddly chosen Campo de Gibraltar venue for a rather important announcement by the Junta de Andalucía (regional government).

In the words of Luciano Alonso, Consejero (or Minister) for Commerce, Tourism and Sport, “The Junta de Andalucía and Club de Golf Valderrama have been working together to bring back a truly great European Tour event to our region and to bring the recognition that Andalucía deserves with an international competition of the very highest quality.”

“Bring back”? “Truly great European Tour event”? “Bring the recognition…”? “…international competition of the very highest quality”?

What was that event which was held at Finca Cortesín barely a month ago? Oh yes, the Volvo World Match Play Championship, trumpeted – arguably, but with some justification – as the biggest event in Andalucía since the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama. “Arguably”, because Valderrama had also hosted umpteen Volvo Masters up to the final edition in 2008. But “with some justification”, because the match play field was certainly more international than the Volvo Masters, and with an even more venerable past.

So Andalucía did receive some quite considerable recognition this year, but here’s the rub: for whatever reason (and there are various conspiracy theories involving the triumvirate of Junta de Andalucía, Volvo and Valderrama), the Junta effectively ignored the World Match Play, to the undisguised annoyance of Volvo and Finca Cortesín and the incredulity of impartial observers.

After having been closely involved with the Volvo Masters since its inception in 1988, and a major bank-roller of the tournament as a key sponsor, the Junta seemed to want nothing to do with the World Match Play, even the many photo opportunities politicians like Alonso so love and thrive on.

In fact, at the Los Barrios press conference Alonso did allude to that rupture when he said the absence of “Andalucía” in the World Match Play title had given him a “feeling of sadness”, which – combined with the presence of billboards in the Campo de Gibraltar declaring that the new tournament “is now ours” – does give an indication of the Junta’s pique.


Søren Kjeldsen - winner of the 2009 Open de Andalucía (Photo: Jorge Andréu)

But enough hand-wringing. The announcement that the Andalucía Masters at Valderrama (28-31 October) will be the final 2010 European Tour event in Europe before the circus (possibly) returns to Dubai for the grand finale, following the previous announced news that the Open de Andalucía will be the first Tour event in Europe, from 25 to 28 March at Málaga’s Parador course, is great news for the region.

To return to Alonso, “The national and international exposure that the Andalucía Masters will bring to our region will show our support of this event to be a worthwhile investment and will have a very positive economic impact on our region.”

Added Felipe Ortiz-Patiño, president of Club de Golf Valderrama, “Today is a giant step not only for Valderrama but for tourism in Andalucía. After a year of discussions and meetings, the Junta de Andalucía, The European Tour and Valderrama announce their intention to create a new event which will be one of Europe’s most important and which, over the years, could establish itself as one of the ‘not to miss’ events on The European Tour calendar. We at Valderrama consider ourselves privileged to be working with such strong partners in creating an event of this magnitude and we thank Junta de Andalucía not only for their support in this new event but for all their support over the years: without them the Ryder Cup, the WGC-American Express World Championship or the Volvo Masters would not have been possible.”

And finally Keith Waters, director of international policy for the European Tour, “It is a great pleasure to announce the Andalucía Masters for quite obvious reasons. The European Tour’s partnerships with both Junta de Andalucía and Club de Golf Valderrama are among the strongest in golf, so to be able to further strengthen our relationship gives us immense satisfaction. We look forward to returning to one of the great venues of European golf for what will be one of the highlights of the 2010 International Schedule and we thank our friends at the Junta de Andalucía and the Patiño family at Valderrama for their commitment to The European Tour.”

No details have been released about the format of the event, and it does seem to fall short of previous boasts of a new championship to rival the Volvo Masters and WGCs (no Tiger, no best international field since the Ryder Cup, etc.) but there will be €3 million in prizemoney and it is believed the field will comprise 80 to 100 players, with a halfway cut.

It also means there could be three, maybe four, European Tour events in Andalucía in 2010 (the Open de España is predicted to return to Sevilla), and as many as seven in Spain – also taking into account the customary events in Mallorca, Castellón and Madrid. No date has been announced for the World Match Play, but it could move to the first week of October.

Though… what if it were kept at its current slot on the Tour and clashed with the Andalucía Masters. Silly, of course, and just a mischievous scribe’s musings, but what a delicious irony that would be. “Toma ya!

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