In the final part of our 'Meet the Rookies' series, we profile Italian Andrea Pavan, who finished second in the final 2011 Challenge Tour Rankings...
They say that fairy tales don’t come true, but someone obviously forgot to tell Andrea Pavan.
Having graduated from Texas A&M University at the end of 2010 with a degree in Economics following a stellar amateur career, Pavan started 2011 without a Challenge Tour category. But he ended the season as the Number Two graduate, suggesting a future every bit as bright as his friend and management company stablemate Edoardo Molinari, winner of the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2009.
The common themes in the two Challenge Tour victories which helped propel Pavan onto The European Tour – firstly at the Norwegian Challenge and later at the season finalé, the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final – were his coach, Filippo Del Piano, and San Domenico Golf, the club which sponsors the 22 year old.
Del Piano, whom Pavan cites as his chief golfing influence, was on bag-carrying duties on both occasions, while his young charge spent the week prior to the Norwegian Challenge utilising the practice facilities at San Domenico Golf, in the Puglia region of southern Italy.
The link-up came about at the start of 2011 when, during a five-day training camp held at San Domenico Golf for the Italian national team, the club’s owner, Sergio Melpignano, offered Pavan a lucrative sponsorship deal after spotting his prodigious talent.
The shrewd investment paid almost immediate dividends when Pavan prevailed over Austria’s Florian Praegant in a play-off in Norway to banish the disappointing memories of the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda, where he had looked odds-on to make his breakthrough before being denied by Frenchman Edouard Dubois, who overturned a five shot lead on the final day.
That Pavan was able to bounce back from a potentially crushing blow was a testament to his mental strength. Indeed, anyone who has seen the elegant Italian in action will readily attest that he does not lack for confidence.
The Rome resident needed all his swagger to see off the swashbuckling Tommy Fleetwood on the final hole of the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, where a deft chip and a rock solid par putt from four feet sealed both the title and second place in the Rankings behind the young English tyro.
Two weeks later, Pavan got his debut European Tour campaign off to a highly encouraging start with a tied seventh place finish at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, where his predatory putting again came to the fore.
Since then Pavan has struggled to make his presence felt in the higher echelons of the leaderboard, with a tie for 56th place at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship his best display since that dazzling debut in South Africa.
However, Alberto Binaghi, coach of the Italian National Federation, firmly believes that Pavan will be challenging for titles sooner rather than later.
He said: “I’m very close to Andrea because he played in the Italian national team for a number of years, even though I haven’t coached him directly. We’re all part of the same big happy family.
“It’s exciting because he has been on the national team for four years, and he has always been a high level player – he is a very educated and intelligent player. He went to school and university, so for us he is a very good ambassador. I’m glad he’s on The European Tour now because it’s the place he really deserves to be.”
Binaghi’s opinions carry more than a little gravitas, given that he has overseen a certain Matteo Manassero’s transition from talented teenager to two-time European Tour champion, so we can fully expect Signor Pavan to contribute towards Italy’s recent golfing boom in the not too distant future.