The inaugural Mugello Tuscany Open this week will see the most promising young Italian golfers compete against Europe’s emerging talent as part of the Italian Golf Federation’s ongoing programme to turn the country into a golfing force.
The Molinari brothers’ form on the world stage, including their victory in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, combined with the emergence of 17 year old Matteo Manassero has thrust Italy firmly into golf’s spotlight but bubbling beneath is an increasing depth of talent.
A total of 26 Italian players will be part of the field at UNA Poggio dei Medici Golf Club this week for the first of three European Challenge Tour events in the country this year.
That figure is down on the usual number of 50 places set aside for the host Federation due to the IGF’s policy to trade spots with other Federations, giving the Italian players increased playing opportunities throughout the year.
It is part of the IGF’s programme to enhance the playing opportunities around Europe for the best young Italian talent, giving them the best chance of ultimately succeeding on The European Tour.
Alessandro Rogato, Director of Italian Professional Tournaments for the IGF, said: “The IGF has a programme for young players in place where we have five tournaments on the Alps Tour and two Challenge Tour events, in addition to hosting the Grand Final.
“We exchange cards with other Federations as in Italy we don’t have hundreds of playing professionals so rather than taking up all of the 50 spots we can offer places to these Federations in return for our players gaining spots in other events. This allows them to play a full season, not just a couple of events.
“It is a policy that has served us well. A few years ago Andrea Maestroni was on the Alps Tour but also did well in some Challenge Tour events and got some good experience, so he went straight through to the Second Stage at Qualifying School and got his card for The European Tour.
“We’ve got some good young players coming through now as well and the Federation has invested a lot of money to help them.
“Having the two Challenge Tour events is great for us and an important part of our programmes and we have a good partnership with the Challenge Tour. We are also very proud that we have got the Grand Final here and that the Challenge Tour has chose our Federation to help with that – it is a good opportunity for us to showcase Italian golf.”
Rogato, who is helping to stage this week’s Mugello Tuscany Open, believes the success of the Molinaris and Manassero has help stimulate interest in golf among the Italian public and media, which traditionally focus on the national sport of football.
“What the Molinaris and Manassero have achieved has given us amazing new support for golf. People now care more about golf. When the Molinari brothers won the World Cup last year, Gazetta dello Sport, our main sports newspaper, put it on the front page which was unheard of.”