Matteo Delpodio’s season literally took off at last week’s Credit Suisse, where he was given the chance to indulge the other passion in his life: flying.
The aviation fanatic was taken to a hang gliding school in Interlaken, Switzerland, to film a flying feature for the Challenge Series, the magazine show on Sky Sports dedicated to the Challenge Tour.
Once there, the Italian was given a brief safety lesson before being kitted out for his maiden voyage on a hang glider. After being strapped to his instructor, the pair took a running jump off the nearest cliff, and took to the skies.
Delpodio said: “Aviation is one of my biggest passions, so I’m really interest in anything that flies. It was a fantastic experience, and I can’t wait to do it again. I wasn’t expecting to run off a cliff, but that’s exactly what we did – it was like a dream. We were maybe 30 or 40 metres from the edge, and my instructor just told me to start running and don’t stop – so that’s what I did!
“We were approximately 1,000 metres above sea level, and it took us about 15 minutes to get to the bottom. If it’s sunny you can use the thermals to fly, which means you can stay in the air for longer, but unfortunately it was a bit cloudy when we went up, which was a shame because I wanted to stay up there for longer. But we managed to do some acrobatic tricks for the camera, so that was a lot of fun.
“The landing was also a lot of fun, because you have to get in position like superman. The instructor flew us in just over the top of some high grass, and I could feel it touching my feet. Then he took us down in the field, using the wheels to land and the friction between the ground and our legs to slow us down.
“It was a bit more exciting than playing golf, that’s for sure! A round of golf lasts for about five hours whereas this is over in 15 minutes, so it’s a bit difficult to compare the two. Also because golf is our careers, sometimes we don’t enjoy it as much as a hobby. But if I was a hang gliding instructor and golf was my hobby, maybe I might get more excited about a round of golf than a flight!”
Delpodio’s long-standing passion for all things aeronautical led him, as an 18 year old, to seriously consider joining a military academy back home in Italy, before golf won the battle as the safer, and potentially more lucrative, career.
But once he has hung up his clubs, Delpodio is determined to gain his pilot’s licence and take to the skies on a more regular basis.
He said: “I’ve been interested in flying since the age of around 14. I haven’t taken lessons to get my licence because it’s very expensive – and because it takes up a lot of time which I have to dedicate to golf. Because it’s such a passion, I want to do it properly or not at all. So when I’ve finished with golf, I’m definitely going to get my licence. Maybe I will earn enough money from golf to be able to buy my own plane!”
If he is to fulfil his lofty ambitions, Delpodio will have to make some improvements after struggling to make the step up to the Challenge Tour from the satellite Alps Tour, where he won three times last year en route to topping the Order of Merit.
Delpodio currently sits in 98th place in the Challenge Tour Rankings, but after comfortably making the cut in his last three events – with a tie for 14th place at the Hydro Scottish Challenge his best finish – the Italian’s form is undoubtedly on an upward trajectory.
He said: “It’s been a tough season so far. I didn’t get off to the best of starts, but I feel like my game is slowly coming together now and my results are getting more consistent. I probably expected more from myself this season, after winning the Alps Tour Order of Merit last year. But it’s a big step up to the Challenge Tour, so if I can just keep my card for next season I’ll be quite happy, and even happier if I can get my main Tour card through the Qualifying School.
“But you never know what can happen on the Challenge Tour. You only need a second place in one of the bigger events – and suddenly you’re up challenging for the top 20. But it’s better to keep your results consistent and keep improving week on week, because if you win one week but then miss the next three cuts, you’re probably going to struggle even if you get onto the main Tour. So my aim is to keep finishing higher and higher, and hopefully I can reach the top soon.”