Saturday, 19 April 2014
Matteo Manassero is given a cake to celebrate his 21st birthday  (Getty Images)
Matteo Manassero is given a cake to celebrate his 21st birthday (Getty Images)
It is hard to believe that Matteo Manassero has only just reached the age of 21, given how much he has already achieved in golf both as an amateur and a professional.

As he celebrated the milestone in Kuala Lumpur, with a five under par 67 in the third round of the Maybank Malaysian Open, the Italian reflected on the extraordinary feats he has achieved so far, and the records that have tumbled regularly since he arrived on golf’s world stage in 2009.

That summer, aged 16, he became the youngest – and first Italian – winner in the history of the Amateur Championship, which earned him a place in The Open Championship at Turnberry a month later.

There, he belied his tender years with an assured performance which drew high praise from his playing partners, Tom Watson and Sergio Garcia, and he went on to claim the silver medal after finishing in a tie for 13th place.

Next up was the Masters in 2010, where, 11 days shy of his 17th birthday, he became the youngest player ever to make the cut – record that has since been broken by China’s Guan Tianlang. Manassero’s tied 36th place finish was also the best performance by a European amateur for 73 years.

After what he describes as a career-defining performance in the 2010 Omega European Masters, where he was third, it was not long before the affable Turin native was lifting silverware. A brilliant four-shot victory in the Castellon Masters announced Manassero as the real deal, and made him the youngest winner in the history of The European Tour.

“I’ve achieved a lot at a young age, and since I turned pro it’s been great, he said. “Fortunately I’ve never had spells of struggle or wondering if I have what it takes to get it done, and everything so far has been good. Of course, there have been a few bad moments, but I couldn’t be happier about the decision to turn pro at 17.”

Victory number two followed six months later when he held off a field containing then-World Number One Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy to claim the Maybank Malaysian Open, and his third win also arrived on Asian soil, at the 2012 Singapore Open, where he overcame Louis Oosthuizen in a play-off after a marathon, weather-affected final day.

Arguably his biggest triumph came last year, at the BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event of The European Tour, where he emulated the feats of his hero, the late Seve Ballesteros. Manassero was the youngest champion in the history of the event, and he sees that victory as the best moment of his life.

“The most important moment of my career was the Wentworth win,” he said. “I’d won three times already, but the win at Wentworth will stick with me my whole life. Even if I win more events, that one will always be the most special. It was my best moment in golf – actually no, not just in golf, the best moment in my whole life.”

Since his emergence as one of the most exciting young players in world golf nearly five years ago, Manassero has earned praise not just for the brilliance of his golf but for the mature, unfailingly polite way he carries himself on and off the course. 

Indeed, he continued to have private tuition during his early years on Tour so he could finish his schooling.

“My parents wanted me to focus on school too,” he said. “That’s very important in Italy. They helped me grow as a person and a golfer. They never put any pressure on me, which happens a lot with kids now and doesn’t help. They brought me up really well in every sense, as a person and as a golfer.”

As for celebrating, Manassero will put that on hold until the tournament is over.

“I’m going to have dinner with my girlfriend tomorrow night,” he added. “Tomorrow I have to play well so I need to focus on that tonight. After that I can celebrate.”

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