Italian teenager Matteo Manassero, one of the most exciting young talents in world golf, turned professional today and becomes the second youngest European Tour Member in history after the legendary Seve Ballesteros.
Ballesteros was aged just 17 years and eight days when made his professional debut in the 1974 Open de España. He won his first European Tour event two years later, at the 1976 Dutch Open, and went on to win five Major Championships and 50 European Tour titles, inspiring a generation of European golfers during a glittering career.
Like Ballesteros 36 years ago, Manassero has targeted his national Open for his first event as a professional. Having celebrated his birthday on April 19, he will be 17 years and 17 days old when he strikes his first tee shot in the BMW Italian Open at Royal Park I Roveri, Turin, on Thursday – just nine days older than the record set by the swashbuckling Spaniard.
Manassero’s fledgling career is already following a path reminiscent of the great Ballesteros as the young Italian sets records at every turn.
Last June he became the youngest – and the first Italian – winner of the Amateur Championship when he beat England’s Sam Hutsby in the final at Formby, beating the previous record by nearly two years.
A month later he lit up the golfing world with his performance in The Open Championship at Turnberry. Playing alongside Tom Watson and Sergio Garcia for the first two days, it was to prove an unforgettable week, as Watson came within an eight foot putt of winning the Claret Jug at the age of 59 while Manassero became the youngest winner of the Silver Medal awarded to the low amateur.
The teenager, the youngest player in The Open since Young Tom Morris in the 1860s, finished a superb tied 13th and only missed the lowest aggregate by an amateur in Open history by a stroke.
His Amateur Championship victory secured an invitation for the Masters Tournament at Augusta National last month and again the records tumbled. First he beat Bobby Cole's record, which stood since 1967, to become the youngest player ever to make the cut at the Masters Tournament, at 16 years and 11 months and 22 days. Manassero was nearly two years younger than Cole was when he made the cut at the 1967 Masters.
He went on to win the Silver Plate as low amateur, finishing tied 36th in what was the best performance by a European amateur for 73 years, since Francis Francis in 1937.
Manassero took up Affiliate Membership of The European Tour the day two other young golfing sensations lit up the golfing world, with 18 year old Ryo Ishikawa shooting a 58 to win The Crowns in Japan and then 20 year old Rory McIlroy beating a world class field to capture the Quail Hollow Championship to become the youngest winner of a US PGA Tour event since Tiger Woods in 1996.
Manassero, who will be managed by IMG, makes his professional debut in the BMW Italian Open from May 6-9, having finished tied 16th as an amateur last year.
“I feel ready to turn pro and am happy to play my first event as a professional in Italy at the BMW Italian Open,” said Manassero. “I am grateful that the Italian Federation and the sponsors have given me the opportunity to start my professional career at home in front of my family and friends and all those who have supported me throughout my amateur career. I hope to play well to reward their faith in me and to thank them for all their support.”
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “Matteo joins the professional game at an incredibly exciting time for European golf, and specifically for Italy - just a few months after Edoardo and Francesco Molinari’s success in the World Cup. Last October Matteo gave a passionate, mature and compelling address to the International Olympic Committee as part of golf’s delegation in Copenhagen and helped secure golf’s return to the Olympic Games in 2016. He could well be part of that historic event but now a new chapter in his golfing life begins and we wish him every success.”
Donato di Ponziano, Chairman of the Championship Organising Committee, said: “We are thrilled Matteo has chosen the BMW Italian Open to make his professional debut. Italian golfers are making huge strides in world golf right now and the home fans will have plenty to cheer about this week with Matteo joining our World Cup hero, Edoardo Molinari, in Turin. It will be an exciting week.”
|1||ANDERSSON HED, Fredrik||SWE||18||-16|