Antonio Garrido returned to the Reale Seguros Open de Espana during Saturday’s third round to reflect on forty years since his win at The European Tour’s inaugural event.
In 1972 the 28 year old Spaniard was working as a professional and had just started a new job when he was urged to play in his national open, a decision he would never regret.
“To be the first European Tour winner is an honour and gives me great satisfaction,” said Garrido. “Winning the Open de Espana changed my life completely - it made a 180 degree turn and from there my club helped me travel and compete. That’s when I started playing on The European Tour.”
It was a clearly a life changing victory and came at the expense of compatriot Valentin Barrios in a playoff after the pair had tied on one over par at Pals Golf Club in Girona.
With no television at events in those days extra holes used to start on the first hole and were played in order until a winner was decided, which in this case came on the third thanks to a birdie from the victorious Garrido.
“Valentin and I parred the par four first and second holes before we both found the third green in two shots, he had 30 feet and I had 25 or so,” recalled Garrido. “He putted and missed, and I holed it! I was so happy and with quite a gallery following us I remember I cried.
“I had just got married and bought a flat, so the prize money came at just the right time as I did not have a penny.”
From that moment Garrido played The European Tour with great success, competing in a total of 299 events and picking up a further four wins along the way. His best year came in 1977 when he finished third on the Order of Merit thanks to his only multiple win season where he took the title at both the Madrid Open and the Benson and Hedges International Open.
A Ryder Cup debut came in 1979, while other victories followed in 1982 at the Tunisia Open and in 1986 at the London Standard Four Stars National Pro-Celebrity, his last on Tour. However he continued to play events until 1999 giving him a great perspective on how The European Tour has developed.
He said: “Those early tournaments cannot be compared with the ones nowadays, the circumstances were totally different. There was absolutely nothing at the time - no sponsors, no tents, there were only the players. We also had two British referees – Tony Gray and Arthur Crowley-Bovey – and three journalists, one Spaniard and two British. That was all.
“We could not imagine the potential of The European Tour, I think no one could have ever imagined it and we had no idea what to expect,” continued Garrido. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has contributed to The Tour with their work, they all deserve our recognition. Hopefully it will last for many years to come.”
Antonio Garrido is very thankful for that first victory, one that clearly gave his career a kick start all those years ago, and he continues to play competitively on The Senior Tour where he has won twice in both 1994 and 1997.
When asked to comment on The European Tour today, and any advice he would give to young players looking to make their way onto the circuit, he was very clear.
He said: “The Tour is very attractive now and there are many youngsters, some as young as 14 years old, who want to make this their future. My advice to parents would be to act with caution and ensure their children remain humble.
“Everyone must be aware that the standards are very high, and for their child, it is not going to be very easy to make a living” continued Garrido. “I would recommend they act with great humility, which is necessary in golf, and in everything they do in life.”