The Real Club Valderrama Open de España, Hosted by the Sergio García Foundation will be the 90th edition of one of the oldest national opens in Continental Europe. Its origin is linked to the appearance of the first Spanish professionals out of the caddie ranks, and its trajectory reflects the development of golf in Spain during the past century.
The first edition of the tournament was held in 1912, 21 years after the creation of the first Spanish golf club, Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas (1891). Back then, only five other clubs were founded, namely, North Lode Golf Club (Riotinto, Huelva), RCG de la Puerta de Hierro (Madrid), RGC de San Sebastián, Club de Golf de Pedralbes (Barcelona) and RSG Neguri (Bilbao).
The venue for the inaugural event was RCG de la Puerta de Hierro —then called Madrid Polo Golf Club— in its original site named “Las Cuarenta Fanegas”, the first 18-hole golf course in Spain. According to club records, the origin of the Open de España is closely related to French professional Claude Gassiat, contracted by the club at that incipient stage of golf in Spain.
Upon his arrival to Madrid, Gassiat, who had started his golfing career as a caddie, set up the club’s caddie programme, which led to the emergence of the first Spanish professionals: Ángel de la Torre —who turned pro at the age of 14—, Emilio Cayarga a.k.a. “el Hojalata”, Saturnino Lascós and Joaquín Bernardino.
The development of this first group of professionals brought about the holding of the Open de España, in line with other national Opens in Continental Europe, such as France (1906), Belgium (1910) or Holland (1912). The inaugural Open de España was a 72-hole event played over two days and won by the 1907 British Open Champion, Frenchman Arnaud Massy.
The Madrid club, renamed as RCG de la Puerta de Hierro, hosted all the editions of the tournament between 1912 and 1941. The second edition, played in 1916, saw the first victory of Ángel de la Torre, the dominant figure in the first two decades of the event. De la Torre, the pioneer of Spanish professional golfers, has five Spanish Opens to his name between 1916 and 1925 —a record that still stands.
In 1942, the tournament left Madrid for the first time and was played at San Cugat. During the 40s, the tournament rotated among three venues: RG Pedreña, RSG Neguri and RCG de la Puerta de Hierro. The most prolific winner was Mariano Provencio, who lifted the trophy four times in three decades (1934, 1941, 1943 and 1951).
The brothers Miguel left their mark in the 50s and 60s with three wins each — Sebastián 1954, 1960 and 1967, Ángel 1955, 1961 and 1964. By the end of the 60s, the first official data on golf licences reflect the modest development of the sport in Spain: 3,094 amateurs, 109 professionals and 36 clubs.
In 1972, the Open de España was the first tournament played in the first official season of the European Tour, with a prize purse of €14,084. The winner, Antonio Garrido, conquered the European Tour’s inaugural event and became the first European Tour winner. Its inclusion in the European Tour official schedule added a new dimension to the tournament, now firmly established in the first level of European golf. From 1973 to 1977 La Manga Club hosted five consecutive editions with international winners, notably Arnold Palmer (1975).
In the 80s, two great names of Spanish golf were included in the Real Club Valderrama Open de España, Hosted by the Sergio García Foundation record book. Severiano Ballesteros with three victories, at RCG El Prat (1981), Vallromanes (1985), and ten years later at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid (1995) —the last individual title of his illustrious career. Meanwhile, José María Olazábal was the best amateur in 1983 and 1984. In this decade, Bernhard Langer won at Campo de Golf Parador de El Saler (1984) and Sir Nick Faldo at RC Las Brisas (1987).
Sergio García burst upon the Open de España in the 90s as the best amateur in 1996, 1997 and 1998, forecasting a bright professional future. The host of this year’s Real Club Valderrama Open de España won at El Cortijo (2002). The period comprised between 1990 and 2010 registered the biggest growth in Spanish golf: the number of licences both amateur and professional rocketed from 46,178 in 1989 to 137,752 in 1999 and up to a record high 336,989 in 2010.
Two brilliant moments stand out for Spanish golf in recent editions, with victories of Álvaro Quirós at RCG de Sevilla (2010) and 50-year-old Miguel Ángel Jiménez, at PGA Catalunya Resort (2012).
The arrival of the event to the iconic setting of Real Club Valderrama, will mark a new milestone in its storied and respected history.
Tickets for the tournament are available at http://tickets.europeantour.com/event/real-club-valderrama-open-de-espana/real-club-valderrama/928215