Our press officer at this week's Challenge Tour event brings you all the action from behind the scenes at Golf Club Varese...
The tourmament office at the Challenge Provincia di Varese resembled a pro shop on Thursday morning as several players attempted to piece together a set of clubs with which to play in the tournament. Three competitors suffered the misfortune of their clubs being lost by the airline they travelled with, but luckily former Italian professional Alberto Binaghi came to the rescue and brought along his entire collection of clubs, woods, wedges and putters. Jose-Filipe Lima was one of the unlucky ones, but managed to pick out a decent set which, fortunately, was the same make as the one he usually uses. They say beware the injured golfer, but what about the golfer with a set of borrowed clubs?!
There is a scoreboard which is mounted on the wall in the clubhouse at Golf Club Varese, from an event several years ago, when Italian Matteo Manassero was still an amateur. It reads: A Binaghi +13, G Garbin +2, S Grappasonni par, M Manassero -6. Even then the 19 year old was a cut above the rest.
It is little wonder that Italy has been enjoying such a promising spell in European golf in the last few years. There was Edoardo Molinari winning the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2009 then triumphing in the Mission Hills World Cup for his country alongside his younger brother, Francesco. Matteo Manassero has been breaking records at every turn in the last few seasons and was a two-time European Tour winner before his 18th birthday. And Andrea Pavan and Federico Colombo are both on The European Tour this season after graduating from the Challenge Tour in 2011. The Italian Golf Federation put phenomenal amounts of time, effort and money into developing young players and amateurs, and continuing that support for fledgling professionals. Andrea Perrino, a Challenge Tour player this season, said that the financial support given to young pros takes away the factor of having to play to make a living, thus removing the pressure and allowing the players to play their natural game. There are also four Challenge Tour events in Italy this year, indicating the level of support the Italian Golf Federation is also giving tournaments. Long may it continue.
Top spot up for grabs
Gary Lockerbie is the only player in the top four of the Challenge Tour Rankings in action this week, and can jump from second place into pole position if he finishes sixth alone or better at Golf Club Varese. The Englishman was second at the Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC two weeks ago to go top of the Rankings, but slipped back a spot after last week’s Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts, where his finish of tied 13th was bettered by Sweden’s Magnus A Carlsson, who was third. Phil Archer, currently fifth, can only move up one spot, such is the gap between the top three – Simon Wakefield is third – and the rest, and he would need to finish in the top two to do so.
Take a break, Sam
Sam Walker, winner of the Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts last week, has taken a week off to recover from his recent exploits, and understandably so. The Englishman won a play-off against Simon Wakefield on Sunday after the tournament was reduced to 54 holes because of bad weather, leaving both men on 12 under par. He then travelled all the way down to Surrey to play in The Open International Final Qualifying Europe at Sunningdale, where he finished six under par after 36 holes to grab a spot at Royal Lytham and St Annes in three weeks’ time. Walker said: “I was just so tired. I was drinking loads and loads just to keep awake and somehow the putts kept dropping. I had an idea from the reaction of people around me that I was in the hunt, but I played the last hole like a robot. I didn't really know what I was doing. I just stood there and poked at it." The 34 year old Brummie is a dab hand at links golf, so will be one to watch at Lytham. His first Challenge Tour came at Murcar Links, where he won by six shots, and in 2010 he triumphed at the very linksy Golf Blue Green de Pléneuf Val André in Brittany.