Our man on the ground at Verdura Golf and Spa Resort takes you behind the scenes of the Sicilian Open…
Sir Rocco Forte, George O'Grady, Matteo Manassero and Claudio Sposito (Getty Images)
Lewis and Franco join forces
Having completed his media duties on Wednesday morning, Tom Lewis headed off to lead his Pro-Am team, which included former Chelsea and Italy striker Gianfranco Zola. As an avid football fan – albeit of Chelsea’s London rivals Arsenal – Lewis was no doubt keen to discuss the Beautiful Game, or rather “Il Bel Gioco”. Likewise, Zola, and equally avid golfer, would have been intent on picking the golfing brains of the youngster from Welwyn Garden City, who has made such an impression since joining the professional ranks last year. Unfortunately neither walked away with the Pro-Am prize, which went instead to Jamie Donaldson, whose last competitive round was a 61 in Morocco last week. But you get the feeling that Lewis will be near the head of the queue when the real prizes are handed out at the end of the week. Manny in the middle
Whilst Lewis may be a big draw this week, the undoubted star of the show is Matteo Manassero, who with his good looks and boyish charm is something of a hero in these parts. The ultra-talented teenager was partnered in the Pro-Am by George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, and Rocco Forte, owner of Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, both of whom were keen to observe the talents of the young tyro at close quarters. When asked in his preview interview whether he had imparted any playing tips to his playing partners, ‘Manny’ complimented both on their swings. A gentleman from Verona in every sense of the word.
Rocca reunited with old friend
Whilst Signor Manassero may be the new face of Italian golf, the undisputed Godfather is Costantino Rocca, who is playing under a sponsor’s invitation this week. Despite losing to John Daly in a play-off at The Open Championship in 1995, it was perhaps Rocca’s exploits – having fluffed his original chip, the Italian holed out from St Andrews’ ‘Valley of Sin’ to force extra holes – which stick uppermost in the mind. With Daly playing alongside Rocca in the first two rounds, it’ll be just like old times this week with the two protagonists reunited some 17 years after their epic duel.
A fine composition
This week the players will be competing on a composite course at the stunning Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, near the port of Sciacca. With nine holes drawn from the East Course and the other nine from the West, the players really will experience the best of both worlds. And whether they have a good or indifferent day on the links, the relaxing environs of the opulent five star hotel should help to soothe their woes.