Jaime Ortiz-Patiño

1/3/2013 11:17:53 PM
Jose Maria Olazabal, Jaime Ortiz-Patino, George O'Grady and Angel Gallardo  (Getty Images)
Jose Maria Olazabal, Jaime Ortiz-Patino, George O'Grady and Angel Gallardo (Getty Images)

Jaime Ortiz-Patiño, the man whose vision and commitment saw The Ryder Cup played in Continental Europe for the first time at his beloved Valderrama in 1997, has died. He was 82.

Born to Bolivian parents in Paris in June 1930, Patiño – who was known as ‘Jimmy’ to his friends and who passed away in the Hospital Costa del Sol in Marbella on Thursday January 3 – made an invaluable contribution to the elevation of golf in Andalucia, primarily through the splendour of his course at Valderrama where he was owner and Honorary President.

In addition to The 1997 Ryder Cup, The European Tour contested the season-ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama – where the flags now fly at half-mast – a total of 16 times between 1988 and 2008 as well as playing two World Golf Championship events there in 1999 and 2000 and the Andalucia Masters in 2010 and 2011.

The stature of the golf course can be measured by the players who triumphed in these various tournaments – a veritable Who’s Who of the game including; Sir Nick Faldo, Sergio Garcia, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Graeme McDowell, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods.

Through all of these championships Patiño’s influence was strong and was suitably recognised when he was made an Honorary Life Vice President of The European Tour during the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in May 2010, the award presented to him by European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady, European Tour Vice Chairman Angel Gallardo and the man who would go on to lead Europe to another Ryder Cup triumph in September 2012, José María Olazábal. (pictured above).

George O’Grady led the tributes to one of the great figures in the game when he said: “Jaime Ortiz-Patiño provided more than a few proud moments in the history of The European Tour and in many ways he changed the face of the game in Europe.

“His foresight and dedication to the game through the Volvo Masters and, of course, The Ryder Cup, was legendary as was his dedication to excellence in terms of the preparation of a golf course. Nobody had seen a golf course presented the way Valderrama was – he raised the bar in that respect. He was also a gentleman and he will be sadly missed.”

Ángel Gallardo said: “Many great memories of him come to mind. We shared great moments, especially in the run up to The 1997 Ryder Cup. I spent a lot of time with him. He used to come to the meetings at six in the morning - one day I tried to be there before he did but he still beat me!

“Last November he came for dinner to my apartment in Crans-sur-Sierre. He brought a very good wine and we had Fondue Bourgignon which he loved. We had a very pleasant evening and it is one I will remember forever.

“He has done a lot not only for Spanish golf but also for European golf, in fact in many way he has been the ‘soul’ of golf in Europe. When we named him Honorary Vice President of The European Tour, it was a truly deserved honor for a very great man.”

José María Olazábal said: “He was a man with a strong character who did not doubt when he wanted to get something done. He gave his all in everything he did; his full effort and energy to achieve his goals.

“Valderrama is his masterpiece, his legacy. He wanted to make it a very special place, a unique place, and he did it. He put Valderrama and that part of Andalucía on the golfing map. Through the Volvo Masters, the American Express Championship and The Ryder Cup, he presented Andalucía to the whole world as a great golfing destination.

“At the 1997 Ryder Cup he was close to the team, and he used to talk a lot with Seve. He wanted every single detail to be precise and he tried so hard to make everything perfect. He even used to get out of bed at 4.30 in the morning to work with the maintenance team and help cut the greens! Not many people would have done that but it perfectly showed his character. We will miss him.”

Mel Pyatt, former President of Volvo Event Management who worked closely with Patiño during the years of the Volvo Masters, said: “It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of my dear friend Jimmy. We shook hands in 1987 to host the season ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama and a gentlemen's agreement was formed, never wishing to sign any legal documentation.

“We shared a wonderful business and personal relationship, fully respecting each other's role with the same shared values and beliefs in creating and delivering the finest professional golf event in
Europe.

“The Volvo Masters and the Valderrama golf course set the highest standards of quality in all areas that became the pinnacle for all to recognise and follow. Without Jimmy’s passion, perfection and drive, it would have never happened. He will be sadly missed on the world stage.”

Sergio Garcia, who won the 2011 Andalucia Masters at Valderrama, said: “This is a very sad day not just for Spain but for the whole of the golfing world. Jamie Ortiz-Patiño was a great man and the masterpiece he helped create at Valderrama was truly something special.

“For me to win the Andalucia Masters there, and become the first Spanish player to win a European Tour event on his golf course, is a memory that I will treasure for the rest of my life. My thoughts go out to his family at this time.”

Miguel Ángel Jiménez said: “He had a very clear vision of golf. He transformed Valderrama, which he considered as his ‘third son’, and he placed it at the pinnacle of the world of golf through big events like the Volvo Masters and The Ryder Cup.

“His determination, willpower and perseverance were extraordinary and he achieved all his goals. He should be an example in the golfing world, a role model. He put passion into everything he did. Last March, he came to Aloha to show his support of the Open de Andalucía, and greeted us all – I’ll never forget that.”

Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño said: “I heard the sad news while practicing at Valderrama and you only had to look at the faces of sadness and consternation of all the club employees to realise how much he meant to them. Together with Joe McMicking (founder of Sotogrande), both have been pivotal pillars for the development of this area, they have done a lot of things for the region and people are very grateful to them.

“Valderrama has created a legend and will remain the footprint of Jaime Ortiz-Patiño; one of my dreams was to be a member there and tha dream came true. I am very lucky to be able to enjoy his great legacy.”

Nuno de Brito e Cunha, President Club de Golf Valderrama, said: “The entire team, the Board of Governors and the members of Club de Golf Valderrama are deeply saddened by the death of Jaime Ortiz-Patiño. We wish to send our deepest condolences to his family, especially his sons Carlos and Felipe.

“We believe it is important to remember his great legacy and contribution to European golf. He worked so hard to bring The Ryder Cup in 1997, the Volvo Masters and two World Golf Championships to Valderrama. We all know and acknowledge that The Ryder Cup would have never left the British Isles if it hadn’t been for his perseverance and vision.

“Spanish golf must be very thankful for the work and courage he displayed to transform Club de Golf Valderrama into one of the best golf courses in the world. The promotion that Sotogrande, San Roque, Andalucía and Spain have received is priceless and we are all thankful for it.

“Don Jaime’s work will endure in time, the historic moments lived during the tournaments hosted by Valderrama will always be remembered and will remain forever in the memory of golf fans across the world.”

Gonzaga Escauriaza, President of the Royal Spanish Golf Federation, said: “Jaime Ortiz-Patiño has been an essential figure in Spain, not only in the development of golf but in the development of quality tourism. He placed Sotogrande, San Roque and the Costa del Sol on the world map and made them well known even in the United States.

“His enthusiasm was second to none and he wanted things done in a perfect way. Everybody talks about his influence in golf through the great events hosted at Valderrama, but not many people know his important legacy for greenkeeping staff. He initiated the scholarships for young Spanish students at Michigan University; nowadays, some of them are considered among the best and more respected in Europe.

“He was also very conscious about the environment and he led Europe in that sense. He fought for this initiative and he wanted everyone to follow the rules.”

Among his many friends were the golfing media, both at home and abroad, and Bill Elliott, Chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, said: “Jimmy Patiño was a lot of things. Fabulously rich, imaginative and far-sighted, but it was also golf's great good luck that he spent most of his life obsessed with the old game.

“It was with regard to golf that he revealed his other attribute, for Jimmy was a perfectionist and nowhere was this pursuit of the impossible more eloquently expressed than at Valderrama.

“Robert Trent Jones was the genius designer he chose to build this course but it was Jimmy's abiding demand for loving care and attention to the tiniest detail that made certain it evolved as one of the game's truly great arenas and certainly fit to stage the 1997 Ryder Cup, as well as so many other European Tour tournaments.

“Jimmy could be irascible and demanding but as many golf writers discovered over the years he could also be generous, warm-hearted and a fierce critic as well as an admirer of the written word. We will miss him. The Costa del Sol will miss him even more.”

John Hopkins, former golf correspondent of The Times, said: "Jimmy Patino had impeccable manners, endless charm, lots of money and a determination to achieve whatever he set his mind to.  Whether that was to weed out corruption in bridge when he became chairman of the World Bridge Federation,  to learn as much as he could about different strains of grass or to make history by staging The Ryder Cup at his beloved Valderrama - on mainland Europe for the first time - was immaterial.  He went at things with the skill and vigour he had shown as a racing driver in his playboy days in the 'fifties and the determination he demonstrated in building up an almost unrivalled collection of Impressionist paintings. In these aims at least, he was not to be denied.
 
"He helped improve the standard of greenkeeping and  course maintenance in Europe by his attentiion to detail at Valderrama, making that course the best-conditioned on its continent and one of the best in the world. He knew more about grass than many greenkeepers. He would not mind being known as an autocrat. He liked committees made up of odd numbers and three was too many. One of his favourite lines about Valderrama was: 'I have a golden rule here. I have the gold. I make the rules.'
 
"Nor was he afraid to get his hands dirty. He was nearly always the first man in the greenkeeping shed at Valderrama in the morning, always beating daylight, and consequently you knew that if you had an appointment with him towards the end of the day there was a possibility that by then his eyelids would be beginning to droop as his hands were closing around a hefty Scotch and soda, a dry Martini or a gin and tonic. 
 
"He was an enjoyable dinner companion for a journalist, pleasantly gossipy and endlessly generous, and for a number of years he hosted a small group of us for lunch at Augusta National during the Masters. At a meal otherwise known for its ordinariness, the highpoint was the red wine, which he loved, and which was often five or six times as expensive as the cost of the food."

Raul Andreu, from the Mundo Deportivo newspaper, said: “Jimmy was a unique person. It was great to meet and treat him during the Volvo Masters, The Ryder Cup and the World Golf Championships. Thanks to him, Spanish golf is on the map. God bless him.”

It was one of Patiño’s proudest moments when, in 1997, he saw his great friend Severiano Ballesteros captain Europe to a dramatic 14½ - 13½ victory over the United States at Valderrama to retain The Ryder Cup. That historic week was the culmination of a journey that began over 40 years earlier and one which saw Patiño build one of the best courses in the world.

His passion for golf was ignited by an unlikely chain of events that began at the 1956 Italian Open. It was there that Patiño offered his services as a caddie to Ryder Cup player Dai Rees, who needed a replacement bagman for the final round. Instead of paying Patiño in cash, Rees told him: “I am The Ryder Cup Captain next year – I will send you a couple of tickets as your caddie fee.”

And so Patiño’s journey began. He made the trip to Lindrick in Yorkshire the following year and was blown away by the event. It was some years later – in the early 1980s – when Patiño was winding down his business career and taking more holidays in his home in Sotogrande that the plan to create the vision that would become Valderrama came to the fore.

With an increasing Membership and overcrowding issues at his home club of Sotogrande, Patiño and seven associates bought the neighbouring Los Aves course, a layout designed by Robert Trent Jones Snr.

Initially, the group of friends bought the club so that they could have somewhere private to play, but it was not long before Patiño was hatching the plan that would see The Ryder Cup played on mainland Europe for the first time in history.

After buying out his fellow investors, Patiño re-employed Trent Jones to come back and finish what he had started. The great architect matched his employer’s ambition and sculpted the modern day masterpiece that is Valderrama. While Jones worked his magic, Patiño went to America to study agronomy with United States Golf Association experts so that he could be responsible for the maintenance of his course.

It did not take The European Tour long to come calling on Valderrama, and when they did they recognised the stunning quality of the venue and agreed to host the Volvo Masters there immediately.

By 1991, Patiño was being asked if he would consider bidding for The Ryder Cup. At first, he felt that the infrastructure was not good enough to host golf’s grandest team event but he soon changed his mind after travelling to the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island.

“It was there that I realised that we could do it at Valderrama,” he said. “The spectators had to travel some distance to get to Kiawah and I felt that if they did it in America then they could travel from Marbella, where there were so many hotels, to Valderrama. I put in a bid for 1997 and it was accepted – that was a very proud moment.”

Jaime Ortiz-Patiño is survived by his sons Felipe and Carlos and four grandchildren in addition to a host of acquaintances both inside and outside the game of golf, amongst them Alucinio Pineda, who worked for, and who was a friend to Patiño for over 40 years.

A private cremation will take place on Saturday January 5 with the funeral service scheduled for Wednesday January 9, at 12:30 pm in the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Merced in Sotogrande. There will also be a Memorial Service which will be held in Paris at the Basilique Sainte-Clotilde at a later date, details of which will be announced in due course.