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‘I prayed for rain’ – Richard Boxall recalls his DP World Tour win at the Italian Open 

‘I prayed for rain’ – Richard Boxall recalls his DP World Tour win at the Italian Open 

Thirty-three years ago, the Italian Open provided English golfer Richard Boxall with his first, and what turned out to be only, win on the DP World Tour.

1990 Italian Open Champion Richard Boxall

More than three decades later, ahead of the 80th anniversary of the historic event – an ever-present on the Tour schedule since its inception in 1972 – the memories of that triumph remain as vivid as ever.  

With a five-shot lead going into the final round at Golf Club Milano in Monza, the task appeared a formality. But crossing the winning line in elite sport for the first time is never an easy task.  

“If I’m totally honest with you, I prayed for rain the night before,” reflects Boxall, who will this week be part of the commentary team for the global coverage of the event.  

“You are five ahead and all you can do is mess it up.” 

Held in May – like this week’s staging – the event had been impacted with rain but there was no threat of inclement weather reducing the tournament when he woke up on the morning of the final round. 

“I pulled my curtains open to bright sunshine which was a bit disappointing,” he recounts with a wry laugh.

Despite the inevitable doubts, confidence had been growing in his game in the lead-up to the tournament.

He had started the 1990 campaign with a runner-up finish in Portugal and promptly followed it up with back-to-back top 15s in Spain a month later.

After opening the week with a 65 and 64 to jump out into a seven-shot lead at the midway stage in Monza, Boxall carded a third-round 70 to retain a commanding advantage and knew this was a chance he had to seize.

“After the third round, I was thinking to myself it is about time you win one now the way things have been going,” he said.

“The night before [the final round] I was a bit edgy, but I went out with David Feherty and had a couple of coffees and drinks, sitting in the old part of Monza by a church.

“I was going to go off to bed and he said, ‘oi, where are you going?’. I said that I was going to bed and he said, ‘you won’t sleep’ so we went to a café in town.”

But there were no nerves on show when Boxall began the final round alongside Eduardo Romero and José Maria Olazábal.

Try as he might to increase his lead further, Olazábal – then a seven-time winner on Tour – refused to make the task easy.

“I remember I birdied the first three holes and José Maria Olazábal followed me birdie-birdie-birdie,” he said.

“I thought, ‘Christ, why don’t you just let me win one will you. You have got loads of these things.

“Anyway, I kept my five-shot lead for most of the way round and I parred the last. But you still have negative thoughts going into the head, it is never over until it is over.

“A couple of good things happened for me: I holed an eight iron during that week on the 11th hole. You need all kind of things to go right for you if you are going to win but I felt comfy.”

One side note to his victory that Boxall remembers fondly is how he came to sport a logo-free yellow shirt for the final round after he had run out of his sponsored polo shirts.

“I remember my sponsor flew out for the event,” he said. “His head sort of stuck up above everyone else’s in the crowd.

“He was pointing to me on the second or third hole, saying ‘where is your shirt with our logo on it?!’”

Despite friends and family not being there for his moment of victory, it was not long before Boxall was celebrating.

“My mother and father had arranged a party at their house which I had no idea about,” he said.

“So, my sponsor drove me and I said, ‘why are you not taking me back to my house?’. He just said we’ll go and have a chat with your Dad.

“We got there and there were about 100 people there. That was quite a good evening!”

Boxall emulated some of European golf’s greatest players by winning the event, with Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle and Sam Torrance among those to have lifted the trophy – a feat Boxall continues to look back on with great pride.

“It is always nice to win something that has got some history to it,” he said. “There are a lot of good names who won that event.

“Even the great Seve Ballesteros never won that tournament. And he won most of them!”

Not even his first name in the event programme being misspelled as Roger to this day leaves a bad memory.

“I don’t bother asking for that to change because all the other commentary lads have so much fun out of that,” he added.

A decade later, by then a much-loved broadcaster for Sky Sports with a programme called Golf Extra, Boxall would return to Italy’s national Open to make his final appearance on Tour.

“I went back there because of Sky, really. They asked if I would go and play it and asked if I would do documentary too,” he said.

“I made the cut and finished tied for 39th, which wasn’t so bad I suppose.”

While the event is no longer held at Monza – with the tournament set for its third consecutive edition at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club – Boxall will forever be able to say he completed the Italian Job.

“It was a great week - it’s just a shame there wasn’t the prize money there is now!”

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