In this week’s player blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Renato Paratore reflects on kick-starting his professional career at PGA Catalunya, learning from other pros, and why patience has been key to getting his game back on track.
It’s great to be back in PGA Catalunya this week, because it’s where I really started my professional career eight years ago. I have a lot of good memories here, and I’ve been remembering a lot of shots I played – especially during Q-School – during my practice rounds this week. That week I was 17 years old so I hadn’t expected to be leading after five rounds, and then I ended up getting my card, so coming back just evokes a lot of good memories.
I think something I did really well that week was around the greens, because short game can be important here. I remember one chip in for birdie behind the 10th being quite a big moment, and I think it will be the same this week because a lot of the greens are small and quite slopey. Driving the ball well and finding a good position in the fairway will also be quite important I think, and I’m excited for the challenge.
The first time I played here was actually a few months before that week, during the 2014 Open de España, and it was one of the tournaments that helped me decide to turn professional. I made the cut, and finished as the low amateur, and it was a week that helped prove to me that my game was good enough. It’s a very special one to me, because it was one of my first events that I played on the now DP World Tour.
In general, 2014 was a really good year for me. I played in the Junior Ryder Cup, and I ended up winning the first Youth Olympics with a good field of amateurs, and although I was really young I felt good about turning professional. I had had a really good year as an amateur, and I told my coach I felt I was ready when it came to Q-School. It worked out well for me, and gave me a lot of confidence for the start of my rookie season.
Obviously turning professional is a completely different world to being an amateur, and I feel quite lucky that I was able to learn from so many people during my first few years. The courses are a lot different, and all of a sudden you go from being one of the best amateurs to not being one of the best professionals, so while you might have the game to compete you do need to be quite patient, and take in everything you can.
I think that’s probably the biggest advice I would give too, because when you start as young as I did, it’s a long career. When you start that young you shouldn’t think too much about the results at the beginning but focus on the experience week by week playing the best in the world and watching them and the things they do. I remember playing in Dubai in my third tournament on Tour with Emiliano Grillo and Alex Noren, and speaking to Alex again in a practice round at the WGC in Akron and learning so much about how to play my way around a golf course. I also used to play a lot of practice rounds with Matteo Manassero or Edoardo Molinari early in my career, and the help they gave me was invaluable. Even now, I still feel like you can always learn a lot by watching other pros on the course working or practicing.
That idea of patience is such an important thing to learn in this game, and I’ve had to have quite a bit of that over the last year. Things been a little bit up and down for me since Covid-19, but it’s really nice to feel motivation for this week at the Catalunya Championship and next week at the Betfred British Masters: A place where I’ve had success, and a tournament I’ve won in the past.
To win that first official event out of lockdown at the British Masters was quite crazy. On one side of things I didn’t get to play golf for two months, but on the other side I had rested a lot so I was full of energy and drive to perform well after three months away. I’m someone who likes to stay active and stay in a competitive mind-set, so I think what probably helped too was that as soon as golf opened up in Dubai, Guido Migliozzi and I played a lot of competitive matches to help us get ready for competition. I think when you’ve not been able to play at all for a couple of months you need that competitive training, so it was really helpful having him there, and it made me feel really focused from the very beginning of the tournament.
I think Guido and I are good at keeping each other competitive living out in Dubai. We are really good friends, and we decided to move together to the same building Dubai three years ago, so we spend a lot of time together practicing. We’ve also known each other since we were 13 years old as amateurs, so it’s quite amazing sometimes to think about how far we’ve come.
We actually talk a lot about how we played the Olympics together last year. When we were younger we would say things like ‘let’s see if we can play on Tour, or in Ryder Cups together’, so to be able to experience something like the Olympics last year – 10 years later – was very cool for us. That atmosphere was just so different, and you really feel the importance of it when you’re there. We have so many tournaments in a year but for so many athletes that is the biggest occasion of their life in one tournament, and you feel it. It was a very special thing to be a part of, and especially together.
Obviously for me, representing Italy is amazing, but I’ve always dreamt of the Ryder Cup. I’ve had the experience of Junior Ryder Cups, but to be there in Rome would be amazing, especially as it’s my home city. Right now I’m far away from that so it’s not something I’m really thinking of I’m focusing instead on getting a solid game and putting up better results, but I would love to be there if I could start to play really well.
Things had been going well for me in 2020 and I was confident I was going in the right direction after I won and played well in the U.S Open and even in the final tournament in Dubai, but then I struggled at the start of 2021. I had tried to change something in my swing and ball position to gain a bit more consistency, but I lost a little bit of natural feeling in the process. I’ve always been a feel player, so that was quite hard for me, and I needed to work to get that back. I’ve also gained quite a lot of speed in the last year, so it’s really been about going back to basics of set up and the natural feeling in my backswing I’ve had since I was young. As I said before, patience is key in this game, and I’ve had to be patient as I get my game back to where I want it. I’m not very technical, but I’m playing better now so I’m happy that with the work that I’ve put in because everything is going in the right direction.
I think part of that patient process has also been about drawing on past experiences. I have won out here on Tour twice, and I’ve had good results in important tournaments, so I know I can produce those things on the course again. I want to do that again, because the feeling of winning is so beautiful, and it has definitely helped me in harder moments to think about those things sometimes.
I still feel very focused, and right now I’m really just trying to be as prepared as I can for every week, because I know that’s what is going to help me make my way up leaderboards and win again. It’s tough out here, so it’s very much about the process for me right now. Longer term, I want to be inside the world’s top 50, but it’s not easy, and that’s why I initially started searching for more consistency in my game. I’ve had wins or good results but never a really good season all the way through, so I’m now just trying to be as prepared as possible to help elevate my game, starting with this week at PGA Catalunya.