This week, Spanish rising star Adri Arnaus pens our Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, recalling the time he cried on Sergio Garcia’s backswing as a kid and how he will be raising money this week for children affected by cancer.
Since turning professional in 2017, Arnaus has won the Alps Tour Order of Merit, finished second on the European Challenge Tour Rankings after winning the 2018 season-ending Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final, and already has three runner-up finishes on the European Tour in his rookie year.
My father was a golf course manager, so growing up it was easy to get a club in my hands; I owe it all to my family. I don’t think there was a specific point where I thought ‘I could definitely do this for a living’ but when I was 12 years old, I decided that I at least wanted to try. I had one good tournament at a Spanish Under-12s event. I really enjoyed being part of it and I put everything into it, and that was really the beginning of what led me to where I am now.
I went to college at Texas A&M. They found me when I was younger and invited me to see their facilities. I went to check it out and I really liked it. They were great facilities and they had great coaches. Going there convinced me that I needed to improve my English, which wasn’t great at the time, and I felt it was important to get a college degree and also develop as a golfer.
I soon realised that the golfing world doesn’t end in Spain. It’s much wider and there’s a lot of great people out there who are incredible golfers. I knew I needed to work hard and be disciplined. That’s what I tried to do while I was there – to improve and just see how far I could go. I shared the same team-room with Cameron Champ for a couple of years and we became good friends, and I’m really happy that he is sharing that early success as well.
The time I spent on the Alps Tour in 2017 was incredible. I had just finished college in the US and wanted to give it a go on the Alps Tour with some invitations from the federation, and it turned out great. I ended up winning the Alps Tour season rankings as an amateur after playing just a handful of events including winning their Grand Final. That gave me confidence to turn pro with the promotion onto the Challenge Tour.
The Challenge Tour was an amazing learning curve for me and was huge in preparing me for the European Tour. It’s a world-class tour. You travel a lot, there are a lot of quality players and great competitiveness. At the same time, you’re making friends and learning how everything works, all while trying to play your best golf and just managing all of those elements together.
The Grand Final at Ras Al Khaimah in 2018 was amazing. Having played so well and so consistently all year, I felt as though I was just missing one thing: a win. I had my European Tour card secured, so I wanted to give it my best. Everything seemed to click, I liked the course, I was with the right people at the right time. It felt amazing to win and hopefully I can relive that on a bigger stage. My Dad had a bet with me: whenever I won on Challenge Tour, he’d get me a dog. Khaimah is almost one year old now, I can’t believe it has nearly been a year since the Grand Final. I’m such a dog lover and it’s great to see her grow up.
There are so many things you just can’t prepare for when you go from the Challenge Tour to the European Tour. Here it feels like two or three steps up – the course preparation, the big crowds, the quality of players. The Challenge Tour does prepare you very well, and you can see that with the former Challenge Tour players who have won on the European Tour recently. At the same time, you do have to pick up that crucial European Tour experience and learn on the job. Hopefully in my second year, I’ll feel as though I’m better prepared.
Playing the Majors this year was fantastic - some of the best weeks of my life, especially at the U.S. Open. Pebble Beach is my favourite place ever. I used to play it as a kid on the PlayStation. To be there, playing a U.S. Open, was just amazing and I played pretty well too. It was a great experience. The Open at Portrush was another highlight of my season too. The conditions were tough - I still need to improve at links golf - but that’s another step in getting better.
Overall, it’s been a great first year but I’m always trying to look for little things I can improve. I’m taking a lot of knowledge from my experiences and talking to other people out on tour, which has been great. Breaking into the top 100 on the Official World Golf Ranking was one of my goals for the season. I’ve just dropped outside, but I want to get back in there before the end of the season.
Finishing runner-up three times in my rookie season is already a great achievement in my eyes. Obviously, at the moment, it stings a little bit not to have won any of them but looking back I’m really happy with how those weeks went. Any time you have a chance to win on a Sunday you should be proud. There should be a few more chances for me in the future, so I look forward to those.
The Open de España is such a special tournament. You can breathe in the atmosphere. Everyone is cheering the Spanish players on and hoping they do well, and there are a lot of people I know from growing up who I’m bumping into here. It’s one where every Spaniard wants to win the trophy, so it makes it that bit more special. Last year, it was my only European Tour start - I was going through some swing changes and that wasn’t quite in the right place. Now it feels more like it should be, hopefully I can make it happen this time around and have a good week.
I have some funny history with this tournament. My parents took me to the tournament when I was younger – probably around five years old at the time. My mum told me that when they were watching Sergio, I started crying on his back swing – and he was a little upset! It’s funny looking back, I don’t remember it happening but I do feel a little sorry for him now. I played with him at Valderrama and my mum reminded me of it at the time.
I’ll be a little nervous this week, for sure. You always get butterflies on the first tee, and especially now playing with Jon and Rafa in front of all those people watching. But I do see that as normal now, and hopefully I can go out there and enjoy the whole thing for what it is. I see it as a privilege.
I’ve known Jon [Rahm] since we were kids. We played a lot of tournaments together and we used to room together when we played European events. We’ve been friends for a long time. I sometimes ask him for advice, as he’s already done so much in the game. He knows what he’s doing and we share the same mental coach, so it’s easy for me to reach out and ask. But at the same time I want to be where he is now - we’ve always been competitive with each other and I think it’s really healthy.
With this being the course where Seve won his last European Tour event, it makes it extra special. You can tell this course has the kind of shots which he would have enjoyed. I feel like the spectators would have been thrilled to watch him. I was two years old when that happened, so didn’t experience it. But it’s definitely special to be at this course.
Because this is an important week, I want to give something back. I’ve partnered with a local charity and will donate some money for every birdie and eagle I make this week. I’ll be raising money for the Hospital Infantil Universitario Niño Jesús, which is a hospital that treats children who have cancer. Hopefully I have a great week and raise a lot of money for them.