Andrea Pavan who grew up at Olgiata Golf Club – this year’s Italian Open host venue – gives an insight into his childhood in this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
I have been looking forward to this week for a long, long time. Two years ago was when I first heard that the Italian Open was potentially coming back to Olgiata, and since then I’ve been hoping that it would happen – now it finally has. I’m really excited as this golf course is very special to me. I grew up very close to here, my parents still live close by, and I still know a lot of the staff and members. One of this week’s referees, Gaia Zonchello, even babysat for me when I was younger as she grew up at Olgiata too, so I have so many connections to this place. I’m staying with my mum and dad this week, and I have my two little kids here as well. My little boy was out with me today, he’s only three so he’s more into tractors and cars, but he does like to come out and swing the club too. It’s where I started playing golf, where I had my earliest golfing memory of my dad teaching me. It’s great to see him mirroring what I did – just hitting shots with his dad like I did when I was a child.
So many of my golfing achievements happened here. I played here from when I was very small until I was 11 – when I moved to another club in Rome to be with my friends – but here was where I played my first 18 holes, made my first par, where I broke 100 for the first time. I’m pretty sure I was ten when I broke 100 for the first time. I had just got my handicap and I remember playing the most amazing round to do that. It’s also where I had my first hole-in-one. I was 11. It was at the par three seventh hole, and I remember at the time I hit a three wood. Now that would only be an eight iron for me! We didn’t know it was in until we walked to the green and I didn’t expect it at all. It was really exciting and one of those feelings you never forget. I still have that first hole-in-one ball now – it’s safely stored away at my home in Texas! Even after I joined another golf course, Olgiata was still an important place for me, as it was where I won the Italian Amateur Championship in 2007. Over the years it’s played a big part in my development.
When the last Italian Open was here in 2002, I was 13 and I came as a fan. It poured with rain that year, and I remember just being in the clubhouse and looking at all of the players who were waiting there while there was a delay. I remember really looking up to Justin Rose and a lot of the Italian players – especially Costantino Rocca at the time – so I watched them as much as I could. I was quite shy back then, so I wasn’t trying to get too close to them and ask for a ball or a glove! I didn’t know back then I wanted to be a professional golfer, though, so I can’t say that I was a golf nerd and I knew everything about the game. That experience was still brilliant, but I do look back now and think that if I had my time again I’d have made more of an effort to learn more from those guys.
There has been a lot of change here since I was a kid, though. They started to renovate in 2011 and they’ve lengthened the course, they’ve changed some holes and they’ve moved a couple of greens too. The whole course is still similar, but they’ve still done a lot to make it more of a championship course and it is a whole lot harder. There are some long par fours which they’ve changed from par fives, the fairways are winding and it it’s now a great set up for a tournament like the Italian Open. When I came back to Rome after college I would play here once or twice a week – so I still know it well. I had an apartment nearby and I would come back and practice here a lot. We moved to the United States in 2015 so I don’t come here as much as I did, but whenever I’m home to see my parents I always come back to Olgiata to play. I also played a Challenge Tour event here in 2015 too. I’ve played it now in so many different conditions too, so I’m comfortable saying that I have home advantage this week!
I’ve played in a lot of Italian Opens, but this is truly my home Open so it would be the best moment of my career so far if I could win here. Each win is different and great in its own way of course, but to win at a place where you grew up would be extra special. It’s very difficult to win, especially a Rolex Series event, so I’m hoping I can keep playing well and give myself a good chance. A lot of people will be cheering for me this week, and hopefully I can go out there and make them proud.