With all the commotion on the back-nine at Augusta on Sunday it was easy to forget the achievement of Matteo Manassero, the leading amateur. The 16 year old is the youngest ever to make the cut, he finished T-36th. Manassero reminds me a little of a young Garcia, although it would appear the Italian at this age is a better player. I first met Matteo at the 2009 Open Championship, where he played with Tom Watson in the opening two rounds and ended-up finishing T-13 just four shots outside the playoff, he was a very pleasant young chap. We met again in Copenhagen in October when he was part of the successful golf delegation at the Olympic Congress. At the time he was thinking about finishing his secondary education but skipping college in favour of the pro-ranks, now it appears the call to the golf profession has come a little earlier. Matteo will turn pro in time for the BMW Italian Open, May 6-9, and you will see it on Golf Channel. It would not surprise me if, in a couple of weeks, young Matteo follows in the footsteps of fellow countryman Francesco Molinari and brings the Italians another home open trophy.
Lee Westwood’s first memory of the Masters was watching Jack Nicklaus in 1986, however, Lee didn’t get the chance to see the historic run on the back-nine because his Mum and Dad made him go to bed after Nicklaus made his putt at the 10th. Westwood was 13 at the time and had to get up for school in the morning. The broadcast in 1986 was shown live on BBC, after the network won back the rights from British broadcaster Channel 4. For any British golfer, young or old, sitting down to watch the Masters on BBC signaled the true beginning to the golfing year. The pictures on screen seemed magical, a world away from the dreary evening weather outside the living-room window as the country battled to break through the barrier between winter and springtime. In the minds of golfers, including myself, the barrier was broken down once the BBC’s golf theme music would play and then host Steve Ryder, stationed in a make-shift outdoor studio tucked around behind the clubhouse with beautiful foliage as the backdrop, would welcome the British public to the first major of the year, known back home as the U.S. Masters. Peter Alliss, Alex Hay and Dave Marr would commentate, a contrasting broadcast triumvirate calling the action just perfectly.
Those memories are ingrained in all young golfers who dreamed of one day walking those fairways and having a chance to become a Masters champion. Westwood, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and the rest of the Anglo invasion at the tournament this year will have at some stage last week, thought back to those evenings sitting in front of the television back home and pinching themselves at the reality before them.
There are rumblings in the British press that Sunday was the final BBC broadcast at the Masters. The contract with Augusta National expires this year and Sky Television could take over in 2011.
The Ladies European Tour returns to action next week with a very unique tournament which brings together an eclectic mix of players. The Comunitat Valenciana European Nations Cup features pairs of players from 18 different countries. Among those making the trip to Spain are Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon. The American duo first played the event last season, and Beth told me recently they had such an enjoyable time, there was no doubt they were going to return to La Sella Golf Resort to try and win victory for the United States this year. Holland is the defending champion, in a field which includes Karrie Webb, representing Australia alongside Karen Lunn, and Karen Stupples flying the English flag with Melissa Reid. Major winners Catriona Matthew and Anna Nordqvist will also feature.
Whilst the English were enjoying success at the Masters last week, two Englishman were also battling for a European Tour title on the island of Madeira. James Morrison edged Oliver Fisher by a shot to capture his first Tour title at the Madeira Islands Open BPI-Portugal. Morrison may soon be walking the hallowed turf of Augusta himself, the 25 year old from Chertsey, England came through the college ranks in the States, attending the University of South Carolina and playing three seasons on the Challenge Tour before progessing to the main tour this season and then winning his maiden title last week.