Spain, Monday 10th April 2017: Everything in life goes in waves. Like tides, like the wind, things happen and then stop happening.
Before 1975 golf in Spain was an absolute minority sport, an activity reserved only for a few well-off families, perhaps sparking some mention in the society pages of a gossip magazine but never a headline in the sports section of a national newspaper.
Everything changed with the emergence of Seve Ballesteros, the much-missed genius of Pedreña, the pioneer who showed the Spaniards what a ‘green’ was, and a ‘fairway’ – and above all, a ‘rough’ – and who allowed Spain to enjoy twenty glorious years during which were collected three Claret Jugs and four Green Jackets, thanks also to the courage of Jose Maria Olazabal. The emergence of Seve, rather than changing Spanish golf, created it.
By the time, in 1999, ‘Txema’ (Jose Maria Olazabal) got his second Masters title, the Spanish golf panorama was changed beyond recognition. The country had been filled with golf courses – and many more would be created – the Spaniards were playing golf, they knew about golf and they had even hosted a Ryder Cup. But that was the end of the ‘wave’.
During the last eighteen years golf in Spain has grown, it has strengthened, become a popular destination for golfers in Europe, and generated a handful of excellent professionals who succeed in numerous male and female circuits. But it has been stuck. It did not finish consolidating itself.
To top it all off, the economic crisis that unleashed in 2008 put a cap on the progression of federated players (once we were numbered at 340,000, now it is around 260,000), and in a sense golf returned to having that image of being the ‘sport of the rich’ that has always crippled it to the south of the Pyrenees. Eighteen very complex years on, a negative gust that at some point would have to end.
Last night, I think, I wish, that bad run was ended. Last night, a guy who has teed off without a break on every Thursday of a Major week for the last eighteen years, said, “Enough.” Last night, a player with whom I share a year of birth and love for the game, fought until the end and achieved something that no Spaniard had achieved in almost two decades: being the best of the best on the, for many people, best golf course of the world. Last night, Sergio García won The Masters and in doing so surely started a new wave in Spanish golf. Now we must strive to enjoy it and work for it.
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