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Three Decades Creating a Costa del Golf Legend at Royal Valderrama Club

Author:   |  October 19th, 2018

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Defending champion Sergio García

Defending champion Sergio García is aiming for a third Andalucía Valderrama Masters title (Photo: ©RC Valderrama)

It was October 1988, and the European Tour’s top stars were about to write a new chapter in golfing history. They were gathering at a course making its major competitive debut in a newly-minted tournament that would decide that year’s order of merit winner…

The inaugural Volvo Masters at Valderrama was a limited-field event established to take advantage of a lucrative season-long bonus fund bankrolled by Volvo, to bring together the year’s leading players for an exclusive grand finale, and to showcase the daunting challenge of a course revamped by one of the greatest designers in the history of the sport, Robert Trent Jones.

Nick Faldo eventually won that first edition with a four-under total of 284, two fewer than runner-up Severiano Ballesteros, with Sandy Lyle third and Ian Woosnam fourth.

Royal Valderrama went on to host 16 Volvo Masters (won by other Tour luminaries including Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie and Justin Rose), two World Golf Championships (Tiger Woods beat Miguel Ángel Jiménez in a play-off for the 1999 title) and the 1997 Ryder Cup – the only edition held on the continent until this year’s event in Paris.

After a one-year absence from the European Tour, the club returned to the limelight with the 2010 and 2011 Andalucía Masters (Graeme McDowell and Sergio García, respectively, were victorious), then took another sabbatical until the 2016 Spanish Open won by social media sensation Andrew “Beef” Johnston.

Thomas Bjørn with the Ryder Cup trophy (Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Last year, the Junta de Andalucía (regional government) came back on board and signed a five-year contract with the European Tour and Royal Valderrama to host the Andalucía Valderrama Masters in conjunction with the Sergio García Foundation. Appropriately, García won his own tournament, as then rookie Spanish star Jon Rahm made his professional debut on home soil, although he ultimately disappointed the local fans – and himself – by not making the cut.

In 1988, the total prize fund for the Volvo Masters was €492,366 – and it had swelled to over €4 million when Denmark’s Søren Kjeldsen won the final edition in 2008. Ten years later, the prizemoney for the 2018 Andalucía Valderrama Masters (which began on Thursday and continues until Sunday) is “only” €2 million – around mid-range for the European Tour – so the field lacks many of the major European stars.

Nevertheless, it has been officially declared a national “event of exceptional public interest” (the first time a Spanish golf tournament has received that honour), and García is joined by this year’s winning Ryder Cup captain, Thomas Bjørn (accompanied by the actual Cup), and the man expected to be his successor in 2020, Padraig Harrington (winner of the 2001 Volvo Masters during the five years it temporarily moved away from its “spiritual home” to Jerez), as well as several other Tour champions including José María Olazábal and 1997 Volvo Masters victor Lee Westwood.

This is the last event in Europe before the 2018 Tour concludes with the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, and Race to Dubai final series deciders in Turkey, South Africa and Dubai.

Back on the Costa del Sol, local and visiting golfing fans will be able to enjoy more top action from 22 to 25 November when the Spanish Women’s Open (officially, the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España) is held at La Quinta Golf & Country Club in Marbella – the final event of this year’s Ladies European Tour.

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