“THE MAIN PROBLEM FOR PROFESSIONALS IS THAT THERE ISN’T ANY MONEY FOR SPONSORSHIP, NEITHER FOR THEM NOR FOR TOURNAMENTS”
Málaga-born, 44 years old, father-of-two, handicap 4, economist with an office in Marbella, he began his involvement with the Royal Andalucian Golf Federation (RAGF) in 2006 after passing exams to become a referee. Pablo Mansilla’s interest in refereeing arose after he began arguing quite a lot, albeit in a fun way, about the rules of golf in internet forums.
What is the role of the president of the professionals’ technical committee and sports manager of the RAGF?
As president of the committee, the aim is for professionals to have their space within the federation, basically in three aspects: one is to help new professionals in competition; another is the Andalucian Professionals Championship, which these days is not played as such but rather as the Alps de Andalucía; and a third aspect, which we want to put into place together with the Professional Golfers’ Association, is training for professionals.
As for the sports manager, this is an idea that arose from the Spanish federation. Formerly, the federation’s sports manager was someone who was contracted and who ran tournaments coming under the auspices of the committee. At a certain point, the federation decided that – similar to what happened on the European Tour and Challenge Tour – tournaments should be run by people with a refereeing profile, people with knowledge of the rules, computer experts and those involved with the management and organisation of tournaments. And that’s why the idea has been transferred to Andalucía.
- What are the main problems affecting professionals in Andalucía?
- The main one is that there isn’t any money for sponsorship, neither for them nor for tournaments. The European Tour itself has decreased from seven tournaments we held in Spain to one. But that’s a problem for competition professionals, who are in a minority. The majority of professionals are dedicated to teaching golf to other players and they make a very important contribution to the development of golf in Spain because, if they didn’t exist and if they didn’t encourage golf to be played, there would be much fewer golfers.
However, it is true that those who have a greater repercussion in the public’s eye are competition professionals. The trouble is you have to be very good to be able to triumph, because basically a Spanish pros circuit doesn’t exist any more – it’s disappeared. There is no longer the support provided previously by such companies as Peugeot, Oki and Loewe, and now there is just a European professional circuit at three levels: European, Challenge and Alps.
We are integrated into the Alps Tour, but there are very few tournaments in Spain, just three. The problem is that the financial amount is scarce and you can’t live on that, although it does help you gain experience. But for that you need money. To be a member of the Alps Tour you have to play at least six tournaments a year, and they are held in four different countries. As there are three tournaments in Spain, you also have to play in France or Italy, and that costs a lot of money. The prize is a place on the Challenge Tour if you finish among the top five at the end of the season.
How many professionals are there currently in Andalucía?
- There could be as many as 280 golf professionals. Players who truly want to dedicate themselves to competition are a lot fewer, between 25 and 30.
- During your years as a referee, have you had any quarrel with a player because of the rules, or have good manners always prevailed?
- Actually, everyone has behaved properly. I’ve never had any confrontation in my work as a referee.
- What is the common rule most unknown by the average golfer?
- I think the problem with Spanish golfers is that nearly everyone makes a mistake in basic concepts. In the rules of golf there is a key principle that says you have to play the ball as it rests, as you find it. This for a modern golfer, and especially a Spanish one, is understood less and less. Playing the ball at rest – which means don’t touch the ball from when you tee off to when you finish playing the hole – doesn’t seem to catch on. It’s true that there are many exceptions, as you can drop a ball if you have relief, because the course is in bad condition and placing the ball is allowed, but that has meant that players are failing to understand the key principle that you don’t touch the ball.
And, when you touch the ball because you have relief, you don’t touch it with appropriate respect and you try to gain some benefit from it, when the rules – yes – they are there to benefit you, but not that much.
- You also have federation responsibilities for pitch and putt courses. In Andalucía, unlike in other regions, especially Cataluña, pitch and putts are not all that widespread. What future do you predict for this kind of course?
- I believe pitch and putts are our future, because one of the problems with golf is the time it takes to play an 18-hole course and the amenities required. A pitch and putt layout requires much smaller amenities and can be played in much less time, and at the same time it is a great deal of fun because it’s much easier to make birdies than on a long course.