He belongs to a family dynasty of golf professionals, and in his early years he was considered to be one of Spanish golf’s most promising young stars.
As an amateur, at the time, he had the lowest handicap on the continent. He competed on the Challenge Tour and European Tour but – he says – he possibly made the move too soon. Now, at 35, he has begun a new era after taking over as manager at Almerimar Golf Club.
After having been a tour and teaching pro, how is this new experience shaping up?
It’s very different to what I did before, but very enjoyable, because each day there is something distinctive to do, new problems to face and resolve… It’s different but also really nice.
You come from a family of golfers. Your father was a pioneer of golf teaching in Almería, and your uncles and cousins are involved in the sport…
There are 11 golf professionals in my family. My father began working in El Prat, in Barcelona, and in the mid-seventies he came to Almería. He introduced two of my mother’s cousins to the game, who are now at other clubs in the area, my two uncles, my cousins…
Your father’s influence, and that of the rest of your family, must have been decisive in introducing you into the world of golf: you were pre-destined…
Yes, because almost my whole family is dedicated to this. We also have golf shops, etc. As a child I saw it as a game, just some other children’s fun, until I won a Spanish championship at 16 and I realised the sport could be something more serious for me. As a result of that win, they sent me to compete in European and world competitions, and I began looking at golf from a more professional and serious point of view, something that could determine and guide my future. Before then I hadn’t even considered this.
As an amateur, you had one of the lowest handicaps in Spain, almost as low as Sergio García’s…
At 17, I had the lowest handicap in Europe, +4.2. I believe Sergio at one stage had +5-something – but we didn’t coincide. When I had that handicap he was already a professional. I’m a couple of years younger.
How old were you when you turned pro?
Eighteen – perhaps too young. I began competing on a national circuit, the Peugeot Tour, and that was when I had to make a key decision: study or play golf as a professional. Competing on that tour were such top players as Pepín (José) Rivero, Juan Quirós, etc., and I decided to harden my game as a player on that tour and see what happened.
So what happened?
Well, I stayed with golf. One of those who most encouraged me to do so was Ricardo Jiménez, currently the pro at Finca Cortesín and a great friend. He became my coach, the best I have had, and he prompted me to turn professional. He’s the person who has had the most confidence in me during my life, and who has helped me most as a golfer. He was the one who encouraged me to join and enjoy the European Tour, who extracted the most out of me and who knew how to make me play at my best. I played one year on the Challenge Tour and then moved on to the main tour, perhaps too quickly. It’s not good to do these things prematurely, and that was the negative aspect of that decision. I arrived with little experience and I took a tumble.
In any event, you retain good memories of that time…
Certainly. I feel privileged to have been able to enjoy top competition, to have played at the best courses and to have shared tournaments and leisure moments with so many good players.
My best friend, with whom I shared a room on countless travels, was Rafa Cabrera-Bello. From 2006 to 2008, we did 80 per cent of our trips together. I also had a good relationship with Álvaro Quirós, Manuel Quirós, Carlos Rodiles, Gabriel Cañizares, Alex Noren and Martin Kaymer.
What was the strongest part of your game?
People always thought it was the driver, because I hit very long. I was quite spectacular with that club, but the problem is you also end up getting into a mess every now and again when you hit that kind of tee shot. I believe my strength was my attitude. It’s true that I haven’t been a winner: whenever I’ve been on the verge of winning I’ve become tentative and that hasn’t helped me to win. However, I have been a real fighter and very positive, with a great ability to forget the bad shots and overcome the bad moments. I haven’t been able to win but I consider myself to be a good competitor.
You are now beginning a new era in your golfing life as the manager of a prestigious club. Tell us about this course…
The first 18 holes were inaugurated in 1975 and designed by Gary Player. We now have 27. It has always been a course with a very good reputation, highly respected at a national level.
It’s a typical Player layout, with numerous palm trees, doglegs and lakes… It has two very spectacular par-threes with island greens. I think it’s a super-attractive and enjoyable course. The best thing about it, I believe, is how versatile it is for any kind of player, of whatever ability. You can take on the course however you want to, playing aggressively or conservatively, and you’re always going to enjoy it.
The expansion of the course at the turn of the century added some elements of playing difficulty and made it more varied. They built more lakes and lengthened it a bit, which made it more challenging. In general, it’s a flat course, with very wide fairways, but you’re never bored because each hole is different.
I would like to stress that Almerimar Golf is one of the few resorts in Andalucía that has its own hotels, one set within the course and another nearby. We are also next to the sea and a major marina.