Monday morning at this year’s ACCIONA Open de España presented by Madrid provided an intriguing practice match that brought together the present and future of Spanish golf. Its stars were Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño, Borja Virto, and the two amateur players in this week’s field: Luis Masaveu and Ángel Ayora.
The match up was no coincidence, Fernández-Castaño himself was keen to share a few holes with Spain’s two most promising youngsters, whom he will accompany next week at the World Amateur Team Championships as Spain’s team coach.
“I actually play with Masaveu more often, but I’d never seen Ángel play in person and I was very impressed. He hits it a tremendous distance, has a great game, and the only advice I gave them was to pace themselves. Even though they’re young, this week is very tense, and the important one for them is next week, where Spain has a great chance to be World Champions for the first time”, said Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño after the match.
The nine holes provided many talking points, plenty of banter and, above all, an opportunity for the players to fine-tune their games in preparation for this great event, at which they all arrive with varying expectations and aspirations. Bar Masaveu, they were all accompanied by their coaches, and the front nine of Club de Campo Villa de Madrid’s Black Course gave them a chance to see that the rough is more dangerous than ever, the greens are quick for a Monday, and that they will have to play very well if they hope to see their names near the top of the leaderboard.
The two amateurs have done plenty to earn their place in the field, particularly becoming European champions last summer, but of course their expectations are much lower than those of the professionals competing in the event. However, in 2022 Masaveu proved that the Spanish amateurs are ready to compete with the DP World Tour players, although his main goal is to enjoy himself. “It’s true that I’m neither playing great, nor particularly badly, but you never know what might happen. In the end, competition brings out the best in us, and if you add to that my excitement, hopefully I can play well. Playing with Gonzalo is always an honour, because of everything he’s done for Spanish golf, and because of the advice he always gives us”.
As for Ángel Ayora, who is feeling confident after winning the first stage of DP World Tour 2024 Qualifying School. He has only played this week’s course a couple of times, but it is very much to his liking. “I played the club’s individual tournament the two years that I was at Blume, and I really loved it because it’s narrow and it demands a lot of accuracy, which I think is my strong point. I’m playing well coming in, after winning the last event I played in, and playing in a tournament where you can only win and you have nothing to lose is fantastic. Playing with Gonzalo was an honour, having someone with so much history by your side is incredible and you can also tell that he’s a local player because he really helped us understand the course better”.
The fourth member of the group, Borja Virto, arrives in the Spanish capital with low expectations after a difficult season in which he has played both DP World Tour and Challenge Tour events. However, he knows that he needs good results at these two events in Spain. “I’m familiar with the course because I played the event in 2019 and I’ve also visited here several times, but it’s true that the rough is difficult and the greens will be very firm for the tournament. Given my circumstances, needing two good tournaments to save my card, I thought I’d try and play with no expectations, enjoy the week, have the family with me, and play some good golf,” concluded the player from Navarre.