The Andalucía Valderrama Masters is back, after a break of five years, with the European Golf Tour tournament staged at the famous Valderrama course, voted the best in continental Europe, and where the Europeans won the 1997 Ryder Cup.
This year's edition is being hosted by the current champion, and this year's Masters winner, Sergio García, with support from the Andalusian regional government. We spoke to Francisco Javier Fernández, Minister of Tourism and Sports of the Regional Government of Andalusia, to find out what the tournament means, and how important golf is to Andalusia...
-Here we are at one of the best golf course on the planet, for the return of the Andalucía Valderrama Masters...
-It's a luxury to have the best course in the world, to have the last two winners of the Augusta Masters, Danny Willett and Sergio García, to have a player of the quality of Jon Rahm, although he's not had much luck. That shows that the quality of the course is equal to that of the golfers here. It was important to bring the Valderrama Masters back. It's an example of what Andalusia is capable of organising. And not just at this course, but at any of the 102 courses that there are in Andalusia. We wanted to accompany it with a marketing push, with more than 60 Andalusian golf courses and agencies involved and another 50 that have come from outside the region, from Spain and Europe. It's an opportunity to generate business.
-Is golf tourism important for Andalusia?
-It's important to realise that in 2016 more than half a million people (530,000) came with golf as their top priority. This type of visitor tends to spend more money, the average is 117 euros a day, while the standard is 65 euros, and they also spend longer here on average, over 10.2 days, two more days than the average tourist. So we need to look after this sector.
-Do you think that the line-up, with García, Rahm, Harrington, Kaymer, is good for the Andalusia brand?
Of course it is. Of course. And hopefully Alvaro Quirós will have a good tournament, as an Andalusian. Top level sport is great, particularly bearing in mind that elite golf is increasingly opening up to Asia. Also there's a great Spanish participation, with 17 golfers.
-Sergio García has shown his commitment to the tournament through his Foundation.
-I have to thank Sergio because it is a commitment to golf and the course at Valderrama, which is one of the best in the world alongside Augusta and St. Andrews.
-Right now there is crisis in terms of sponsorship in golf and yet Andalusia has decided to get involved.
-We've opted for quality. We've changed the promotion policy for golf tourism in Andalusia. We didn't want to promote the brand in tournaments outside the region, but to show how good the courses here are. It's seen on millions of televisions and in millions of homes. It was an investment that the Masters needed to be able to carry on and it is a commitment we've made to the economy that won't be just what is happening this weekend but will carry on far beyond. It's obvious, here we are at the end of October and you can play in short sleeves. Elsewhere in Europe it's almost snowing.