Event: Italian Open
Date: October 12-15
Location: Golf Club Milano, Milan
TV: Sky Sports Golf – Thurs-Fri: 9am-5pm Sat-Sun: 11.30am-5pm
Eighteen years ago, the Italian Open provided Scottish golfer Dean Robertson with his first and, what turned out to be, only European Tour win.
The 47-year-old took down three-time major champion Padraig Harrington to win by a stroke at Circolo Golf Torino and pick up a cheque for €166,660 – a far cry from the €990,399 this week’s winner will pick up at Golf Club Milano with the event now part of the European Tour’s Rolex Series for the first time this year.
“What you never had, you’ll never miss,” Robertson told bunkered.co.uk with a chuckle after being asked about the comparison in prize money on offer this week compared to 1999.
“It’s a huge event now and the money on offer in golf these days is so big that it doesn’t really register with me. Most weeks players are competing for a life-changing sum and for that, they’ve only got Tiger Woods to thank.”
Reflecting on that triumph, Robertson added: “It was the highlight of my professional career. To win at that level is an amazing achievement and something that I look back on fondly and for it to be in a battle with Harrington – now an iconic name in European golf – is something I’m extremely proud of.
"Myself, Richard Boxall from Sky Sports and others that have won it refer to it as the 'fifth major'.
“My only slight regret is that I didn’t give myself time to savour it. It was on a plane back home, then straight back out to the next event and it was difficult to play in that emotionally with what I’d achieved. Would I do it differently if I was to do it again? Probably.”
Robertson 'so proud' of Stirling Uni girls
Robertson is now the high performance golf coach at the University of Stirling and, at the weekend, the girls' team there gave him his proudest golfing moment since that European Tour win in Italy.
Playing in the Yale Intercollegiate Invitational in New Haven, Connecticut, the team of Chloe Goadby, Hazel MacGarvie, Gemma Batty, Emily Laws and Mirren Fraser won by ten strokes in what is believed to be the first time a team from outside the USA has won an NCAA Division One tournament – the highest level of college competition.
“I almost felt more elated for them than I did when I won my title,” added Robertson. “I can’t tell you how immensely proud of the girls I was. I was proud of the guys [who finished second in their event] as well but the girls – I just didn’t see it coming.
“Just to be able to help them in their journey and share those experiences is fantastic and it’s something they’ll remember for a long time.”
Belief 'key' for young Scots
The past few weeks have been hugely positive for Scottish golf with Connor Syme, Liam Johnston and Robert MacIntyre all performing well on their professional debuts, while Bradley Neil is heading into the final four Challenge Tour events of the season inside the top 15 on the Road to Oman.
Robertson, like most Scottish golf fans, was delighted to see such strong performances and says they must now believe that they can break through and win at the highest level.
“Their skills are in place – now it’s all down to belief,” he added. "It’s about them believing they can win at that level. They’ve got to enjoy the journey. They’re going to get rewarded when they do well and potentially get criticised when they don’t do so well. But everybody’s pulling for them.
“As a nation, maybe we’ve got to look at ourselves culturally and think of way to better support our young emerging talents. How can we create environments that will facilitate their learning and have them have the belief of a Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth or Jon Rahm?
“In the US, these players are transitioning straight from the pinnacle of amateur golf to the pinnacle of professional golf. That isn’t because they can hit the golf ball any better than a Connor Syme or Liam Johnston, it’s because of their belief. They firmly believe they can beat anyone.
“When they go out and compete, it doesn’t matter what they’re playing in or who they’re against, it’s about having the coping strategies to deal with each situation. Players get frightened and if you play with fear, it won’t happen at all.
"Every single player is going to have different strength and weaknesses, but every player must have that inner self belief that they can go out and win or compete well in any tournament they tee it up in.”