by Jeff Skinner
It is often said that golf is a game that can’t be won, only played. This Sunday the game gave us a little taste of how it can be both. Two golfers on two continents, a generation apart showed why golf is indeed the greatest game. Italian sensation, Matteo Manassero became the youngest winner in the history of the European Tour when he won the Castello Masters by four strokes. Manassero is only 17 years old, 17 years and 188 days to be exact and he breaks the record previously held by Danny Lee when he won in 2008. He also became the youngest player ever to earn his European Tour playing Card besting his hero, Severino Ballesteros by 12 days.
Manassero played like a skilled veteran as he came from two strokes back at the start of the round. He strung together three birdies from the 13th hole through the 15th to win pulling away. His poise and composure made him look like he had been through all this before. “It’s just fantastic,” he said. “I always try to work for this moment and now I’ve done it it’s unbelievable, it’s a special moment…I couldn’t really imagine being a winner in my first year and I just tried to keep my card – but I’m a winner already!…I made some great shots coming in and some good putts, so from 12 to 15 is probably the period where I made the most of this tournament…I was very nervous. I was a bit nervous at the beginning, then I got more relaxed then at the end I was obviously very nervous even though I had a good cushion.”
Half a world and a whole generation away at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia an oldie but goodie showed that you don’t have to be a “youngster” to play great golf. Fifty year old, LPGA Hall of Fame Member, Juli Inkster was prepped to become the oldest winner ever on the LPGA Tour. She had birdied four holes on the back nine to take at the lead at the time. She then bogeyed 18 for the first time in the tournament while winner Jimin Kang birdied it for the win. It was a good day overall for the veteran of 27 years on tour and would have been her 32nd career victory. She has talked of retiring and looks forward to a Solheim Cup captaincy but she can still play and loves what she is doing. “I really enjoy what I do,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to compete.”
Professional athletes in other sports have a narrow window of time to make their mark and earn their living. Golf allows players from different generations to play and compete at the game they love so much. Where else can you get the jubilant youthfulness of a seventeen year old Manassero who is playing men old enough to be his father and the craftiness of a wily veteran like Inkster who is playing girls young enough to be her daughter? It only happens in golf, the game for a lifetime.