Golfing with the stars

When we were teenagers, my brother, sister and I called ourselves the “golf orphans”, as our Mum spent many a weekend partaking in various competitions at our local golf club, and in the surrounding areas - so I had some idea about the time and effort that went into the sport. However only now, having spent time in Andalucía so close to the “Costa del Golf”, have I begun to realize that golf is not just a hobby here, it is a way of life - and, in many cases, a career.
So when I was invited to attend the “Presentación del Banesto Tour de Golf Femenino” at the Parador Málaga de Golf on Wednesday 29 February – the opening press event for the world-famous Ladies Banesto Golf Tour - as an aspiring journalist living in Andalucía, I felt privileged and excited. The tour, now in its fourth year, consists of seven tests, which take place between March and November, all across Spain. This year it starts in Málaga and will finish in Valencia.
There was to be a press conference, followed by questions and refreshments. Sadly though, a series of unfortunate events including an argumentative sat-nav, a new road, and a roundabout that was not where it ought to have been, meant that I missed the press conference, arriving just in time for the refreshments. In some situations this might have seemed a blessed turn of events – missing the “boring bit” and making it just in time for the food - but on this occasion (my first press conference) this was not the case – I was very upset and embarrassed.
Luckily for me, though, the event was organized by none other than María Acacia Lopez-Bachiller, who, as anyone who´s anyone in golf in Andalucía will know, is the leading press lady for golfing events, and a genuinely lovely person. She saw the pickle I was in and immediately offered me assistance, and a drink (non-alcoholic, as I was driving). She filled me in on what I had missed, handed me a Banesto goodie bag and introduced me to local golfing legend Laura Cabanillas – three-time winner in the Ladies Banesto Tour.
Laura is 29 years old, and is originally from Benahavís, in Málaga – the Ayuntamiento (town hall) of Benahavís co-sponsors her with Telefonica. She has been a golf pro since 2001. In 2011 she came 11th in the Spanish Ladies Open – her personal best. This will be Laura’s 10th season on tour, and her fourth appearance in the Banesto Tour. The total prize money for the Málaga test was €20,000, divided between the 15 top scorers: first place receives €6,000, second place €3,600 and third place €2,400 – not bad for two days’ golf, although only a fraction of what male golfers win.
Laura was very obliging and allowed me to practise my Spanish with her; she was patient and helpful, especially given that I was taking up her valuable practice time.
She filled me in on her own history in the tournament: she is the only player to have won three tests in the first three consecutive tours (2009-2011) and she won her first Banesto Tour tournament “at home” at the Parador Málaga de Golf in 2009. She also told me about the build-up to the tournament, including the morning’s competition for journalists and Golf pros alike of “closest to the flag” (each participant takes a swing and the ball that lands closest to the flag wins).
I concluded our conversation by asking Laura what her expectations were for the forthcoming event, and what it was like to play in her home town. Whilst I continued to clutch nervously at my dictaphone, straining to hear over the incoming planes from nearby Málaga airport, she told me: “I am very excited to be playing at home, I am looking forward to seeing how the season starts. I hope that it begins well, this will give me encouragement and I can move forward into the next tournament with more positivity.”
I thanked her for her help, wished her luck and went on my merry way, feeling quite elated, if a little star struck. I wish her the best of luck and I hope that she makes it to four consecutive wins, then my chat with her will feel even more privileged!
Laura finished joint-second in Málaga (2 and 3 March 2012) with a score of 75 – just one over par. Italian Alessandra Averna was the winner with a score of 73, one under par.
Thanks to both Laura and María, the nightmare journey resulted in a successful day. I now look forward to my next journalistic outing, for which I will probably take the bus!
Blog published on 8 March 2012