Virtually every parent will know what it is to have driven a child to a tennis, golf or football class only to have to keep an eye on the clock until, in no time at all, the child in question has to be picked up again. The greater the number of kids, the more irritating and exhausting the situation can become.
Edoardo Molinari, a father himself, factored this into the equation when he put the finishing touches to his academy at Royal Park I Roveri, the Turin, Italy, club where he and brother Francesco learned their golf. The Edoardo Molinari Golf Academy opened midway through January and has been attracting attention ever since.
“There will be three days a week, a Wednesday, a Saturday and a Sunday, when parents will be able to drop their children off for six hours,” said Edoardo, as he talked of plans beyond the summer break. “It will give them time to go out and play themselves.” If they play at the kind of pace which Edoardo, who earlier this year posted the names of the European Tour’s slow-play offenders on Twitter, believes should be the norm, they will have time for a leisurely lunch as well.
Francesco, meantime, could not approve more heartily of the way Edoardo is going about things. “My brother has some great ideas and this is one of them,” he said.
You may or may not be pleased to hear that Edoardo’s academy kids will not be following the Korean way of hitting balls on a non-stop basis throughout those six hours. A couple of childminders will be in attendance for the downtimes, while the kids will be given lunch on the premises. At whose expense? “The club will give them lunch because they see the possibility of attracting more members in the future,” said Edoardo. “It makes good sense.”
Parents will pay for the academy sessions, which their children can start from the age of 4. However, the coaches – there are five including Edoardo – will also be giving free tuition to local school kids who feel inclined to give the game a try. “The idea,” said Edoardo, “is that we’ll work with all the kids involved in our programmes and stick with those who are keen until they are as much as 22, if that’s what it takes. There are plenty of coaching initiatives, which pay lip service to the idea of getting children started and don’t go any further than that. We want to give them a proper chance to get established.”
Edoardo tells how he and Francesco were inspired by Costantino Rocco, the Italian who defeated Tiger Woods in the Ryder Cup singles at Valderrama in 1997. “Costantino was our mentor, if you like,” Edoardo said. “But at the same time as we were making our way, there was Matteo Manassero, who turned golf in Italy on its head when he did so well so young.”
Manassero won two European Tour titles – the Castelló Masters and the Malaysian Open – when he was 17, and that’s when Italian parents suddenly started to view golf a little differently and started to push their offspring into the sport as quickly as possible. The trouble was that Manassero, talented though he is, has struggled to maintain that early success.
“That Italy will be hosting the 2022 Ryder Cup represents another massive step forward. It’s a case of spending money to grow the game at a stage when there’s so much more that needs to be done. Would you believe that we still don’t have any public courses in Italy?” – Edoardo Molinari
“Our parents were never so sure about forging ahead too soon,” Edoardo said. “They always insisted that Francesco and I had to go to university and be in a position to get what my father called ‘proper jobs.’ We did as most Italians in going to university close to home, in our case Turin, and Francesco studied business while I did engineering. It was only after we graduated that they were prepared to lend support to our golfing dreams.
“Getting on for 10 years down the line, it’s cool to see that we’ve made a bit of difference. Starting with the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales, where we both made the European team, there was more golf on TV and Italian kids were tuning into it.
“That Italy will be hosting the 2022 Ryder Cup represents another massive step forward. It’s a case of spending money to grow the game at a stage when there’s so much more that needs to be done. Would you believe that we still don’t have any public courses in Italy?”
You ask Edoardo, the 2005 US Amateur champion, if any of the academy kids deserves a mention at this stage and he does not have to think for too many seconds.
He recalled how, not too many weeks ago, one of his fellow coaches introduced him to a 9-year-old lad and suggested that they should engage in a chipping contest over the kids’ nine-hole course. “You’ll need to be sharp to win,” warned the coach.
Edoardo was not convinced that it was going to be much of a contest but played along with the idea just the same. He ended up losing six holes out of the nine.
Edoardo Molinari (center) and fellow instructors at his academy. Photo: Courtesy of Edoardo Molinari Golf Academy
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