One of the first questions I had for Renato Paratore, the winner of this summer’s Betfred British Masters, is whether his rare speed about the course goes down OK with his fellow players. The answer was in the affirmative. “When slow players find themselves paired with me, I think they are very happy that they can go slower.”
“You mean that they can take the time that you’re not taking?”
A chuckle preceded the response: “Exactly.”
Paratore – who turns 24 on Monday – said that he would prefer his colleagues to pick up speed, both for the good of the European Tour and the good of on-site spectators. But long gone are the days when the pace of play of others had an adverse effect on him.
Needless to say, he has enjoyed his share of positive results in 2020. In addition to his victory at Close House in July, Paratore finished strongly for a top-10 at Wentworth in the BMW PGA Championship in October and tied 13th at last week’s Golf in Dubai Championship, a warm-up for this week’s DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates again in United Arab Emirates.
Today he sits just outside the top 20 in the tour’s Race to Dubai rankings as he tees off in the company of another recent winner in Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre.
It was Matteo Manassero who first advised his compatriot that he would need to slow down for the purposes of the professional game. Paratore duly picked up on the art (if you can call it that) by using his free time to chat with his caddie. But where, early on, those conversations tended to be random affairs, they are nowadays more focussed, usually on strategy.
As an 8-year-old, Paratore not surprisingly got off to a fast start. It happened on a day when he followed his mother, a beginner, round the course and eventually asked if he could have a turn.
“So I pick up a club and I make a really good shot,” he said.
Though he could not remember whether he used a wood or an iron, that single shot had him hooked and, before too many years were up, he was playing in the Junior Ryder Cup, winning the Junior Orange Bowl in Florida, and making off with the individual gold medal in the Junior Olympics.
Yet the event for which he forever will be remembered from those early days was the 2013 Amateur Championship at Deal. In sweeping his party round the outward half in 1 hour, 20 minutes, in his quarterfinal, he left the elderly R&A referee mopping his brow and his Icelandic opponent close to a melting point. And all that in an era when slow play was beginning to be seen as a massive problem.
Paratore won his card at age 17 and made seven consecutive cuts in his opening season alone. His first win was in the 2017 Nordea Masters, with his follow-up victory at the British Masters. There, he pulled up three ahead of Rasmus Højgaard, so European Tour officials invited him to share the moment with his Italian-based mother on a video screen. The moment was touching enough for those watching on TV but, for Paratore, it was the stuff of dreams. “Seeing my mother like that was something you don’t expect,” he said. “It was such a lovely thing for the European Tour to make happen. Every time I practise, I think about it.”
No less touching was the way his Italian friends, and others, made a guard of honour for him with their clubs (at top) as he walked to the scorers’ caravan. That Italian players are inordinately supportive of each other is something which Paratore explains with an analogy between Americans and his own people: “The US players are probably not so close because there are so many of them. We’re close because we’re not a lot on tour.”
In keeping with which, they keep an eye on each other’s games. Paratore will tell you that he has learned a lot about consistency from Francisco Molinari, and plenty about the short game from Manassero, who has recently begun to recapture his winning form of seven or so years ago. Paratore, like Manassero, is desperate to play in the 2023 Ryder Cup in his homeland, while he fully expects Molinari, who by then will be older than 40, to be there as a player, even if he is an obvious captain in the making.
“One day Francesco will be a great captain,” he said. “He can be funny, and he can be serious, but always at the right moments.”
“Other people might not like being in a bubble, but I’m so happy just to be back playing after those four months away. That’s how much I love my golf.” – Renato Paratore
Meanwhile, he is confident that Marco Simone, the chosen venue, will be a winner for Rome and for Italy.
“The course has been upgraded and I can’t wait to go back to see it,” Paratore said. “They say it’s amazing; everyone’s going to love it. The other good thing about it is that there’s masses of room for all the infrastructure.”
Paratore may be a fast mover but he is in no particular hurry to follow Molinari out to California. For the moment, he is happy to play in Europe while being based in Dubai, where he revels in good weather and abundant practice facilities. He and his caddie shared the same bubble during the summer tournaments and, though no-one enjoys home comforts more, Paratore had no trouble in handling the arrangement. “Other people might not like being in a bubble,” he said, “but I’m so happy just to be back playing after those four months away. That’s how much I love my golf.”
What is more, a disappointing week, such as the one he had in October’s Italian Open where he finished in a share of 65th place, never gets him down. (Typically, the home crowd stuck with their man to the end.)
“It’s good to have won a couple of tournaments,” said Paratore, “but, to be honest, whether I play good or bad, it does not matter. Golf, you know, gives me everything. Every day, I give the game a big ‘thank you.’ ”
Top: Renato Paratore before the Italian Open at Chervo Golf Club in October. Photo: Warren Little, Getty Images
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