MATTEO IS A STAR, NO KIDDING


Matteo Manassero is determined to play his part in proving “the kids are alright” when he makes his eagerly-anticipated Royal Trophy debut next month. At 17, the Italian phenomenon will be the youngest player in action at the Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin, Thailand from January 7-9.

But he will certainly not be the only precociously-talented teenager showing off his talents when Europe and Asia square up for the fifth time, as Ryo Ishikawa and Noh Seung-yul – both 19, and already winners of the Japanese and Asian Order of Merits respectively – will be on the other side of the tee.

It is a prospect that clearly excites Manassero, who was voted the European Tour’s 2010 Rookie of the Year even though he only turned professional halfway through the campaign.

He said: “There is a lot of talk about golf’s ‘new kids on the block’, and I definitely think it is the case that players are coming through and winning when they are much younger now.

“There is perhaps not the fear of winning that used to exist. Since Tiger Woods won so many tournaments at an early age – including his first Major when he was only 21 – it is not so unusual to see the younger players challenging. Just look at the success Ryo and Noh have enjoyed in Asia. It is a worldwide trend, and I believe it is going to happen even more often in the future.

“It is already the case that more and more regularly you hear about a player becoming the youngest ever to achieve something. I was lucky enough to do that myself as the youngest player to win an event on the European Tour when I won the Castello Masters in October.

“I was also the youngest to win the Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award, and that is a really big honour, something I am very proud of. I never expected to win on the European Tour so quickly and to win the Rookie of the Year award was a perfect way to end my first season as a professional. It is such a special award because you only get one chance to win it, so it is tremendously satisfying.

“When you see the amazing players that have won the award in the past – players like Nick Faldo, Tony Jacklin, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sandy Lyle, Colin Montgomerie, and Sergio Garcia – you see how important they were in golf’s history. To have your name beside them is exciting.

Manassero is delighted to be following in the footsteps of three of his predecessors as Europe’s top rookie by heading to the Royal Trophy. Faldo and Montgomerie have both played for Europe on winning Royal Trophy Teams, while Olazabal – who will be announced as Monty’s successor as Ryder Cup captain in mid-January – stood in for Seve Ballesteros as Captain in 2009.

Montgomerie has taken over the captaincy while Seve continues to recuperate from life-saving brain surgery, and Manassero says he cannot wait to learn from the big Scotsman.

He added: “When I was selected for the Royal Trophy I spoke to another young player, Pablo Martin, who partnered Monty in the first round of matches in 2010. He said it was a great competition, with a flavour of the Ryder Cup, something Colin impressed on him to get the adrenaline flowing.

“With players of the stature of Seve, Jose-Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo all getting involved with the Royal Trophy, it is no wonder it has grown in importance so quickly. And I am sure the spectators also appreciate the chance to see some of the game’s best young players, as well as the established stars.

“I will travel to Thailand with a great sense of responsibility – but also with a tingle of excitement. I am sure it is going to be a great experience.”

“Matteo is an amazingly talented young player;” stated Lincoln Venancio, the Royal Trophy Managing Director.

“The likes of Manassero, Ishikawa and Noh Seung-yul competing at the Royal Trophy for their respective continents at such young ages, is truly exceptional. We believe it will make for an irresistible series of matches at Black Mountain Golf Club;” added Lincoln Venancio.

The Royal Trophy is co-organized by the Sports Authority of Thailand, the Prachuap Khirikhan Province, the Hua Hin Municipality and Entertainment and Sports Co., Ltd. The Matches are promoted internationally by Entertainment Group Limited.

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