Last year, Spain hosted seven golf tournaments belonging to the European Tour. In 2012, three of those have disappeared from the calendar: the Madrid Masters, the Castelló Masters — where Sergio García is defending champion — and the Mallorca Open.
This season only four tournaments will be held in Spain, the result of the flight of public and private sponsors from the sport. The Andalusia Open — where García also holds the title — the Spanish Open, the Andalusia Masters and the Volvo Match Play, also to be played in Andalusia, have all survived the cut.
“The economic crisis has affected golf a lot,” says Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño of GFC Golf & Business, the company that promotes the Madrid Masters. “In Spain, with the exception of the Volvo Match Play, tournaments are principally sponsored by public institutions through regional government tourism and sports departments. It is logical that under the current policy of cutbacks the allowances for the events is reduced. In the case of the Madrid Masters, the regional government has supported us but the private sector interest has not been sufficient.”
Sponsors are more interested in soccer, tennis, basketball and motor racing"
The number of licenses to play golf has also fallen by 16,000 since the start of the year. “A consequence,” says the Spanish Golf Federation, “of the effects of the crisis on Spanish society.”
Another cruel rub of the green for Spain was the loss of the 2018 Ryder Cup, which Paris ultimately won the right to host. “This led to a lot of sponsors becoming disillusioned, especially private ones,” says Fernández-Castaño. The lack of major Spanish triumphs in the sport in comparison to others — although homegrown golfers win tournaments on the European Tour, no one has lifted a major since José María Olazábal at the 1999 Masters — has also resulted in dwindling investment.
“A major victory would be a huge boost. It would have an impact on the creation of new licenses and in attracting sponsors, which are currently more interested in soccer, tennis, basketball and motor racing. We have to put Spanish golf where it deserves to be and improve the economy. In the last three years, the number of tournaments has fallen and prize money has stagnated.”