RadioShack will broadcast live from the opening round of the Sicilian Open
Golf has become an institution on the European Tour, and players and fans are taking it seriously.
All of this would be lost without the late – and underrated – Italian Federico Alba.
The modern golf fan misses a trick if they look only at Alba’s achievements and focus solely on him.
Born in Sicily, Federico was destined to become a renowned coach at a time when the sport was almost unknown on the island.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, after no European Tour events were staged in Sicily, Federico opted to take on the challenge of organising the island’s first event.
In an era when John McEnroe was the topic of discussion and Wimbledon was still an annual grand slam, Federico helped turn the event into the Sicilian Open.
The tournament followed the same formula as the Open Championship – the first 42 holes were played on the Ancient Island course and the final 18 holes were played on the famous Montepulciano.
Part of the attraction of the event was Federico’s involvement, allowing players to receive feedback on their game and stay in the town of Palermo, which was often a hotbed of mafia activity.
Federico was also able to influence the design of the course, allowing the designers to create the sort of links-style venue that would generate a vibrant tournament atmosphere and inspire a whole new generation of players to take up the game.
Federico won the Sicilian Open in 1999 and also successfully organised the Italian Open, which is now listed on the world rankings as one of the top 100 events in the world.
Not content with just two tournaments under his belt, Federico decided to set up his own company and formed the Foundation for Sports and Development in Palermo, as well as introducing elements such as ‘village cricket’, which is played in the streets of Sicily.
He also provided the inspiration for an animated television show, Golf Beyond Spain, which would attract new fans to the sport.
Federico’s legacy, perhaps, can be summed up by his brief remark when he won the Sicilian Open in 1999: “Today, I don’t know if it’s going to be my last or my third victory of the day”.