Italy’s Matteo Manassero has been named The Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year for 2010 following a record-breaking start to his professional career highlighted by him becoming the youngest player to win in the history of The European Tour.
Manassero launched his professional career in the BMW Italian Open at the beginning of May and in 14 starts since then has won the CASTELLÓ MASTERS Costa Azahar at the age of 17 years and 188 days; earned €890,401 to finish in 31st place in The 2010 Race to Dubai; and played 54 rounds for which he was 73 under par with only seven scores over 72.
“It is a big honour to win the Rookie of the Year award,” said Manassero, who follows many of golf’s greatest names such as Sir Nick Faldo, Tony Jacklin, Sandy Lyle, José Maria Olazábal and Colin Montgomerie, as well as many of today’s biggest stars including Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Europe’s new Number One, The Race to Dubai winner Martin Kaymer, as a recipient of the Award.
“I never expected to win on Tour so quickly and to win the Rookie of the Year Award is 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 a great honour.
“When you see the amazing players that have won the Award in the past, you see how important these players were in golf’s history and to have your name beside them is exciting.
“Then you see that Martin Kaymer won the Rookie of the Year only three years ago and now he is the Number One in Europe after winning The Race to Dubai. I hope I can follow in Martin’s footsteps one day.”
Manassero creates another piece of history by becoming the first Italian to win the Award which is judged by The R&A, the Association of Golf Writers and The European Tour. He is also the tenth golfer from Continental Europe and 46th recipient in total of The Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award which was launched in 1960.
He became the youngest winner of the Amateur Championship in 2009, and the youngest player to claim the Silver Medal for leading amateur in The Open Championship that same year when he finished tied 13th at Turnberry. In April of this year he became the youngest amateur to compete in the Masters Tournament and, furthermore, the youngest player to make the halfway cut.
He created another record when in only his 11th European Tour event as a professional he achieved his maiden victory at the CASTELLÓ MASTERS Costa Azahar at the age of 17 years and 188 days to become the youngest winner in the Tour’s history, beating the previous record of New Zealand’s Danny Lee who won the Johnnie Walker Classic aged 18 years and 213 days in 2009.
Manassero also became the youngest person to become a full European Tour Member, surpassing the legendary Seve Ballesteros who was 17 years and 200 days when he joined the Tour at the end of the 1974 season.
Manassero was not without competition for The Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award with the English trio of Gary Boyd, James Morrison, winner of the Madeira Islands Open BPI – Portugal, and John Parry, who captured the Vivendi Cup 2010, all enjoying excellent first seasons.
But it was the 25 year old Welshman Rhys Davies, who graduated from the 2009 European Challenge Tour alongside Boyd and Parry, who provided the sternest challenge to Manassero as he climbed to 18th in The Race to Dubai during an outstanding season which included a victory in the Trophée Hassan II tournament.
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “Matteo’s arrival on The European Tour coincided with what many observers of the game regard as the most exciting season in our history. He has increased the interest in golf, especially with youngsters in Europe, and indeed throughout the world. He is another exceptionally outstanding winner of the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award.”
Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of the R&A, said: “Matteo Manassero’s accomplishments in such a short time on Tour, and especially in view of his young age, have been absolutely remarkable. He has true star quality and is an excellent addition to the crop of young players currently emerging throughout Europe.”
Bill Elliott, Chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, said: “Rhys Davies’s record would normally have won the award easily but his younger Italian rival’s record is compelling. To achieve what he has after turning professional in May is astonishing. To do so while coming across as a polite, decent and intelligent teenager is reassuring for those of us who care about such things. If he matures as we all hope he will, then The European Tour has another genuine global star.”
For an exclusive interview with Matteo, see the next issue of Golf World, our December 23.