Italian Golf: Molinari, Manassero and Alberto Binaghi

I've got to admit it, up until recently the only kind of golf I associated with Italy was Beach Golf, a game (event? party?) played on Italian beaches by beautiful people in swimwear.

What's not to like about that concept? ~ Very little, it turns out, except that it's not really golf... not in the classical sense.

No, golf in the classical sense was something I didn't connect with Italy until just last summer. That's when I first noticed the implausibly youthful Matteo Manassero, who would become the youngest ever British Amateur Champion. The precocious 16-year-old went on to compete in the Open Championship where he made the cut and eventually finished tied for 13th place.

Then there were the Molinari brothers. They'd been on the scene for some time... Edoardo had become the first Italian (and the first Continental European) to win the U.S. Amateur Championship in 2005, and Francesco had won the Italian Open in 2006... but 2009 was a transcendent year for both of them, culminating in their win together at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup at the end of November.

So, the fact that this weekend Francesco Molinari is T2 going into the third round of the Player's Championship, while young Matteo Manassero is in the top ten in his first start as a professional at the Italian Open does not come as much of a surprise. What a difference a year makes.

The aforementioned golfers are now stars and, without a doubt, on every avid golf fan's radar, but the man most feel has been the driving force behind Italy's growing golf brilliance, is somewhat less well known.

Alberto Binaghi is a former European Tour player, a member of the Italian Golf Federation coaching staff and coach of the Italian national team. He's also widely credited with overseeing the efforts that took Edoardo and Francesco Molinari into the world's top-50, and saw brothers win the World Cup event.

When for the first time ever, three Italians qualified for the Masters this year, it was undoubtedly a proud moment for Alberto Binaghi. Considering that golf is such a minor sport in Italy... only last year crossing the threshold of 100,000 players... it was an amazing accomplishment. Binaghi was with the players in Augusta, as Manassero's caddie, a roll he's become quite familiar with these last several months.

Though Italians are just now making a mega mark in global golf, they've long been known for their sense of style and design and Mr. Binaghi's website certainly reflects that. It's sexy background music and edgy black & white photos reflect a cosmopolitan elegance that's not often associated with golf. I like like it.

On that note, I'm looking forward to the continued growth of Italian golf, and I don't think I'm the only one.