“I look forward to playing in front of the Spanish fans.”
“Valderrama is one of the best layouts I have ever played”.
“What is happening this season is past my wildest dreams”.
Jon Rham will make his first professional appearance on Spanish soil at the third edition of the Andalucía Valderrama Masters, hosted by the Sergio García Foundation and sponsored by the Autonomous Government of Andalusia, from October 19-22. Rham currently ranks 5th in the OWGR and in the FedEx Cup, and 3rd in the Race to Dubai in his impressive rookie season. He won the Farmers Insurance Open, his maiden PGA Tour title, in January. In July he earned his first European Tour victory by winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open by six strokes.
The Spanish rising talent (born in Barrika, Vizcaya 10/11/1994) is relishing his home debut. “I really look forward to playing in front of the Spanish fans. Right after the Irish Open I went to Valderrama to practice for October. I felt a big sense of anticipation as I teed up on the first hole. I wish to encourage everyone to come and support us and watch some great golf. If the public enjoys it, we will enjoy it.
“My first round at Valderrama was five years ago when I played the Sotogrande Cup with the Spanish national team. It was a different experience because my game has changed a lot since then. I remember playing in a gale.
“Valderrama is one of the best layouts I have ever played. It is visually attractive and wonderfully maintained. Golf courses don’t need to measure 10,000 yards to be challenging. I find Valderrama very exciting and a good test. You really have to think your way through and play all kinds of shots. Mistakes can be costly, so it keeps you on your toes.”
Jon was two when Valderrama staged the Ryder Cup; his father Edorta recalls how the 1997 showdown introduced golf to his family: “We are a group of friends from Bilbao who enjoy a lot of sports together, particularly skiing. Two of our gang were invited to the ’97 Ryder Cup. They had no idea of golf, but they returned home full of enthusiasm. Two years later, Eduardo Celles opened his golf academy in Bilbao and we all started taking lessons. My wife Ángela, and our sons Jon and Eriz took up golf in 2003.”
The family became so addicted to golf that they took a week’s vacation every year to go to Valderrama for the Volvo Masters. Jon has vivid childhood memories of those tournaments where the trophies he collected on the course were the autographs of his idols.
“I remember my first visit with my father during the 2007 Volvo Masters. The first player we saw was Thomas Björn on the 7th. Then we went to the first to watch Poulter and Sergio tee off. We followed Poulter who played a great shot on the first. I went ahead of my dad and was lucky enough to see Justin Rose ace the 3rd, but my dad didn’t see it. We followed Poulter along the 4th and we waited for Colin Montgomerie on the 5th. The next thing I remember is the 17th, a great hole. You need a perfect drive to a tight fairway and then you are facing a daunting second – it reminds me slightly of the 15th at Augusta.
“On the 18 green I got my shirt signed by Nick Dougherty, Paul Casey and Miguel Ángel, but I don’t think he remembers. Harrington had won the Open Championship that year and I asked him for his cap but he couldn’t give it to me. I didn’t bring home any balls, hats nor gloves, only my shirt with six signatures on it. We went from there to the putting green and to the driving range to see some more golf.”
Ten years after collecting those autographs, Jon returns to Valderrama as one of the world’s top players. “In October I will be proud to play my first professional event in Spain. I look forward to playing the Andalucía Valderrama Masters in front of my home crowd and will do my best to give a good show.
“The boy that went to Valderrama in 2007 is still there, with the same dreams and the same ambition. I am extremely fortunate that my dreams are coming true, but this year feels more like a Steven Spielberg film – winning at Torrey Pines and again in Ireland the way I did doesn’t even happen in the wildest dreams.”
Edorta Rham shares the same feeling. “I never imagined that Jon would get so far so fast. You dream that your son will make it, but being realistic, we insisted that he should complete his studies. I only started to believe that the dream could come true in 2015, when he finished 5th at the Phoenix Open playing under an invite as the leading world amateur.
“All our family and friends will go to the Andalucía Valderrama Masters – we are looking forward to a great week.”