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|Designed by Jose Maria Olazabal, Real Club de Golf Sevilla is well-balanced, defensive and demanding. (Courtesy photo)|
SEVILLE, Spain -- Seville, Byron wrote, "is a pleasant city famous for oranges and women".
But, anyone who has experienced life in this oh, so Spanish city will know that marmalade and Carmen do not come close to doing the place justice.
From Nov. 15-21, the capital city of Andalusia will gain fame of a more fleeting nature when the Real Club de Golf de Sevilla hosts the WGC World Cup of Golf.
Representatives from the leading golfing nations around the world will add zest to what is widely regarded as an essentially romantic, exuberant city - but one with no particular golfing heritage.
Since its inception, the World Cup has visited 14 countries and its winners include some of the greatest names in the history of golf -Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Severiano Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.
Spain has won the World Cup of Golf on four occasions only, but, with the in-form pairing of Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez competing on home soil, local hopes of closing the gap on the 23 victories recorded by the USA are high.
The World Cup offers $4 million in prize money, however, this host city is no stranger to such outlandish sums.
Back in the fifteenth century, with access to the Atlantic along the navigable Guadalquivir River, Seville was the principal port of commerce after the discovery of the Americas.
Ships laden with New World gold and silver queued up to berth so that Seville was transformed into one of the great cities of Europe.
The Torre de Oro, now a symbol of the city, served as a repository for just some of the fabulous wealth pouring in from Spanish colonies. And the huge Gothic cathedral, the second largest in Europe, was constructed during this period.
The inordinate prosperity of Seville also attracted artists and writers, including Cervantes, as a cultural renaissance was underwritten by noblemen enriched by their plundering of Inca riches.
Five centuries later 'Expo '92' promised economic regeneration. Although the longed for riches never materialized, the World Trade Fair left the city with a legacy of new roads, new bridges, a high-speed train link and a revamped airport that would enable Spain's fourth largest city to regain its place as Andalusia's artistic, cultural, social, financial and economic hub.
Increasingly, city fathers wish to add 'sporting' to that list. The World Cup of Golf follows hard on the heels of World Championships in athletics and rowing, as well as soccer internationals and European Cup finals.There is no reason to suppose that the World Cup of Golf will not match - or even surpass - the success of these events.
The Real Club Pineda de Sevilla was founded in 1939 but it is only since the opening of Zaudin Golf Club during the 1990s that golf has made a significant impression in the socio-cultural life of residents.
With typical Andalusian enthusiasm, golf has quickly been embraced by Sevillanos whose reputed passion for life is not entirely without foundation.
Real Club de Golf Sevilla, chosen as the WGC venue, is characterized by wide fairways and generous greens well-protected by 96 siliceous sand bunkers.
Jose Maria Olazabal's layout is well-balanced, defensive and demanding. "When it was designed 10 years ago, little did I think that, in such a short space of time, it would be able to hold such a prestigious event," said Olazabal. "The course has matured greatly thanks to the quality of the grass and the planting of trees."
RCGS was only his second commission as a course-designer, so the double US Masters' winner placed great emphasis on raising questions around the greens.
"The greens are where the difficulty and worth of the course is really apparent," he added.
Olazabal suggests the 15th "is probably the most complicated of all, depending on wind speed and direction. This is where the end of the round really becomes decisive."
He added: "The approach to hole 16, a par-5 of 478m, is good and I guess we will see a lot of birdies and a few eagles there. Hole 17 is a difficult 187m par 3; and the fairway on hole 18 has been narrowed slightly in order to increase its difficulty."
Olazabal continued: "The course was built on an estate that was excessively flat, but it was landscaped in order to make it, quite frankly, a good - no - a great course.
"It is a hard test for all players since they have to use a full range of shots. The way I see it, the players will reach the par-5s well, while the par-3s and 4s will be a real challenge."
November 2, 2004
Having boarded the luxurious MV Europa 2 in Lisbon, Clive Agran had five days of golf cruising ahead. For those unfamiliar with the concept, golf cruising is a glorious combination of golf and cruising where a sedate sail is punctuated with the occasional round of golf.
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