Martin Dempster: Renato Paratore leads the way as young brigade master golf’s ‘new normal’

Younger players seemed more comfortable with safety measures at British Masters than their older counterparts

Renato Paratore, who won the Betfred British  Masters at Close House, is leading by example in speeding up the game. Picture: Getty
Renato Paratore, who won the Betfred British  Masters at Close House, is leading by example in speeding up the game. Picture: Getty
Renato Paratore, who won the Betfred British Masters at Close House, is leading by example in speeding up the game. Picture: Getty

They often say golf is a young man’s game and that looks as though it is certainly going to be the case as players try to adapt to a new life of being in a “biosecure bubble”.

Renato Paratore, a 23-year-old Italian, and 19-year-old Dane Rasmus Hojgaard finished first and second respectively in the Betfred British Masters, the European Tour’s full restart after a four-month lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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It’s not the first time, of course, that two youngsters have battled it out down the stretch on the circuit. In fact, the same two players were involved in a play-off in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open back in December, with Hojgaard coming out on top on that occasion.

However, it certainly seemed no coincidence that players nearer the start of their careers than the end seemed to handle last week at Close House, near Newcastle, better overall.

A return to work involved daily online health checks, onsite testing both with swabs and daily temperature checks, with players, caddies and officials staying at designated hotels as opposed to being scattered all over the place, as is normally the case.

Part of a rigorous health safety strategy being implemented to get the tour back up and running, all those measures will be in place throughout a new six-event UK Swing and, possibly, at every tournament until the end of 2020 at least.

Thanks to a fantastic all-round effort, it was job done at the Northumberland venue as far as delivering the safe environment that was absolutely imperative with lots of eyes watching an event involving people from so many different countries.

It is now about doing exactly the same thing at Forest of Arden, Hanbury Manor, Celtic Manor and The Belfry over the next few weeks and you suspect the younger players in particular will continue to take the “new normal” in their stride.

For one player, Andrew Johnston, already, the current restrictions are too much to try to cope with while trying to play golf for a living. The 31-year-old Englishman withdrew after only nine holes in the first round and was honest enough to admit it was due to him feeling uneasy in such an environment.

Don’t be surprised if others make similar admissions going forward and fair play to the European Tour for quickly stepping in to provide support to Johnston as these are certainly unique circumstances, hence why playing at the moment and for the rest 
of the 2020 season is actually optional.

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It was Lee Westwood, 47, the tournament host and a seasoned campaigner, who talked about how he had never seen so many players on the range at 8 o’clock at night “trying to avoid their hotel rooms” last week.

The Englishman also said he had felt “out of my comfort zone”, which was partly due to being unable to enjoy the social aspect that normally exists and perhaps explained his disappointing performance on a course he knows like the back of his hand.

In contrast, Paratore, in particular, but also Hojgaard didn’t seem to be fazed in the slightest by certain things being very different last week, which is probably down to youngsters these days seeming to be totally fearless about anything, even a pandemic by the looks of things.

If the tour needed a “poster boy” to help put a smile on faces at the moment, then Paratore fits the bill perfectly. He not only looks as though he enjoys playing golf but also gets on with it. In a video clip posted on social media by the European Tour, he took only 19.27 seconds from placing a tee in the ground to hitting one shot last week then 14 seconds for the next one. He has slowed down a bit since he first came out on tour, having realised very quickly that he would only end up being frustrated by playing at the pace he was used to, but has found a balance that still makes him very exciting indeed to watch.

Though a bit more robotic, Hojgaard also looks as though he has a very bright future ahead at the top level in the game, having won in only his second event on the main tour and now coming close again in his ninth start. Wow.

Add in Norwegian Viktor Hovland, a winner on the PGA Tour earlier in the year at only 22, and it is not only the Americans that are producing a new crop of exciting players, adding fuel to the claim that it is indeed a young man’s game.

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