José María Olazábal and Rafa Nadal are two outstanding athletes, but what can I tell you about them that you don’t already know. However, if there’s one common factor I love them both for it’s how humble they are despite their grandeur. I know you’ve probably heard it a million times, but you don’t realize what amazing people they are until you spend some time with them.
I’ll tell you about two specific examples from last week in the Olazábal&Nadal Invitational we played in Mallorca. First with Nadal. I couldn’t tell you how many friends who idolize Rafa had asked for his autograph, who wanted to take home something to remember him by. I was a bit overwhelmed and I warned them: I’ll try, but the last thing I want to do is stress Rafa out during a week which, on top of it, is supposed to be relaxing. Right, so he couldn’t have made it easier on me. Just after asking him for the signatures, the first thing he said was, let’s have a seat and get everything signed now. What a pleasure. Every time I’m with him I wonder how he could be such a nice guy, having won 14 major titles and still that humble…it’s incredible.
Later, it’s true, all athletes are a certain way on the court and in competition and Rafa gets really into it. He doesn’t like to lose, and he gives it everything he’s got. We played a game on Friday: Suzann Pettersen and I against Rafa and Jesús Legarrea. We gave them an eight-point lead and they beat us on the 17th hole. I warned Suzann about it, that Rafa plays well and gets low scores, I think eight points is too much…But that was it. It was really fun.
Nadal has a ‘tennis style’ golf swing, he doesn’t come up very high and it’s true that he doesn’t stand out much the first time you see him, but afterwards it’s incredible how he hangs in there. He pulls off some unbelievable pars…Mentally, his handicap is +5.
I’ll tell you two things about Olazábal. The Sunday after the tournament, when few were still there because many had already caught a flight back home, we gathered around a table, around 15 of us, and he started to tell us some amazing stories about the Ryder Cup, about Seve, about the tournaments…
It’s astonishing how good his memory is, how passionately he tells the stories. How he expresses himself. It’s so vivid it’s as if you were there. He still gets excited when he talks about Seve. It’s such a treat to be around him.
The second thing I noticed has more to do with golf and how he is as a person. He told me to call him one of these days in December and we could meet to work on things, or to fix a certain aspect of my game if I needed it. And that he would come whenever I wanted. I love them both and they make this a very special, very pleasant week.
Suzann told me she was going to come back again, that she would go wherever just to be next to Nadal, because he is one of her idols. She left very content. She had a great time and after meeting Rafa, she came to a conclusion: “I have to go to the gym more”, she confessed. And that’s Suzann talking…!!!
Before finishing this post, I’d like to wish all the luck in the world to the Spanish golfers who will play in the Qualifying School Finals. Marta Sanz, Belén Mozo and Noemí Jiménez will be there. Ladies, go hard and we’ll see you next year.