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"Watch this kid Marsh," says Dick Severino.
Spring of '73. La Manga Campo de Golf. Costa Blanca. An hour's flight and another hour's drive from Madrid. The Spanish coast is exploding with Fort Lauderdale condominiums and California developers. One day everything will be air-conditioned from Valencia to Gibraltar.
La Manga Campo de Golf is startling. In the midst of nowhere, tucked against some parched brown hills, looking out at the blue sea, a fortress looms. Inside: multilevels of glass, carpet and porches. La Manga sticks out like gun placements above elegant apartments hidden below like ammunition bunkers. Bars, caf�s, sun decks, verandas, shops and fireplaces are here, over there, down this way, up there, around the corner. And always a view of the Mediterranean gleaming beyond the golf course stretching out in the valley below.
La Manga's American owner, Greg Peters, has flown in his props, like a movie studio. Three thousand palm trees line the fairways of La Manga's 36 holes, standing guard over 14 artificial lakes, six-inch rough, and fairways about 30 yards wide. Is the big barranca cutting across the middle of it a natural wonder or was it flown in as well?
The rise of the Spanish professional is well timed with the bursting forth of golf interest and golf architecture in his country. Robert Trent Jones got there first with Sotogrande and then Nueva Andalucia at Marbella (where the World Cup will be played in November), but now there's La Manga, and even Jack Nicklaus is designing a course outside of Madrid. Meanwhile on the European circuit, only the British play consistently better as a group than the Spanish. If the Spanish are coming in swarms, the British think they know why. Some of the Spanish have Portuguese caddies who, they say, can improve a nasty lie with their bare feet. It makes the Portuguese Open sound intriguing, at least. Uno birdie con foot, por favor.
La Manga is set up for the British. The wind is making the course play long, to its full par of 72. The rough is too deep for a Spaniard's flat swing, or even a Portuguese foot. Besides, the British know where to eat. Over in Cabo de Palos in an old house, El Cortijo. Exquisite lamb, roasted before your very eyes. And they know where to drink.
Neil Coles, who drives to tournaments on the Continent, who has a clerical exterior and Charles Dickens hair, is well in control. Other British follow: Jacklin, Craig De Foy, Peter Butler, Brian Barnes, Maurice Bembridge.
Coles wins at 282. A fine, underrated player, and a gentleman. Only one Spaniard, Jaime Benito, breaks 290.