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Garcia walks out of Pro-Am after argument

Golf, said Mark Twain, is a good walk spoiled. However, it was a hot-headed Spaniard spoiling for a fight who ruined Sergio Garcia's round yesterday and led him to storm off the course during a pro-am tournament.

Luis Somoza, one of Garcia's amateur partners, exploded in rage and threatened to hit the 20-year-old for giving him the wrong yardage at the ninth hole.

The astonishing incident happened at Montecastillo, near Jerez in southern Spain, on the eve of the Volvo Masters championship.

"He came up short of the green, then accused me of giving him the wrong yardage," said Garcia.

"He started saying rude words to me, that I hadn't looked after my amateur partners. Then he came towards me with his hand raised saying that he was going to hit me.

"I didn't know what to say. The rude words and what he did really got to me. It had been a normal pro-am until then and I said to myself: 'What have I done to deserve this?'

"There is only one man who can hit me and that is my dad. That kind of action made me think this is not working. I am a professional and can't do this stuff.

"He was a 13-handicapper - good number, eh? - who could hit the ball decently, but who was having a bad day. I realised that the best thing to do was leave. It could have got worse on the back nine and there could have been a fight.

"That is no good for anyone, the pro-am, the European Tour, or the game of golf. I was not the bad guy. I didn't threaten anyone. I don't regret anything.

"I didn't have the chance to say anything. I always take good care of amateurs who play with me. I read the breaks in their putts. This was just a normal pro-am until this happened."

Somoza, the owner of one of Spain's largest haulage companies and old enough to be Garcia's grandfather, never mind father, was unrepentant.

He blamed Garcia for telling him not to ask for yardages if he was not happy with the numbers being given. "He should not have said: 'Don't ask me, then.' We didn't start off correctly. I have played in many pro-ams and know what they are about. I played with Sam Torrance and he was fantastic. He couldn't do enough for me."

The other two players in the group, Francesco Aguilera, a member of the Andalucian tourist board, and Salvador Moll, owner of the Sherry Park Hotel in Jerez, confirmed that Somoza had threatened Garcia.

Moll said: "It was nobody's fault and both their faults."

David Garland, director of European Tour operations, said no action would be taken against Garcia for walking off the course and insisted that he had acted properly.

"You can't carry on if someone's threatening to hit you. I think Sergio did the right thing in this instance. To me, he nipped it in the bud.

"If we had forced him to carry on, who knows what might have happened. He felt it had gone too far and we have confirmed what happened from people who were present.

"Another professional was sent out so as not to spoil the amateurs' day."

Jose Maria Olazabal, the double US Masters' champion, said: "I have often felt like walking off in a pro-am but I've never done it. He does things his own way. He might be right, he could be wrong to certain eyes. It is a learning process.

"He will have things to learn over the next few years and hopefully he will learn from his mistakes. We all make them. Hopefully, he will mature."

Garcia said later: "I wouldn't mind an apology from him but if he doesn't, I won't lose any sleep. I wasn't upset much. I just went for lunch, watched a movie, and tried to forget it. I'm here to win a tournament."

His father, Victor, missed his son's nine-hole pro-am. He is flying to Florida this week to try for his Senior PGA Tour card.

"I told him not to hang around for the pro-am. It would be boring," said Garcia, rolling his eyes.

 

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