The Italian Almanac

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Matteo Manassero

Young Pro

World golf's new wonder boy, Matteo Manassero of Italy, continued his march into the record books by becoming the second-youngest player to turn professional after Spanish legend Severiano Ballesteros. Manassero, who became the youngest-ever winner of the British Amateur Championship last June and the youngest-ever player to make the cut in the US Masters last month, is following in the great Ballesteros's footsteps by debuting on home ground.

Seve turned pro at the Spanish Open in 1974, aged 17 years and eight days. Manassero will tee off at the BMW Italian Open on Thursday aged 17 years and 17 days. "I feel ready for my first pro challenge and I'm happy to do it at the Italian Open in front of the family members and friends who have supported me in my amateur experience," the teenager said on the European Tour website.

The 1.81m (5ft 11) Manassero has already been billed as "the new Ballesteros" but unlike the sometimes stormy Spaniard he was calm personified in both last year's British Open and this year's Masters. He finished tied for 13th at Turnberry last June and tied for 36th at Agusta on April 11. Many pundits tip the lad from Negrar near Verona to become Italy's first-ever major winner and some think he could even emulate Ballesteros who won five majors and 50 European titles in his glittering career.