A MAGICAL PLACE

Bergamo’s beautiful upper town, the Città Alta (pictured above), is a magical place well worth visiting. Use this website to help you plan your trip to Bergamo in Northern Italy and find your way to some of the other lovely towns and villages in Lombardia that are perhaps less well known to tourists.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Bergamo’s top golfer turns 62

Ex-factory worker put Italian golf on map


Costantino Rocca is one of the greatest golfers to come out of Italy. He was born just outside Bergamo
Costantino Rocca is one of the greatest golfers to come out
of Italy. He was born just outside Bergamo
The Bergamo golfer Costantino Rocca, who until this year was the most successful Italian in the history of competitive golf, celebrates his 62nd birthday today.

Rocca, born on December 4, 1956 in Almenno San Bartolomeo, just a few kilometres from the city, won five professional tournaments on the European circuit.

He enjoyed his best years in the mid-1990s, peaking with second place in the Open Championship at St Andrews in 1995.

He was beaten by the American John Daly in a four-hole play-off on the Scottish course but established a lasting place in golf folklore after the incredible putt he sank on the final green to deny Daly victory inside the regulation 72 holes.

Rocca shows his delight after sinking his incredible  65ft (20m) putt at the 1995 Open Championship
Rocca shows his delight after sinking his incredible
65ft (20m) putt at the 1995 Open Championship
Needing a birdie to be level with Daly at the top of the leaderboard after the American finished six under par, Rocca appeared to have blown his chance when his poorly executed second shot - a chipped approach that was meant to leave him in easy putting distance of the hole - did not even make it safely on to the green, coming to rest in an area just off the green known colloquially as ‘the Valley of Sin’.

It left him 65ft - almost 20m - short of the hole, needing somehow to make a putt that had first to go uphill and then break sharply to the right.

Extraordinarily, he pulled it off, to the delight of the gallery and the astonishment of Daly, who was watching on a TV monitor. Rocca flung his arms back in sheer joy before dropping to the ground and lay flat on his stomach with his face buried in the grass, drumming the turf with his fists, his whole body shaking with emotion.

It was described as a ‘miracle’ putt and when Rocca returned to the east Scotland course in April of this year, he had more than 20 attempts to reprise the shot but could not make it even once.

Rocca set up a company in Bergamo to promote golf
Rocca set up a company in
Bergamo to promote golf
The 1995 was jointly his best season with 1996, in each of which he finished fourth in the Order of Merit for the European tour.  He won five tour titles in total, the first of which was the 1993 Open de Lyon and the most prestigious of which was the 1996 Volvo PGA Championship.

Rocca's second-best finish in a major was a tie for fifth place in the 1997 US Masters, in which the 21-year-old rising star, Tiger Woods, won his first major title. 

The bergamaschi did defeat Woods later in the year in a vital singles match in the Ryder Cup at Valderrama in Spain, representing Europe against the United States. 

Rocca is regarded as the man who put Italian golf on the map and his position as the greatest golfer the country had produced remained unchallenged until this year, when Francesco Molinari not only drew level with and then passed his tally of five European tour wins, but also became the first Italian actually to win a major when he triumphed in the Open at Carnoustie, also in Scotland.

For 17 years, Rocca was the only Italian to play for Europe in the Ryder Cup until Molinari’s selection in 2010. Rocca had a 6-5-0 win-loss-half record in three Ryder Cup appearances, at 53% one of the best winning records in the history of the European team. 

Almenna San Bartolomeo is famous for its circular  Romanesque church, the Rotonda San Tomè
Almenna San Bartolomeo is famous for its circular
Romanesque church, the Rotonda San Tomè
In the 1995 Ryder Cup, Rocca made only the third hole-in-one in the competition's history.

Rocca used to work in a factory in Almenna that produced polystyrene before he took up golf professionally, initially working as a caddy and then as a caddy master at the nearby L'Albenza Golf Club. 

Be became a professional in 1981, the same year he married his wife, Antonella.

The couple have two children, 33-year-old Chiara, and Francesco, who is 27.  Both work for his Rocca’s Bergamo-based company, Rocca Golf Ambition, which encompasses a golf academy for aspiring players, a clinic for established players looking to improve their game, and support for young professionals.

Rocca played his last tour event in 2015, when he contested the Italian Open, an event which, extraordinarily, he never won in 33 attempts. He still plays on the European Seniors tour, so far winning two titles.

The town of Almenno San Bartolomeo, which is situated about 9km (6 miles) northwest of Bergamo along the valley of the Brembo river, is well known as the home of the Rotonda di San Tomè, an unusual circular church which is one of the most notable examples of Romanesque architecture in northern Italy. 


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