Although he has four wins on the European Tour, Pablo Larrazabal may be best known for the time he was attacked by hornets during the 2014 Maybank Malaysian Open. After receiving medical treatment, he showed his grit by carding a birdie on the hole he was attached on and finished the remaining five holes in 2-under. Larrazabal, who attended the International Junior Golf Academy (IJGA) in 2002-03 shortly before turning pro, recently celebrated his 33rd birthday. We caught up with Larrazabal to learn about his life post-IJGA. Read the interview below. *Photos taken from Pablo’s Instagram page.*
When did you start playing golf?
I started playing golf when I was very young–five years old–because all my family played golf and they took me on the weekends.
Was your family supportive of you coming all the way to America from Spain or did it take some convincing?
My family helped me to decide to go to the U.S. I wasn’t convinced, but it was worth it. I have to thank my family for that.
Is it true your father made you work on a fish farm before turning pro? What did you learn from that experience?
Yes, it’s true that I worked in my father’s fish farm for seven months before turning pro. My dad really wanted to show me how hard it is to make a living and how “normal people” make money and it is something that helps me now to appreciate how lucky I am.
What is your favorite memory from your time at IJGA?
My favorite memory from IJGA is probably the nice people I met there. I’m still in contact with some of my friends from that year.
How would you say your time at IJGA influenced your career path?
Of course IJGA influenced my career. I learned a lot practicing every day with my coach, Dick Wedzik. He was a great player and I learned a lot. He taught me how to win golf tournaments and I did it a few times on tour. Thanks to him.
You’ve played both PGA TOUR and European Tour events. What are some of the differences between the two tours?
I play on the European Tour, but I’ve played some tournaments in the U.S., most of them Majors. The differences are big: First, the conditions of the golf course (they are a lot better on the PGA Tour). Then, the amount of traveling–on the European Tour we play in the Middle East, China, Korea, Australia, South Africa, Vietnam, Malaysia. On the PGA Tour, they follow the good weather and the golf courses are prepared the same way so there is only one way to play the game. In Europe, we play all kinds of grasses and weather, we play from links courses to desert courses.
Favorite course you’ve played and why?
I always say that you love the courses you win tournaments at, so my favorite courses would be Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Le Golf National (Paris) and the golf course in Munich. Those are my favorite places to go back and play a tournament.
*Side note: In 2014, Larrazabal won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship by one stroke over Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson.*
What advice do you have for current IJGA students who want to play golf professionally?
My advice for the IJGA students has to be to believe, to enjoy and love practice, and the most important thing is to have fun. Golf is a lot of fun!
What do you do for fun away from the golf course?
Away from golf, I love to spend time with my wife, Gala, and my dog, Roy. I try to take care of myself by going to the gym and eating properly.