ROCKLIFFE HALL is used to having a Spaniard driving for glory and another wants to be celebrating on the 18th green on Sunday, with the full support of Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.
The Boro boss has just embarked on his first full season in charge of the Championship club and he will be putting his players, many of which are from Iberia, through their paces on the training ground at neighbouring Rockliffe Park as compatriot Santiago Luna looks for the perfect start to the English Senior Open this morning.
Luna, one of five Spaniards on show, narrowly missed out on winning at the Hurworth complex by one stroke last October and hopes to go one better this time around, knowing Karanka will be keeping an eye out for his score.
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The Middlesbrough manager said: “I wish the Spanish golfers all the best. I will support them and especially Santiago now that I know he is a Real Madrid supporter! I hope he will do very well to help raise the Spanish profile. It would be a pleasure for me to have him teach me play golf ... but he would have to be very patient!”
Luna is a Madrilenos so knows all about Karanka’s time at Real as a player and Jose Mourinho’s assistant. He predicts that he will succeed at Boro – and suggested a nice course for him to relax on to get away from the football.
“It’s great to hear he is doing well,” said Luna. “Tell him that he has a very good golf course over here to practice on and he should play golf, there is no excuse.
“I like football, I like Real Madrid. They are my team. Aitor Karanka is a very clever man and has a good relationship with Mourinho. He will do very well ... it would be great to hear him do well with Middlesbrough.”
Spectators at Rockliffe warmed to the 51-year-old last October, when Denmark’s Steen Tinning birdied the last two holes to edge him out.
Having gone close to winning last time, Luna has turned to local caddie Darren Finch once again for assistance after enjoying working with the seven-handicapper ten months ago.
“I have a good feeling and that’s important,” said Luna, who won the ISPA Handa PGA Senior Championship in June. “When you come to a place and you feel a golf course you like you tend to do well.
“I have the same caddie as last year. Darren is from here, has played a lot here and knows all of the lines. I am lucky to have him with me. I played fantastically last year.
“To win or not win came down to one shot. Steen made a nice shot at 17 and in the end he won. I made some good putts, played some nice shots. It was a fantastic week.”
Luna tees off at 10.10am with former Ryder Cup captain Mark James and the 2013 winner of the Senior Tour Order of Merit Paul Wesselingh.
Admission today is £10 with under-16s free. A season ticket for all three days is £20.