Costantino Rocca hopes the inaugural Sicilian Open, which gets under way on Thursday, will help Italy to continue developing into a major force in world golf.
Colin Montgomerie, Simon Khan and Michael Campbell head the field for the tournament at the Donnafugata Golf Resort & Spa, which will the first European Tour event of the year to be played on European soil.
2011 SICILIAN OPEN
The Sicilian Open is the first European Tour event of 2011 played on European soil, and is the first European Tour event ever played on the Italian island of Sicily.
Rocca, first Italian to play in the Ryder Cup in 1993, will also be among the competitors -- and the 54-year-old admits it was time Italy was able to boast another high-profile tournament.
The country has, after all, produced three of the most exciting talents of recent years with the emergence of Edoardo and Francesco Molinari and 17-year-old Matteo Manassero.
"It's very important for golf in Italy that we have another European Tour event as well as the BMW Italian Open," said Rocca, who now plies his trade on the European Senior Tour but is returning to the European Tour to support the event. "Having these tournaments helps young Italian players come through and see the best players in action.
"Sicily is an important region for the development of golf in our country, and this tournament comes at the right time,” he explained. “In Sicily you can play golf 12 months a year, and we need to promote the region and let people know that.
"Sponsors want to see more tournaments and to attract more people. We have the facilities, the courses, the weather and some good young players coming through, so we need to promote golf in this way, through tournaments."
Europeans have enjoyed some impressive results of late, with Luke Donald winning at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and Anders Hansen and Francesco Molinari recording top-three finishes at last week's WGC-Cadillac Championship.
In Sicily, eight-time European Tour No. 1 and Ryder Cup-winning captain Montgomerie, BMW PGA Championship winner Khan and former U.S. Open champion Campbell will bid for victory. Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen, a former winner of the Dubai Desert Classic, and England's Chris Wood, still looking for his maiden European Tour victory, are also in the field.