Nacho Elvira

Living for golf

10/04/2022 · By Carmen R. Cuesta
Nacho Elvira, winner of the Cazoo Open de Gales 2021 will take part in the ACCIONA Open de España presented by Madrid
Nacho Elvira, winner of the Cazoo Open de Gales 2021 takes part in the acciona Open de España presented by Madrid. © Courtesy of the Centro Nacional de Golf

We chat to Nacho Elvira, Spanish golfer and winner of the 2021 Wales Cazoo Open. This golfer from Cantabria takes stock before the acciona Open de España presented by Madrid and goes over his career, personal life, and view on talent, with his eyes set on qualifying for the Race to Dubai.

Where does your passion for golf come from?
It came out of nowhere. Nobody in my family plays golf but, one summer 30 years ago in Llanes (where my father is from), we went to the driving range to hit some balls for fun, and that’s where it started. My father got hooked on this sport, and I alongside him.

You’re from Cantabria, like another big Spanish golfer, Seve Ballesteros; who have been your role models within this sport?
Seve has always been a role model since the beginning. We’re both from Cantabria and he’s always been an inspiration. It’s a shame he’s no longer with us, because it would’ve been wonderful to share these years with him on the European Tour. But I’ve also been an avid follower of José María Olazábal and Sergio García. Tiger too, of course. But I have to stick with the Spanish players.

What does golf mean to you on a personal level?
Personally, it’s 90% of my life. Until recently, it’s what I’ve always done in the last 30 years. Until a month and a half ago, when I had my baby girl, and my perspective has changed a little, but it’s my life.

What is a day in the life of Nacho Elvira like?
Since it’s my profession, I take it more or less like a job. I spend six or seven hours training, focusing on different aspects. I spend an hour at the gym, another hitting balls, then there are days that I play 9 or 18 holes... It depends. I cover different aspects. I train for around seven hours, as if it were a normal job. My life is golf and not much else. Then, I also have hobbies like skiing or paddle tennis, which I love. When I can, I go skiing, but always off-season.

How do you manage travelling so much and being away from your family?
It’s always been part of my routine. I never even thought about it until I had my daughter recently. Now it’s harder, but I’ve always dealt with it well. I like to travel, that’s never been a problem for me.

“It’s thrilling to see how my brother slowly tries to follow in my footsteps”

Less than a year ago, you were supporting your brother Manuel at the Campeonato de España de Profesionales (Spanish Professional Championship). What does it mean to you for your brother to be a golfer? What does this bring to you, both personally and professionally?
Professionally, having someone to compete against and to train with daily is really positive. It’s thrilling to see how my brother slowly tries to follow in my footsteps as I continue in the European Tour.

In such a technical sport such as golf, what is talent for you?
Talent is something interesting. We could spend hours talking about it. With golf, which takes repetitive work, some people might find learning it easier than others. In the world of golf, if you work hard, everyone can meet their goals. Golf also has a mental part that makes a difference.

Spanish golf is at an all-time high. Do you think there’s such a thing as “Spanish talent”?
Spaniards have always been really good at all sports. Every year, there are more people playing golf and there’s more knowledge. Technology improves and that helps. The Real Spanish Federation of Golf is doing excellent work.

What do you prepare more: physically or mentally? What does that preparation entail?
Right now, preparing is taking a direction where position is important. There are people who are in good condition to hit the ball hard, but what I try to do is gain speed and power to have that small advantage. Gaining distance makes this sport easier, so I try to improve that way and avoid injuries.

What do you think about the elitist perception there is of golf? Do you think it’s a cliché?
I think it's changing a lot because, as we have seen due to the pandemic, golf is at an all-time high and it is reaching a lot of people. Today, practically anyone can play golf. In Madrid, for example, we have the Centro Nacional, where anyone can go. The more people try it, the more of them get hooked. That cliché that golf is snobbish is slowly disappearing, as it should.

“In the world of golf, if you work hard, everyone can meet their goals”

Like with any aspect in life, things evolve; do you think golf is undergoing a process of transformation? How is the appearance of new circuits like LIV affecting it?
As they say, sometimes advertising —whether good or bad— is always positive. Any competition will make other tours wake up and try to improve. The fact that golf is in more newspaper headlines and newsreels helps more people to discover it, and more people can play golf.

In 2021, you had your first victory on the European Tour, and you won the Wales Cazoo Open. You took that opportunity to dedicate that victory to Celia Barquín. What does Celia mean to you?
She’s always been a friend of the family and we shared many moments with her. As well as the team at the federation. It was really sad news and, since it happened, I promised myself that if I won a tournament, I would dedicate it to her.

It seems faraway now, but not long ago we were immersed in a worldwide pandemic that brought absolutely everything to a standstill. How did COVID affect your career?
I imagine like for many people. It wasn’t something very positive. At a certain point, we spent more time at home, which as a golfer you might appreciate, but it was really hard on the sport. We play in different countries and travelling got really difficult. There were financial problems. The Tour did a good job of helping us to continue having tournaments so that we could carry on working. It seems like we've left it behind, touch wood.

“Madrid is the Spanish tournament you wait for all year”

You’re the winner of the 2021 Wales Cazoo Open, 12th in this edition, and 9th at the Omega European Masters. Do you think you’re at your best? Where do you think your limit is?
It’s true that I’ve been playing well for a while. I think I’m playing better than the results show. I’ve always been missing that finishing shot in some aspects of the game. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. I’m on good form. Here come five tournaments that I’m particularly excited about and I’m extra motivated.

You’re 105th in the European ranking. What do you expect from the rest of the season? What are your goals?
I’d like everything to line up a bit better and try to have a couple of good results to get into the final in Dubai.

Are you excited to come to Madrid? Will your family come?
Yes, of course. As a Spaniard, it’s the tournament you wait for all year. It’s the Club de Campo, with wonderful sponsors, fantastic headquarters... I’m really excited to play in Madrid in front of so many people.