April 23, 2006

Asian Open wins caps amazing two years for Fernandez

By Nick Mulvenney

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano's victory at
the Asian Open on Sunday capped an amazing two years for the
Spaniard since he turned professional.

The 25-year-old from Madrid finished his degree before
taking up golf full time, winning his first title in only his
16th event and subsequently being named the European Tour
rookie of the year.

"The last two years has been an amazing time for me," a
beaming Fernandez said after beating world number 15 Henrik
Stenson in a playoff at the Tomson Pudong Golf Club.

"I was not sure my golf was good enough to play on the tour
but when I finished my degree, I thought 'why not give it a
go?'. I won my tour card at my first attempt, which was great
because I never want to go back to tour school.

"Then came my win at the Dutch Open and now this. It's a
dream come true for me."

Fernandez, who started playing golf at the age of four,
grew up idolizing compatriot Seve Ballesteros and learned a
thing or two from the three-times British Open champion that
came in handy when his tee shots went astray this week.

"I learned a couple of tricks of how to play out of the
rough and they paid off," said Fernandez, who landed in the
trees on both attempts at the 18th on Sunday. "We Spanish, we
love the trees."

Fernandez said he would love to emulate his hero
Ballesteros as a Ryder Cup player.

"I hadn't thought about it, but now you mention it...," he
said. "Although I'd have to improve my driving or nobody would
want to play with me in the foursomes."

After a second place at the China Open in Beijing last week
and his victory in Shanghai, Fernandez will be returning home
with $500,000 in his baggage. As a business studies graduate,
he has serious plans for his money.

"I bought an apartment last year and I have to pay that off
and I think I'm going to get married," he said. "But don't say
anything because I haven't asked yet."

His girlfriend of eight years Alicia will be with him when
he returns to action at the Spanish Open next week but he does
not hold out much hope of a victory on home soil.

"I'm really tired after two weeks contending through until
Sunday and I know everybody's going to be expecting me to win,"
he said.

"To be honest I'm only playing because it's the Spanish
Open, otherwise I'd take a couple of weeks off. I'm not
expecting too much."