Golf: Move over Stallone, here comes the new Rocca

Peter Corrigan on the star qualities of a poor Italian boy who made good

"Rocca IV" had its premier in Rochester yesterday. Sequel to the box-office hits Rocca I, II and III, it continues the saga of a poor Italian boy making good in the plush surroundings of the Oak Hill Country Club in the greatest golf event of all.

The story has the lot; drama, tears, glory . . . Sylvester Stallone is still cursing himself for turning down the part which went to an unknown factory worker from Bergamo.

In Rocca I, he arrives with the rest of the European team with the reputation of not being able to stand pressure. They laugh and call him a choker. "I will show them", he vows and goes out with Sam Torrance to beat the daylights out of American favourite, Fred Couples, and Jay Haas. Then comes sadness in the afternoon as he and Torrance are well beaten 6 and 5. The nightmare returns.

In Rocca II, he and Torrance tackle David Love III (who is not the latest in a series of films) and Jeff Maggert. The going is tough until they come to the short sixth. Rocca grits his teeth and swings, the ball soars, it bounces snd rolls into the hole to a tremendous roar from the crowd who immediately take the Italian to their hearts. Rocca III sees him triumph yet again. He and and Ian Woosnam are the only Europeans to win on Saturday afternoon as the American charge destroys the others. He is invited to the Media Centre. The press ask for his secret. "Sometime it go in and sometime it go out," he says. They applaud.

Now comes Rocca IV and he is on his own for the biggest challenge of all. With three points, he is the most successful of all the European team but here is the hardest task. Europe is desperate for points and he faces Davis Love, the man who beat him at the Belfry two years ago to earn him the choker tag.

Can he forget the bitter memories? Americans of Italian descent flock to support him. Words they heard their grannies use rang through the trees of Oak Hill as he passed. "Andiamo", "Forza", "Paisan".

Rocca is clearly proud as he walks the fairways. He wins the second hole to take an early lead and the cries increase. Love is a tall man, with the haughty bearing of a Southern gentlemen. He has the expression of someone losing to his head gardener but, suddenly, he strikes back.

He hits Rocca with a birdie on the fourth to go all square. Rocca winces as another birdie goes in at seven. He staggers from one bunker to another on the eighth as Love gets another birdie. Love is playing better golf than any of the 24 players on the course. He pounds Rocca with a birdie on the tenth and rips in with another on the 11th. Rocca is four down and on the ropes. But wait. He wins the 13th and has a putt to win the 16th. Can he escape? But the ball rolls a fraction wide. He is beaten but holds his handsome head high. Defeat, yes. Dishonour, no.

Rocca came as a man doubted. He leaves as a star. Roll the credits. Eat your heart out, Stallone.

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