Meet the chief business officer: Agustin Garcia Pascual

By Alistair January 27, 2023 09:52

From INFINITUM, Agustin talks about hosting a DP World Tour event at short notice in 2022, making the three courses more sustainable and coping with the 2022 drought.

Located 100km south of Barcelona in Costa Dorada, INFINITUM offers three golf courses, each with their own distinct design and layout. The award-winning facilities played host to the DP World Tour’s (formerly European Tour) Qualifying School Final Stage in November, as well as the ISPS HANDA Championship in Spain in April, a full DP World Tour event, showcasing unquestionable conditions, with rolling fairways and undulating greens, complemented by spectacular ocean views of the Mediterranean.

Committed to sustainability, the facility also received its GEO certification for the second time in 2021 and its Lakes course is a certified ‘Golf Audubon International Signature Sanctuary’.
We speak to Agustin Garcia Pascual, the chief business officer at INFINITUM, about the venue.

What is your background and how long have you been at INFINITUM?

I have been at INFINITUM for the last three years. I started on the same day that we all had to isolate because of Covid-19. I was raised in Santander and was a member of Real Golf De Pedreña, Seve Ballesteros’ club – where I am now on the board of directors. I decided to pursue a career in golf and went to the United States to attend school in San Diego. In terms of my career after that, I was managing director of PGA Golf Catalunya for 11 years before moving to Pedreña, which I ran for over nine years, and then I also helped run the Seve Ballesteros Foundation after he passed away.

INFINITUM recently rebranded, can you tell us about the success of that and why you decided to rebrand?

We rebranded, not only the club but the whole resort, for the third time. We used to be part of the nearby PortAventura before moving onto different projects, and then we became Lumine. Last year, when we started selling real estate, we decided to change our brand name to INFINITUM – although the resort is on the same piece of land, it is a very different product now.

The name ‘Lumine’ did not express what was coming in the new chapter of the resort, whereas INFINITUM represents ‘welcome to everything’ where you can enjoy a lifestyle in connection with the Mediterranean Sea, nature, golf and all the services and amenities we offer at the resort.

You successfully hosted a DP World Tour event at short notice in 2022, can you tell us about that?

It was not really in our plans to have a DP World Tour event so soon, but we had the chance after the Tour was forced to unfortunately cancel three tournaments in Asia, including the ISPS HANDA Championship in Japan, which became the ISPS HANDA Championship in Spain. I remember receiving a phone call from the DP World Tour saying: “We have this opportunity – would you be interested? Is the course looking good?” This was in February. I said: “Of course it is looking good!”

How did you get prepared so quickly for the event?

We were hosting the International Senior Spanish Amateur – quite an important amateur tournament here in Spain, in late February – so the course was ready.
During that tournament we extended our agreement to host the Qualifying School Final Stage for three more years. This year’s was the first of a three-year deal, so we have an exciting future at INFINITUM in terms of hosting professional golf.

Two of the courses, the Hills and Lakes, have very different layouts, can you describe both and the differences between them?

Each one is like a totally different world. The Lakes is quite flat and, as its name suggests, there is a lot of water coming into play. It has wide greens, big fairways, but is very walkable, so anyone can play it. On the other hand, and even though it is only a three-minute ride away in a buggy, you have the Hills course. As the name says, it is quite hilly, up and down. You are overlooking the ocean for most of the holes. It has tighter, smaller greens. It is one of the reasons the Tour really wants to be here for Qualifying School Final Stage, because the players who get their card have to be very competent in all areas of the game and manoeuvre the ball in different ways.

TARRAGONA, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 13: A general view on the 13th hole during Day Three of the Final Stage of Qualifying School at Hills Course, Infinitum on November 13, 2022 in Tarragona, Spain. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

There is also a nine-hole golf course called the Ruins. Can you tell us about its place in the resort and your future plans for it?

I would not say it is the third course; to me it is probably the most enjoyable of them all. The greens have a lot of movement and Greg Norman designed the layout, so it is a proper golf course. In fact, in winter, the amateur Swiss team come here for a couple of months and they practise on the Ruins every day. It is a fantastic alternative for somebody who wants to be in a more relaxed atmosphere, play quite quickly, but again it combines very well with the other two golf courses as well.

What techniques for maintaining the courses have you been adopting of late?

We decided it was the right time after the DP World Tour tournament that we would close the Lakes course for four months. We turned the cool-season fairways that we had – which were mostly rye grass – into Bermuda 419. We changed all 13 hectares to Bermuda, which is more sustainable, and means 40 percent less water to irrigate and far fewer chemicals and pesticides. The sustainability part of the business is now in the resort’s DNA. If it wasn’t in our DNA, we were going to need to get it into our DNA, because there is no other route for golf courses in the future. We are doing something now which everyone else will follow very, very soon.

TARRAGONA, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 13: A general view on the 15th hole during Day Three of the Final Stage of Qualifying School at Hills Course, Infinitum on November 13, 2022 in Tarragona, Spain. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Southern and central Europe experienced drought conditions in 2022. How did this affect course maintenance and, in particular, irrigation?

We were not really expecting the drought we had but changing the grass on Lakes has helped quite a lot, and that drought and that heat pushed us to introduce Bermuda 419 onto our fairways, tees and driving range even quicker. And on Hills, we struggled a bit, but we have an advantage over the competition: we irrigate 100 percent from a local sewage plant so we have access to that recyclable water. We also have our own desalination plant, which means no matter how badly the water is treated by the sewage plant, we turn it into irrigatable water for our golf courses. All three golf courses were properly constructed. We suffered with the drought, like everyone else, but not as much as the competition.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in lockdown?

When I started in this job, it was my first day here and I had to go home and begin working remotely. Also, golf courses don’t understand Covid; the grass kept growing and it still needed to be mowed and fertilised. I was just maintaining the communication between the members of staff and motivating them. The biggest challenges were communication and keeping everyone informed of what was going on, while maintaining the motivation of our staff in that environment.

How important was the return of DP World Tour Qualifying School to INFINITUM in 2022?

Firstly, it means everything is going back to normality. Qualifying School was not held for the last two years because of Covid, so the return meant that everyone is doing better. Secondly, I think 2022 was very important for INFINITUM. We hosted our first DP World Tour event – the ISPS Handa Championship in Spain – back in April. Our relationship with the Tour has always been very strong, but I would say now it is even stronger. They are also supporting INFINITUM, extending the agreement with the DP World Tour Qualifying School for three more years. We are very happy and just hope that every three years we are talking about another three-year extension.

What growth has the club seen by way of members and play since the first lockdown, and what challenges has this brought?

You can tell, not only here in INFINITUM but also in Catalonia and the rest of Spain, that things are very positive now. Not only that, but we are noticing with the real-estate development we are selling now that some people who live in the city don’t want to stay there anymore. They want to live here in a beautiful resort, and either do a longer commute, or work from home. Regarding the number of players on the course, since we started selling real estate here and rebranded to INFINITUM, we are really focused on the residents. For example, we no longer allow new members who are not residents here. We have kept the ones we had, but new members must purchase a home on site. That is why it is difficult to compare the numbers, because we are really focused on those who buy a property here at INFINITUM.


By Alistair January 27, 2023 09:52

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