Jaime Ortiz-Patino, the founder of Spain’s renowned Ryder Cup venue Valderrama Golf Club and the 1999 recipient of the USGA Green Section’s Piper & Oakley Award, died on Jan. 3 at a hospital in Marbella, Spain, at the age of 82.
Born to Bolivian parents in Paris in June 1930, Ortiz-Patino later created Valderrama with course designer Robert Trent Jones in the mid-1980s.
Ortiz-Patino landed the 1997 Ryder Cup for Valderrama, the first time the biennial competition was contested in Continental Europe.
Angel Gallardo, the European Tour's vice chairman, called Ortiz-Patino “the soul of golf in Europe.”
“He has done a lot not only for Spanish golf but also for European golf,” Gallardo said.
Known as “Jimmy” to his friends, Ortiz-Patino amassed a collection of golf memorabilia that captured the history of the game over 500 years.
While he was not a golf course superintendent by trade, Ortiz-Patino actively oversaw the day-to-day maintenance of Valderrama and was a strong voice on golf’s environmental issues. He was a dedicated member of the USGA’s Turfgrass and Environmental Research Committee from 1992-2000, rarely missing a meeting during his tenure.
“Jimmy was not just a placeholder on the research committee,” said Kimberly Erusha, Ph.D, managing director of the USGA Green Section. “He actively took part in discussions with the committee scientists, often adding insights that helped guide the direction of the program.”
For many years, he made an annual financial contribution to the USGA with a note that always stated his desire that it be applied to turfgrass research being carried out by the Association.
In 1999, the USGA honored Ortiz-Patino with its Piper & Oakley Award, which was established to recognize meritorious service to the USGA Green Section by a volunteer. Dr. Charles V. Piper and Dr. Russell A. Oakley were among the earliest scientists to conduct studies in the fields of turfgrass science and course management, and served as the first chairman and co-chairman, respectively, of the USGA Green Section.
That same year, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) honored Ortiz-Patino with its Old Tom Morris Award, the most prestigious award given by the organization. The award is presented annually to an individual who “through a continuing lifetime commitment to the game of golf has helped to mold the welfare of the game in a manner and style exemplified by Old Tom Morris.”
Ortiz-Patino also embraced the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program that was supported by the USGA Green Section. He recognized the importance of environmental issues on the golf course and worked diligently to communicate those values.
In November 1999, Ortiz-Patino hosted the Valderrama Golf Environment Summit. Attended by key environmental leaders in the U.S. and Europe as well as the game’s two governing bodies – the USGA and The R&A – the summit reinforced golf’s role in supporting environmental education, research and conservation programs. A declaration was signed by then-USGA president Buzz Taylor and The R&A’s Peter Dawson, as well as the European Golf Association’s Dieter Usner.
Ortiz-Patino leaves his sons Felipe and Carlos, as well as four grandchildren.