Archive for June, 2008

European Championships

Just when you thought it was all over and Spain had walked away with the trophy, it hasn’t even started!

Although of course a much downsized version of the Championship that reached the final on Sunday in Vienna, golf’s equivalent is due to start on Tuesday in Turin. The England Team with Charlie Ford, Matt Haines, Sam Hutsby, Steve Uzzell, Dale Whitnell and Chris Wood lead by Captain Jonathan Plaxton and Coach David Ridley arrived in Italy on Saturday to settle in and prepare for the Tuesday face off. Captain Plaxton has promised to do a daily update which he has agreed to let me publish on this blog. I will however delete all the team secrets before. So, here is Plaxton vol 1 from Turin;

The whole team (players plus Ridley, Hemmings and Larmour) except for Charlie Ford arrived Turin Saturday a.m without a hitch.
Met at the airport by a stunner (Italian Federation clearly out to use every way they can to spoil our focus!) And it worked for 10 minutes!
Relaxed lunch followed by private time and then a run in the park + workout. Meantime Tim Stephens took me to meet Charlie Ford who arrived via Gatwick from Glasgow following victory over Team U.S.A in The Palmer Cup.

Team meeting followed with an excellent mix of contributions and open dialogue. Clearly a universal hunger for success!

Dinner then had in an English pub adjacent the hotel with an early night following the 4 a.m start.

Overcast start but warm and humid. At Saturday team meet players were asked to consider preferred start times in strokeplay noting wide spread of our tee times and the difference in weather conditions from a.m to p.m. Practice went well and the course is in excellent shape but playing long due to heavy rain in recent days. The facilities and food are excellent. The return coach trip was an experience in a thunder storm and with the roads flooded. Goodness knows how long the course will play on Monday!! Forecast for Monday is showers (if there’s any water left to come down) and hot (80 – 90 degrees).

All the players look to be in good form and an excellent rapport has developed between the 6 of them in particular. Monday pairings see Haines Ford and Uzzell play together with Wood Hutsby and Whitnell partnering each other. Format is 1 from 3 first 6 holes then 2 from 3 and finally 3 from 3 on the final 6 holes. So far so good!

So close and yet so far away

The weekend that just passed came very close to producing two outstanding English results. Tommy Fleetwood were in the final of the Amateur Championship where he had the opportunity to become the youngest winner in the history. The England Boys Team out in Japan had a very good chance to challenge for the Junior World Cup. In the end Tommy brought home the silver medal and the boys in Japan finished 6th. A bit of a disappointment of course and I shall be interested to speak to both Tommy and the team to try and evaluate not the result but the actual performance. I remember discussions I have had with Freddie Jacobson, the Swedish PGA Tour player, over things like performing to your best and being pleased with that no matter what the result is. I think he is one of the best in the world at this and his goal is always to walk off the 18th green feeling that he didn’t leave one single shot too many out there. I have a feeling that somebody who can win a major with a pretty severe knee injury is quite good at that as well and it is all about performing to your potential on any given day. Practice and preparation can elevate that potential but focusing on the performance at hand rather than the desired result is what can realise that potential.

Soft winds of Turnberry

It wouldn’t be Scotland if it wasn’t windy, would it? Yesterday at the links of Turnberry was something else. When the worst of the storm came in I was lucky enough to find a hiding place in one of the shelters by the 11th of the Aisla Course. Very strong winds combined with pretty heavy rain actually made the courses unplayable for a while but when play in the Amateur Championship came to an end late last night there were still a couple of players under par. Sam Hutsby lead the way with an impressive 139 over the two rounds and it is a true match play classic that he has already been eliminated when the fourst round has now started.

Another exciting thing going on this week is the Junior Golf World Cup in Japan. The first round was played today and for now at least it seems like the country to beat are the current holders, Sweden. Scores after the first day are:

TOYOTA Junior Golf World Cup 2008 Supported by JAL
1 Sweden 206       206 -7
2T Denmark 207       207 -6
2T Argentina 207       207 -6
4T New Zealand 211       211 -2
4T USA 211       211 -2
6 England 212       212 -1

And talking about exciting things; tonight’s the night when I am thinking about wearing blue and yellow in front of the big screen TV in the Turnberry club house – Sweden vs Russia in a deciding game on who will qualify for the quarter finals! 

Swedish fans

What a week!

The week that has just gone must have been one of the most exciting weeks this year. And I was on holiday! The Euro 2008 literally kicked off, Chelsea got themselves a new coach, the US Open came to an incredible conclusion, the Irish decided to put a wedge deep into the foundation of the EU and the BBC’s The Apprentice came to an end. Wow!

Starting with the Euro 2008 it doesn’t take a serious football fan, or even your favourite team to be in the tournament, to realise that there is something really special going on. Some of the matches have just been incredible! Holland vs. Italy, Spain’s first game against Russia, last night’s Turkey vs. the Czech Republic or Holland’s show off against France. It seems to me like the orange have got themselves a pretty impressive team and after scoring this many goals in two matches there is no doubt that they will be a popular team to watch as the Championships move into final stages. Should Sweden defeat Russia we are likely to cross paths with the Dutch and of course my admiration for their football will stop right there!

Moving to golf the US Open once again proved what a thrilling TV sport golf can be. That 12 footer Woods holed on the last was something else! When the talk of so many players was more about how bumpy the greens were rather than them reflecting over their own games you have to admire Tiger’s ability to get the job done. Bumpy greens or knee injury could not stop him from going into a play off today where Rocco Mediate will be his rather surprising opponent.

This week will otherwise hold another Major in the golfing world. It has been a few years since the Amateur Championship was regarded as a true major but there is no doubt that it is still one of the finest Championships in sports. This year it is played at Turnberry and the R&A will, as always, offer the contestants a great test of golf. Besides a prominent place in the history books the winner will earn the right to tee it up at both the Open later in the year an t the US Masters in April next year. That is worth competing for!

Anyone to pull out?

When Ross, Ross and Rob sailed through to qualify for the US Open at Torrey Pines the other day. Gary Wolstenholme was among the more unlucky ones. Having dropped a couple of shots towards the end of his round Gary finished up in a play off for the last spot. A bogey later he was first alternate from the Walton Heath qualifier. There are now two ways for Gary to get into the tournament. One is that one of the 7 qualifiers from Walton Heath decide to pull out. Another is that one of the 70 something fully exempt players doesn’t make it to the first tee. Given that Tiger Woods may not be 100% recovered from his knee surgery it could happen that instead of Tiger they get – Gary Wolstenholme. And perhaps that is not too unfair. After all, Gary did beat the Tiger in the Walker Cup! My guess is Gary is on a plane for California by tomorrow ready to take on the challenge should the oportunity arise.

The challenge in amateur golf this weekend is otherwise taking place over the links at St Andrews. As our European Championship team is to be picked on Monday this is the last chance for players to step forward. Hopefully the action from the St Andrews Links Trophy can be followed over the internet.

More success for the three R:s

No doubt the three R:s, probably encouraged by their high finishes at the weekend are on good form. Ross, Rob and Ross all effectively put themselves forward when the spots for the US Open at Torrey Pines were awarded at Walton Heath yesterday. In the 36 holes qualifyer Ross Fisher tied for first with Scotsman Alastair Forsyth. Robert Dinwiddie and Ross McGowan both claimed a spot along with fellow countryman Phillip Archer. Exciting times to come for all of them in Southern California later this month!

Weekend summary

Another busy weekend is over. The Amateur circuit continued its journey across the UK with a visit to Scotland and the Scottish Amateur Stroke Play, played at the Duke’s course at St Andrews. In fairness this is probably a tournament that a lot of the ‘close to burn out already’ English players leave out of their schedule in anticipation of making the journey north for the St Andrews Links this week instead. Out of those who did go the two Matts, Cryer and Baldwin definitely deserve mentioning as they finished 3rd and 5th respectively.

While the amateurs were in Scotland the European Tour stopped by to try out the new Ryder Cup course at Celtic Manor In Wales and the winner was – an Australian! Scott Strange who won by four shots I first met when he came to Sweden as part of an exchange programme we ran with the Australian Golf Union in 2001. I remember him as very determined and focused which is something that usually pays off.

For English Golf the Wales Open was another success. First of all, pretty unknown to me I must admit, Benn Barrham repeated his best ever finish on the European Tour by finishing in a tie for 4th. Behind him no less than four ex England Internationals finished in the top 10. Nick Dougherty tied for 4th while Robert Dinwiddie, Ross Fisher and Ross McGowan all finished in a tie for 10th place. A little bit further back in the field Dan Willet finished his first tournament as a professional by making the cut in a tie for 61st.

In the US at the Memorial Tournament two English players were in the top 6 of the leaderboard. Justin Rose finished in a tie for 2nd after Kenny Perry and Luke Donald finished in a tie for 6th place.

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