Archive for October, 2008

What’s the plan?

As I am sitting on a train in the dark late October night heading for London I am spending my time surfing around some of the college golf websites. Golfweek is always a good one and their coverage of collegegolf is top of the line. As I look out my train window I think to myself, if I was a young boy, a golfer, with aims to become one of the better players in the world and I was based in England – what would I do right now? As dark as it is and as cold as it is, and as few chances of tournament golf as there are right now I am not sure I would be doing that much that would actually bring me towards my goal. I could of course be doing some gym work to build capacity for the future and work really hard to get ready for the next season. But I cannot help wondering what the players in the top teams in college are doing at this time. Do you want to know?

University of Georgia wins at Iselworth

University of Georgia win at Iselworth

They are playing competitive golf against their peers in one of the toughest fields that you can find in amateur golf – at Isleworth (yes, that is the home club of a certain Tiger Woods)! Ok, looking at the pictures it does seem to be a bit cold and perhaps the greens are not Augusta fast but I am sure they are not that far off. So who is in the most beneficial environment if the goal is to become a good golfer? Is it me in the dark in England or the guys out in the Florida sun?

Most of our top junior players in England at some stage get approached by college coaches from some of the schools in the States. Some of them are offered deals in terms of scholarships that basically mean that they could get on the next plane and arrive for four years in the Florida sun, or any other sun, at no cost. Do you want to know what most of them say?

“No thank you”.

I just don’t get it…

Home again

The Eisenhower Trophy is over for this time and I am not sure what is worse for the English. The fact that England finished 14th or that Scotland won?

I have said before that golf is a strange sport. Winning the World Championships is about developing players to be good but not too successful because if they start winning too much you might end up ‘loosing’ them to the professional game and then obviously they won’t be around to win the World Amateur Championships for you. The reality that met the England team out in Adelaide consisted of two proper championship golf courses set up in the best possible way for a good test of golf. To manage these golf courses players needed the ability to hit a variety of shots, both in terms of height and left to right/ right to left movement. There is no doubt that in conditions like that the cream rises to the top and the best team definitely won the tournament. The England players simply have a few lessons to learn about playing Championship golf courses and Championship golf. We just need to make sure that they don’t leave thinking they putted badly or that the pins were impossible to get to. The truth is they didn’t have the shots needed to get the ball near enough. Or at least they didn’t use them this time. The good news is though that now they know and it can be worked on!

Final day in Adelaide

The World Amateur Team Championships have come to an end and Scotland have won the Eisenhower Trophy. Sam Hutsby finished with an excellent round in a tournament where England ended up in 14th position. England Captain Jonath Plaxton reports from the final day:

“On a bright and sunny day in Adelaide the wind blew its hardest and many fell by the wayside with world number 1 (Danny Lee) following his opening 70, 71, 70 with a closing 84. The U.S.A fell away and Scotland prevailed in conditions which must have been as familiar to them as a warm summers day on The Old Course. Meanwhile after another ‘brunch’ and practice at The Grange where facilities were much better than today’s venue for our warm up we set out (from the 10th tee) promisingly at midday with birdies at 10 (Sam) and 11 (Luke)  before then turning into the wind at 12 (a strong par 3) and coming to grief with two doubles and a bogey between us. Dale and Luke never quite seemed to recover despite bagging a few birdies thereafter and although they tried to the very end a persistent southerly wind (cold!) made it almost a damage limitation exercise for them. The par of 73 would have almost certainly have equated to a 75 or 76 CSS today.

However Sam steadied the ship after his bogey at 12 and gradually compiled a great round in truly tough conditions to record the joint lowest round of the day (a 3 under par 70). Sam’s 25 putts being the main reason for his success. This was a reflection of the tight pin positions on what were very firm greens and his amazing short game. At close of play Sam finished 5th in the individual scores which Ricky Fowler led although  The U.S.A could only finish runners up (as they did last week) and Sweden (last weeks Ladies winners) climbed to 3rd in the mens event.

With 2 from 3 scores counting each day there were many potential victors at the start of this week. However at the closing ceremony we were reminded that 50 years ago it was Australia who won the inaugural event at St Andrews, Scotland. Maybe it was fate that decided Scotland should prevail in ‘Oz’ this year?!   A disappointing position for England (14th) but with 6th place just 4 shots lower than our total (after 12 rounds of golf) its clear how small the margins are.

England fielded a particularly young team this year and clearly missed both Dan Willett and Chris Wood (who lies 16th in Portugal at the time of writing) both now in the pro ranks. However Sam Luke and Dale bonded well and gave it their all. They will have learned much from the experience of playing in The Eisenhower Trophy. They  have certainly worked hard with coach Dave Ridley throughout the two weeks in Australia. In 2010 we must travel to Argentina for The Eisenhower but of course firstly we have the 2009 season to consider and a Walker Cup! JP”

For full scores and updates visit the International Golf Federation website.

Moving day in Adelaide

The third day often referred to as moving day in a golf tournament proved to be both a hot one and a tough one for the England Team out in Adelaide, Australia. England Captain, Jonathan Plaxton reports:

“Well what of ‘moving day’ ? After a really positive start, and with all of us optimistic about today, the expression ‘damp squib’ comes to mind! With relatively late times (3 consecutive groups from 11.45) a relaxed start was again possible. Following a quick trip to the shops for extra provisions and the morning ‘stretch/exercise, led by Coach Ridley, we breakfasted and once more made up packed lunches before setting off in the knowledge it would be a hot one!

Iced towels all round and a quick start by both Luke and Dale the result being -8 after 42 holes. However, with Sam unable to get below par (4 birdies but he could not recoup the dropped shots he suffered) it was left to Luke and Dale who each conspired to shoot 73’s (+1) having initially got to -2 after 5 and 6 holes respectively. Their disappointment and frustration is clear to see but there’s no doubting the effort put in. Having started tied 7th we are now tied 12 and play alongside South Africa and Wales at Royal Adelaide on Sunday.

Several teams came through with good scores today but we were not alone in being over par and slipping down the order. Scotland lead by 4 from The U.S.A who dropped 2 shots late in the day. With Ireland not far away all four of the Home Nations figure.

Having completed their rounds in the hottest part of the day (33+ degrees) only Sam felt like putting himself through the ‘range’ with Dave Ridley on hand. We have not played par 3s (4 of them at The Grange) well at all and despite some spectaculer recovery play seem to accrue bogeys from the middle of the fairway too many times! Having dined ‘Chinese’ we returned to base having agreed to meet and review / plan Sunday early tomorrow morning.

The forecast is a much cooler 24 degrees and should be more comfortable. With pin positions likely to be tough and greens that are extremely firm and undulating flight and spin control will be key on a classic sand based course. The boys know that our current position does not do us justice and they are keen to play good golf and score for once!!!!

Having spent 2 weeks away from home Dave Ridley and I are looking forward to returning home whereas the players have a different attitude and are more interested in the next trip! Life on the road!! No rocking for me tonight! JP”

As the World Amateur Team Championships for the Eisenhower Trophy reach the final day in Adelaide you can follow the action on the live scoring provided by the International Golf Federation.

Friday in Adelaide

Second day of the World Amateur Team Championships and the heat has struck Adelaide. England Captain Jonathan Plaxton reports from the heat of the battle field:

“A late alarm for us all today with tee times either side of 1pm. Also plenty of time for a team stretch and another good breakfast/brunch with beans on toast as well as the usual fruit, yoghurts and cereal. We are all agreed that self catering is preferred given the flexibility it allows us. Fortunately Dave ‘coach’  Ridley has assumed the sandwich king mantel with daily orders taken and a goody bag awaiting each of us on departure for the course! The 20 minute journey to either course is now almost second nature and we have enjoyed being independent whilst others rely on the shuttle bus.

On arrival at the club midday heat persuaded us to take refuge in the shade and reduce time on the range. Dale reported a slight back ache and was cleared to take a pain killer whilst Luke and Sam looked good and more at home in the surroundings than perhaps was the case on day one. Certainly the first 2 holes were kinder to us and -2 for two added to ouir overnight -1 put us onto the leader boards dotted around the course. Beware the injured golfer they say and once more this was the case as Dale posted a 69 (-3), having holed from 10 feet at the first hole for a par 5 despite a perfect drive. Sam’s round was a roller coaster with much to admire and some surprises along the way too! He played a superb approach at 18 to a very ‘tight’ pin and holed for a birdie to buy us a few extra minutes in bed tomorrow!

Luke played well but suffered on the greens having hit the hole at least six times without the ball disappearing. His resolve is admirable and I hope he can get the low score he deserves before the end of the tournament!

Coping with the Adelaide heat

Coping with the Adelaide heat

Scotland are giving The USA a run for their money but as I said to the boys its only half way and we are still in touch despite not scoring our best and whilst playing pretty well on two very testing venues. A welcome shower at the end of a hot day (mid to high 20’s today) and a good appetite for dinner in the knowledge that tomorrow’s weather is forecast to be 30+. Having used the ice within the coolers (every 3 holes) to make up iced towels for the players I think that tomorrow one could well be around my neck too!!! They say Saturday (round 3) is ‘moving’ day and if we’re to mount a challenge we need to make it happen after a good sleep so on that note keep your fingers crossed and good night! JP”

Make sure you follow ‘moving day’ on the live scoring provided by the International Golf Federation.

Round 1

After a long lead up the World Amateur Team Championships for the Eisenhower Trophy have finally started. From day one England Captain Jonathan Plaxton reports: 

“At last time to play for real and the 5 a.m alarm was actually welcome! After a stretch and breakfast in our apartment we headed for Royal Adelaide in the car (now commandeered from David Basham!) and arrived at the course to find no wind and a clear blue sky. Although at first cool enough to warrant a sweater or jacket it soon became surplus to requirements! Our 10th tee start was not ideal since it involved a 5 minute bus trip for players+caddies and a hike for the rest of us. Caddies are amongst the many many volunteers who have been enlisted by the authorities here. On arrival at the 10th tee no Bolivian player to partner Dale Whitnell so he set off, with a nervy 3 wood, in a two ball with Zimbabwe. Luke followed with Sam in game 3 and after 2 holes we had managed 2 pars, 3 bogeys and a double bogey! With a 210 yard par 3 next on the agenda! Not many smiling faces however all three players then found their feet and settled down to play solid golf and record two 75’s with Sam matching the others finishing birdie at 9 to post a 70 (par is 73).

At the time of writing this appears to have given us the 3rd or 4th best score at Royal Adelaide where The USA played near flawless golf to be -10 and discard a score that most countries would have been delighted with! After such a poor start we were glad to post a sub par total but on reflection realise what might have been had we played well from the off. Observations were that the players could not hit woods on the range at Royal Adelaide where facilities are restricted unlike at The Grange and that waiting on the tenth hole (our first) was not ideal given the bus trip and logistics involved. Useful for round 3 on the basis our position is top half after 2 rounds as that will mean we play Royal Adelaide on the final day.

Having worked so hard we adjourned to the beach for a couple of hours before returning to The Grange for an hours putting practice in readiness for Friday. The two courses seem to be competing with each other to get the fastest greens and for now The Grange is winning! As well as cutting each day the staff have ironed the greens and the surfaces are as near to perfect as can be aside from old pitch marks. Holes are sharp and well painted. With a lie in tomorrow (tee time after 12) we could afford a relaxed evening and a good dinner post the meeting / inquest on today’s play / scores. On the basis that at least two of the three boys play to their handicaps (+4 at worst) in round two we agreed to serve them breakfast in bed on Saturday. Such a score would put us in a good position come the weekend whatever others do. The boys seem suitably incentivised and clearly worked hard for each other today. I’ve no doubt that we can improve our position. G’night! JP”

Continue to follow the scores through the live scoring provided by the International Golf Federation.

Here we go!

As the teams in the World Amateur Team championships conclude their final preparations England Captain Jonathan Plaxton reports from Adelaide:

“The 0530 alarm was needed by us all today and indeed tomorrow it will be the same given the early tee time we have for round 1. Following a team stretch, led by Dave Ridley, and breakfast (led by JP!) We headed for Royal Adelaide GC and the players warm up before our 0744 final practice round. A decision was made to play 9 holes only under tournament conditions and with a combined score of -3 including 8 birdies between the boys play was more than respectable. The question is can we cut out the mistakes/ minimise the damage (5 bogeys) and make our score potentially a winning one? Given our 10th tee start on day 1 we also played 10 and 11 before heading for the clubhouse and a food stop before some ‘time out’ and a visit to the beach and what a beach! Miles of sand and very few people + a huge Pelican wading in a lagoon! Having buried Dale in the sand we took in the rays and had some fun.

A couple of hours away from golf did us all good and topped up the tan ready for our 3pm date with the official photographer. Having first smiled for the camera the grin on the boys faces immediately thereafter may have had something to do with a fashion show also being staged in the hotel today!

Aboriginals at the Opening Ceremony

Theme of the Opening Ceremony

With the official opening ceremony at 5.30pm we had time to kill and a return to the hotel gave us some valuable rest time before the official functions – opening ceremony etc. A great venue/stage alongside the river with an Aboriginal theme. Hands shaken, friendship pins exchanged and people from all around the globe speaking pure golf! A short reception followed and after another good dinner we called it a day with a short team meeting and an early night on the eve of our biggest opportunity for the last 2 years. The boys are fit and well and eager to play. Here we go! JP”

As play gets underway in Adelaide you can follow the action on International Golf Federation’s live scoring.

Tuesday in Adelaide

As preparation conitnues in Adelaide, Jonathan Plaxton, the England Captain continues his daily reports:

“A great nights sleep for all and a lie in ’til 8 which will not be the case tomorrow (7.40 tee time at Royal Adelaide). Team ‘stretch’ followed by breakfast in Dave Ridley’s room/apartment. Use of a car greatly helps and we were able to make our own way to The Grange for a 1214 tee time. Chilly start meant jackets for the fist hour but then shirt sleeves once more and sun cream!

Wind direction the complete opposite from what it was when we first played The Grange and club choice totally different! Greens are excellent but getting faster by the day and very likely to be around 12 come Thursday. En route to the course each player was given a press cutting and asked to relate each of their memories of winning The Tilman, South of England and Bernard Darwin Trophies respectively. An interesting exercise with much discussion and several common factors highlighted to provoke a positive thought process and mind set.

On arrival the congested range initially caused a short delay but gave an opportunity for a ‘Titleist’ team photo in font of the advertising board on the range. Jacques Retief and Jim Ahern were at the course yesterday. No caddies until Thursday but a few people wandering the course including U.S university coaches etc (Texas for one).

Dave Ridley makes a mean sandwich and has made us a ‘pack up’ each day whilst I have been in charge of breakfast and laundry with help from the boys. Accommodation and self catering facilities have been ideal for us both weeks given the 3 man team here.

A 5pm Captain’s meeting back in town meant an early departure from the course for me and a coach ride. The pace of eveything is cetainly slower than in The U.K and with just 22 million in a country so big there’s no shortage of land so no wonder the roads are so wide! Captain’s meeting was uneventful apart from the draw which put us with Bolivia and Zimbabwe in round 1 at Royal Adelaide (10th tee) and in round 2 with Italy and Brazil (1st tee).

Following dinner we met to discuss individual course strategy and the format for tomorrow resulting in a 9 hole medal under championship conditions. An early night for us all. JP”

Further information on the Eisenhower Trophy can be found on the International Golf Federation website.

First Day Back at School in Oz

As the children in Adelaide go back to school England Captain Jonathan Plaxton continues his daily reports:
“First day back at school for children in Oz today and the weather reports say not to worry as it’ll be a poor day!  I don’t think so!!! A cooler day yes (20 degrees) but still so bright we needed sunglassese and warm with just a cool breeze off the sea. A great day after yesterday’s very warm 30 degrees with a warm wind from inland.
Whereas Royal Adelaide was marketed as the venue for The Eisenhower everything is actually focused around The Grange where all admin is located and facilities are of a scale capable of accommodating bigger numbers.  As a member’s club where many are acting as volunteers to assist (Ladies’ Capt was our starter yesterday) the reception has been very good even after last week’s loss of their playing rights when The Ladies took over the place! The course (Grange) is resiliant and in excellent condition despite all of last week’s ‘traffic’. Both courses are slightly inland with a good sandy base but surrounded by residential properties with gazebos and sun screens as opposed to decking or conservatories!!! We are told to take care when venturing ‘off piste’ but there is little in the way of rough ground as its mostly pine straw or sand waste land. 

One conversation between players will be of interest. When asked how many golf courses there are in The Cook Islands the young player replied in broken English there were nine. It subsequently transpired he meant holes as opposed to courses!!!!!

Once on the course (10th tee at 11.30) we had absolutely no problem following the ball in flight against such a blue sky! Following a five hole warm up some sense of more purpose / increased focus was required so a round robin match play event was hatched with each player pitting their wits against the others. Luke (who had not played the course previously) was on the receiving end of both his opponents 2 and 1 whilst Sam came back from two down to beat Dale 2 up. The two courses are similar but the two clubs differ emmensly with RA being akin to Royal Birkdale and The Grange along the lines of Foxhills for those who know it! I.e more corporate bias. After food we had a comprehensive debrief and discussion about the course with planners updated and notes added. Each player now has a detailed plan and course strategy which we will put to the test in our final practice sessions over the next 2 days. Good news that Paul Waring finished 6th at Madrid as we watched TV whilst eating. Team putting practice for 1 hour and then a return to the apartments in our hire car (a big Ford 4×4 as opposed to the Passat we booked!) Despite a couple of wrong turns no problems driving over here (on the left) but the car park is tight to say the least!! Evenimg dinner at The Tap Inn which is a golf themed pub/restaurant incorporating an indoor driving range! Strawberry milk shakes all round and a trick shot session on the range followed by an early night for all. Night! JP”

Follow the official news and updates from the Eisenhower Trophy that starts Thursday morning local time in Adelaide on the official website of the International Golf Federation.

Sunday in Adelaide

The England Team have arrived in Adelaide in preparation for the World Amateur Team Championships after a few productive days at Moonah Links. The Captain, Jonathan Plaxton in his daily update reports:

“0516 and no need to have set my alarm! The unmistakable sound of Barry Manilow coming across the rooftops from one of the numerous all night clubs close by in downtown Adelaide. Thankfully the lifts work well most of the time at the apartments where we are staying since we are on the 13th floor with a view across the city.

We joined England Ladies at the closing dinner yesterday. They were pleased to have improved 6 places on day 4 but still finished lower down than they’d hoped.

The Irish team’s golf clubs got lost at Heathrow but arrived late today. The heat when we disembarked was a shock even after Melbourne. The light is amazing. A photographer’s delight! Today we played The Grange course at 9 a.m so breakfast was at 0645 and transport at 0730 to the range for warm up etc.

An excellent course. Long enough to test but without puntive rough. The key is ball control on approach to the undulating and elevated greens which have a strong grainy grass. Greens are 10 on stimp with up to 12 forecast. A first outing for the new Oscar Jacobson mercerised cotton shirts was a success with the material clearly more suited to and much more comfortable in hot weather conditions. Following official registration and individual photos we held an inquest/review of play with many notes made on course planners. A shopping trip to the supermarket (using our hire car) and then the bus trip back to the apartments (15 minutes only) allowed some rest time before dinner. A restaurant recommended by the Ladies team proved a success and the walk there and back revealed some of the city’s sights! Monday’s tee time at Royal Adelaide is 11.30 and means a leisurely start for once. Exercise at 0845 and breakfast thereafter. Having registered we were canvassed by Turkey, Italy and Austria each of whom are seeking to stage this event in 2012.

Order of play sheets are submitted tomorrow so we must be getting close! Having enjoyed 31 degrees and a stiff but warm breeze today it seems that a change is on the way tomorrow with temperatures around 20 and a wind from the opposite direction.
Definitely time for bed! JP”

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