Archive for June, 2009

Here we go again…

No, I have not disappeared off the face of the earth or gone to Los Angeles to pay tribute to Michael Jackson. But I have had a complete communication melt down last week so blogging was simply not an option.  As I now return a full week of golf has just started. The European Championships are underway at Conwy in Wales and the England Team have had a steady start. After day one England are in the lead three shots clear of Norway and Italy with Sweden closely behind in fourth.

Pos Name R1 R2 Holes Total
1 England 344   F -16
2 Norway 347   F -13
3 Italy 347   F -13
4 Sweden 348   F -12
5 France 351   F -9
6 Wales 354   F -6
7 Scotland 355   F -5
8 Denmark 358   F -2
England Team

England Team

As always with the European Championships the week is a bit of a marathon. Another 18 holes of qualifying tomorrow after which the top 8 teams go through to the A flight. When there it is quarter final, semi final and final for three days running, each with two foursomes in the morning and five singles in the afternoon.

Let us hope that coach Dave Ridley and skipper Colin Edwards can manage to get the best out of the players!

Follow the action in Wales by clicking here.

Almost there

No, it was not England’s turn yet. Last year Tommy Fleetwood fell just short of becoming the youngest ever winner of the Amateur Championship. This year he got to the Quarter Finals, left behind by three English players that all made it to the semi finals. Sam Hutsby from Liphook, Hampshire made it all the way to the 36 hole final day where the young Italian, Manassero proved just as impressive as he was in the stroke play qualifying that he won comfortably. At 16 years of age he is now the youngest ever Amateur Championship winner and I have a feeling he will be looking forward to the Masters next year, in which he through this has just earned a spot.

This week also saw some of the best juniors in the World compete for the World Championships trophy out in Japan. England made a strong case to finish third behind winners Argentina and runners up, the United States. When I email with the England U18 lead coach, Paul Ashwell afterwards he says that it was nice to win a medal but it had the wrong colour. I have a feeling that is similar to the feeling that Sam had leaving Formby after the final. One thing that I do know though is that true champions tend to be incredibly disappointed but not for too long. They also have the habit of taking away the positives and understanding what could be better next time.

Dean Robertson, the successful European Palmer Cup Coach used a very simple technique with his team when he asked them – “if you played to your potential, could you win this event”. Of course all players answered “yes”. When Dean said – “what is stopping you” and started to deal with the things that came up he had come a long way towards securing that trophy. What on paper looked like a weaker team still walked away with the sweetest taste in their mouths afterwards.

Maybe both Sam and the England Team in Japan did the same but somehwere in their lies the true challenge; Performance=Potential-Interference.

Swedish women

What a weekend it was for Swedish Golf! Two women winning on tours on either sides of the Atlantic. If you look more closely the two of them actually make two quite interesting case studies on how to develop into a really successful golfer. Anna Nordqvist who, at 22 and as a rookie on the LPGA Tour, just won the LPGA Championships is the fantastic talent that sprung from a blistering career in the amateur game into the professional game to shoulder the old Annika Sorenstam mantle. Her win is a fantastic achievement and knowing what she has done previously I am positive that she will continue to prosper and be a factor to consider in many more majors to come.

The same weekend on a not so glamorous tour and of course with the top names out in America to compete for the major, Johanna Westerberg won on the LET. Johanna was never anywhere near Anna’s amateur record and I would have thought that more than once in her career she has stopped to think about what she is doing. All the travelling and the time put in for very little money and recognition – is it really worth it? Now, at 31 and with boyfriend the tennis professional Joachim ‘Pim-Pim’ Johansson on the bag she is a winner. And obviously somewhere deep inside that potential was always there.

These two case studies are well worth considering when trying to build the foundations of programmes that will develop the future top players. Or why not the top student, banker or businessman. It is so easy to design the programme for Anna, but how do we make sure that there is room also for Johanna, to develop at the pace that is right for her? Only the truly individual programme will have the capacity to help her reach her potential. The really tricky question is to do it before she runs out of money!

A fresh breeze over Royal Birkdale

Links golf does not get any better than this. A bit of sunshine, a bit of wind and a golf course in perfect condition, played off the championship tees. An Open golf course without the grand stands, tented villages and the thousands of people is always a very different experience than during that week in July when everything happens. Royal Birkdale is no different and to me this is when the golf course really is at its best. In perfect harmony with mother nature, set out between the sand dunes that cover it from the sea this golf course offers golf at its best. When England take on Australia in these settings I cannot help wondering if the players understand how fortunate they are.

The match became a real showcase of the strength that this England Team holds. 11-3 against a country like Australia is nothing short of superb. After having been ‘taken to the cleaners’ as Seve Benson, now on the European Tour, once put it, two years in a row when the match was played ‘down under’ this was a nice change.

A match like this serves a number of important purposes. Perhaps the most important one is the chance to benchmark against some sort of standard. With the Australian coach, Mark Holland, I got into a discussion about how we communicate with the players and their own little eco-system of their personal coach and other support services that they make regular use of. No matter how good that support is it is not very often that those people get to see the player in this kind of environment; on a world class golf course playing against some of the best opposition. Our job centrally has got to be to communicate strengths and weaknesses to the player’s individual system and through that and the support that we can give, make sure that the next time he is about to take on a similar challenge, he has taken another couple of steps towards being as good as he can be. If players, coaches and others involved are prepared to take that feedback on and work together the opportunity for every player to rapidly move forward should be fantastic.

And the Northern County Qualifier? Yes, for the first time ever Cumbria will be in the County Finals. Well done!

Another busy week

This week the Aussies are in the country for the Ashes. Well, perhaps it is not the original cricket match but its slightly less known and traditional golf equivalent. With an excellent venue, Royal Birkdale, it should be an exciting match. Of course you can follow the action on the English Golf Union website.

Talking about the Ashes I remember a couple of years ago when one of the golf magasines did a thing on what a Golf Ashes with all the top professional players involved would look like. Imagine Paul Casey against Adam Scott and Luke Donald versus Geoff Ogilvy. I bet that could be just as exciting as the Ryder Cup if not moore. The number 2 and 3 countries in the world teeing it up against each other. I realise that we might have to wait forever for such a match though and in the meantime there is no reason to think that the amateur match would be any less interesting.

Personally I am not yet at Royal Birkdale as I have traveled to Seascale GC for the Northern County Qualifier. This is where it is determined who will represent the Northern Group of counties in the County Finals. Apart from the finals themselves it is the one event that counties want to win. As I arrive at Seascale I am struck not only by the lovely views of the ocean and a proper links golf course but also by the number of cars in the parking lot. This is golf as it used to be and perhaps as it still ought to be. Out in twosomes the players sail through quickly supported by an enthusiastic crowd. At Seascale there is no live scoring and perhaps it is not needed. If you are interested in how your county is doing you come out to watch! What I can say though is that rumour hs it that Cumbria is leading after the first round…

What does it take for David to beat Goliath?

Perhaps the one thing that makes sports so interesting is that the old story about David and Goliath comes to live time and time again. When two teams or two individuals battle it out in the sports arena anything can happen. Swedish tennis player Robin Soderling tomorrow is in the final of the French Open at Roland Garros. Going into the tournament he was ranked in the mid 20s and certainly not thought of as a candidate for the trophy. When Rafael Nadal stood on the other side of the net Robin played like there was no tomorrow and beating the World no 1 was only one step along the way to where he now is. A few days later Federer will provide the opposition in the final and anything but a big win for the Swiss elegant would be sensational. Inspiration and determination can accomplish great things though and I would not count Robin out for one moment.

At Cherry Hills in Denver David beat Goliath as the European Team, on paper not even close to their US opponents in terms of combined World ranking positions, came out victorious, 13-11. Having had the opportunity to follow the team quite closely I can say that this was all about inspiration and determination. Dean Robertson was a fantastic coach and as he shared his knowledge and experience from playing with some of the world’s best, through the use of videos and storytelling, together with the watching eye of Mr Arnold Palmer who was present for the entire week there was nothing stopping the Europeans from believing that they could overcome their opponents. And after all, that is where it all starts.

Arnie’s army

Mr Palmer and Palmer Cup players

Mr Palmer and Palmer Cup players

If inspiration is in any way important in the development of talent then I would say that the 16 players of the European and US Palmer Cup teams would have a pretty good chance after yesterday. Arnold Palmer is in town for the matches that he has given his name to, the Ryder Cup equivalent for students, this time played at the beautiful Cherry Hills GC in Denver, Colorado.

A very relaxed and incredibly generous Mr Palmer spent the best part of the morning answering questions and signing everything from shirts to his own biography and Palmer Cup golf bags before the players took off for the so called College/Am. Among other things that Palmer shared he spoke highly about his father and how he had taught Arnold the two most important lessons in his golfing life:

  1. When Arnold began playing his father had given him a cut down club where he had used a simple leather strap as the grip. This made the grip quite thin and meant that Arnold gripped the club in a pretty strong way. His father looked him in the eye and said “don’t you EVER change that”. Arnold said he didn’t…
  2. Another rule of Arnold’s father was to ‘always keep your attention on what you are doing’. Arnold said that concentration is the most natural thing and as long as you stick to this simple rule you won’t loose it. When you let other things come in to disturb, that is when you are in trouble!

Follow the action from the Palmer Cup where one English player, Chris Paisley, is in the team by clicking here.


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