Archive for September, 2009

$10 million or $1 million?

What would you rather have? I know that is a stupid question but it is actually relevant  in golf. On Sunday Phil Mickelson won the Tour Championships at East Lake in Atlanta and walked away with a million dollars. Tiger Woods however left with ten million dollars as he won the Fed Ex Cup, the so called play off series of the PGA Tour. Sean O’Hair said he would have rather had the bigger check in his pocket while Phil Mickelson himself claimed he was happy to hold the trophy. I guess this again puts the finger on what professional sport is about. If it is one of the really big, traditional Championships where winning gets you into the history books once and for all – there is no doubt that most players would go for that. If it is just another tournament – well then, 10 million dollars is not bad. Where the Tour Championships fall? I am not sure. Golfweek has a good podcast though to try and discuss the issue. Check it out here: Golfweek Podcast.

The interesting question now is – is there life in golf after the Tour Championships? As a matter of fact there might be more action than ever. Now that the regular season is over for the top players the President’s Cup could become quite interesting on October 8-11. I know this is not supposed to be a big thing to Europeans but if you look at the names in the teams, it is actually quite an opportunity to watch some great golf!

Another useful lesson

Just leaving the Belfry after a couple of days with the England Coaches Consortium. Sounds like something, doesn’t it? In fact, it is a pretty special thing. It is the National and Regional Coaches of the EGU and EWGA coming together for sharing and learning, both among and from each other and with the help of others. In a way this is ground breaking in golf as the normal tradition of coaches or golf professionals is more of the opposite. Usually, what you had learned and the knowledge you had built up you wanted to keep to yourself. By doing that coaches were probably hoping to have something that the next door neighbour did not have which would thereby give them a business advantage. After all, a certain part coaching is about business, building your brand and competing with everybody else out there. The only problem is that if we want to lift English Golf to the next level and improve our coaching, that mentality is not going to help.

It was incredibly refreshing to see the exchange of ideas, knowledge and information that took place during the two days. Of course if you get a group of expert coaches like these in a room, the amount of knowledge therein will be quite impressive. As Dr Paul Schempp has shown, experts learn most from talking to other experts and once we have done a few more sessions of this, there will be no stopping English Golf. Besides the sharing it is always a good thing to inject something from the outside, to stimulate discussion if nothing else. Malcolm Wood from hockey pretty much made us all realise what a bunch of amateurs we are when it comes to preparation and planning. He also made me think of an article that I read just recently about multitasking. Check it out and perhaps you, like me, will think twice about picking your Blackberry up in all sorts of circumstances next time!

Time to reload!

I have had a quiet week on the blog. Thanks to Brian Roake and his boy’s golf news blog updates are still frequent though, even without me putting pen to paper. If you followed Brian’s reports over the weekend you could see that last week was another busy week. An England Boys Team competed and did it well out in Canada. Winning by 38 shots is something and although it begs the question what the starting field was like it is still an outstanding performance. Another England boy, Chris Lloyd, finished his season or at least the domestic one with an impressive win in the Tournament of County Champions to be crowned the Champion of Champions.

While the boys are busy playing in these events quite a few of their older and perhaps slightly more experienced peers are taking the first steps towards a professional career in golf. Stage IA was completed last week (for scores and information click here) and this week it is time for Stage IB. Many of the Walker Cup players will be trying their wings this week, unless they were high enough up the R&A World Amateur Ranking to be excempt right into stage 2. It is quite a long road, in most cases also pretty winding, to find your way to that desperately wanted card; 4 rounds in stage 1, another 4 in stage 2, followed by 6 rounds with a cut after 4 in stage 3. One would think that this tests your ability as a golfer pretty well and I think it does. The players most suited to play the European Tour will probably rise to the top. Whether they will be good enough to compete at this level next year is a different thing. Passing exams at university does not automatically qualify you for a job. But it is definitely worth the try!

A lesson in golf

Hat off to the Americans I think. It was a convincing victory that without a doubt showed that over this weekend, on a golf course like Merion, the US are the stronger team. And unlike last time it was not with the narrowest of margins. The GB&I Team just never stood a chance.

In a way this is not all that surprising. It doesn’t matter which ranking you look at, the Americans were always the stronger team. In match play and team golf though it is often said that anything can happen. It did in the Palmer Cup this year when a European Team, on paper substantially weaker than their opponents, beat a US Team with a number of the Walker Cup players in it. This time the team failed to add up to more than the sum of its individuals and that was never going to be enough.

Merion is a great golf course. In a not too distant future the US Open is stopping by and it will be so interesting to see how the USGA in their usual manner can defend the course. The greens will do their bit. On Sunday afternoon they were rolling at 13.7 on the stimp meter. In simple terms that means b-y fast! Greens like that not only require a gentle touch of the putter when you are on them. They also crave for course management worthy of a chess master and the shotmaking skills needed to be able to put the ball in the right place, with the right spin and trajectory, are second to none. The Americans this time simply prevailed in all those areas!

A journey back in time

Early Saturday morning in Conshohocken just outside Philadelphia I pick up a Wall Street Journal on the way to Merion Golf Club. Its weekend edition has a great article on the Walker Cup and the history behind it. In fact, a visit to the Walker Cup is a bit like a journey back in time. Started in 1922 by the visionary George Herbert Walker, the grandfather of George H.W. Bush, it was put in place to ease the International tensions that still remained after the first World War and to increase friendship both amongst competitors and across nations. I would imagine that some of the amateurs competing in those days were quite high profile people in their society so in some way, it was probably easy to see the two purposes meet. Golf nowadays is different. Most of the players are in their early twenties, eager to go on to a life in professional golf, but the values and principles of the Walker Cup remain. The people that come to watch the matches are the true lovers of the game, many of whom have spent their entire life being involved in it both as players and officials. At Merion there are no ropes surrounding the players. You walk next to the players on the fairways. And in fact, ropes are not needed as the crowd here know how to behave on a golf course. Like Rand Jerris, the lead historian and Director of Communications of the USGA says;
“We stage it on behalf of the average golfers everywhere, who play the game because they love it and aren’t out to make a living from it”. That however, does not mean that the matches are any less exciting!

Follow the action at Merion on

The world’s library

While the players are warming up for the Walker Cup at everywhere from the Buckingham Palace to Pine Valley I have been busy trying to summarise my impressions from the talent development course I attended last week. In doing so I discovered something that looks way too good to be true. Deborah Meaden of the Dragon’s Den usually says that if that is what something looks like – it normally is too good to be true. And I guess that is why the World’s book publishers and authors still cannot make their mind up whether to love or sue Google for their gigantic book project. Of course I am talking about Google Books which could virtually put the whole World’s library at your fingertips. Will it cause us to by less books? Or will it perhaps give us the taster we need to go out and buy the ones that we otherwise would not have known about? Try to figure that out… All I know is that the information and knowledge that sits their waiting is absolutely incredible! Check it out:

And by the way – what a great winner the European Tour had last week. Alex Norén certainly deserved his first win. Not many players on tour combine tremendous talent with hard work the way he does. Usually, it pays of in the end…

Sink or swim?

Have you ever wondered how well you would stack up against the best? This week some of golf’s greatest talent had the chance to test themselves at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass in Florida. Known as the home of the fifth major in golf, the course was bound to give the juniors one or two things to think about as the PGA Tour once again gave the American Junior Golf Tour the opportunity to invite their players to one of the greatest treats in junior golf – The Junior Players Championship at Sawgrass. The idea is to give the juniors a chance to experience exactly what a tour event is like. Well, perhaps the crowds were not quite there but pretty much everything else was. The pin positions, the firm greens, the first class treatment – everything was there – and I am hoping that apart from the wonderful experience, these kids come away with a good sense of what they need to work on.  The winner, Bobby Wyatt, made the three rounds at Sawgrass in 6 under which is pretty impressive. For England’s hopes, Chris Lloyd and Max Smith, things were a bit tougher even though they both carded decent finishes. But guys, if you look at what Stenson did there earlier this year, I have a feeling there might be a couple of things to work on. Which is great. This is only one of the best benchmarks you can ever find. The interesting thing now is how you deal with it.

Deliberate pratice

I am spending the week at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark for a course on “The Psychological Aspects of Talent Development”. This proves to be more than just an interesting title. Yesterday Jean Côtespoke for most of the day. His work is basically what is behind the UKCC coach education framework. His research is around developing expertise in sports and the coaching that needs to underpin this. In his world the coach needs to develop the athlete within the 4 C’s; competence, confidence, connection and character (sometimes there is a 5th c in caring but he includes this in character). Today I have had the pleasure to get to know a fellow Swede, Dr Anders Ericsson, a bit better. Anders is a fascinating guy who has spent his life studying expert performance. He has developed a concept he calls deliberate practice. This is basically an activity specifically designed to improve the performance in any chosen domain. A lot of the research that Anders has done looks into the development of expert musicians and chess players. We should probably be careful to take his findings straight across to golf but it is interesting to think about what deliberate pratice in golf would be. What are the methods, drills and activities that you could do that guaranteed would make you better?

The other day I was cornered by a player’s parents who said ‘I have got a complaint to make’. That is usually not a good thing. This time however, the complaint was “You have not sent out a Monthly since June!’. Well, I did send one last week and it is now published in the Peter’s Monthly section. I hope you will enjoy it!

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