Yet again I am summarising a session with the England Golf coaches. Two days at Woodhall Spa with the group tasked with developing the World Class golfers of both today and tomorrow. Right now there is an incredible buzz in the group where everybody is pulling together to improve both as individual coaches and as a group involved in the England Coaching Programme. The first day had presentation skills on the agenda. William Anderson from the Teamworks was our more than excellent host and trainer. Performing in front of a group in a classroom to deliver an inspirational presentation is not something a golf coach would do on an everyday basis. But if you are tasked with managing a squad of players, be it on regional or national level, it is a really beneficial skill to have. We all now had the opportunity to try our wings in a safe environment, and if that was not enough, there was a whole group of coaches waiting to give feedback on what they just saw!
The second day we had a session with Dr Rob Neal and his team of coaches based in the UK; Stewart Corstorphine, John Watson and Mark Bull. Rob is the university professor that turned to golf with his knowledge in biomechanics and his ways to analyse movement and technique. I have to say that Rob’s approach was a complete breath of fresh air where he stressed very clearly that his and his team’s job is to assist the coach with information that he or she otherwise would find it hard to get. Not to overload the player with numbers and graphics. I for one now know that I need to go work on getting that left hip a lot higher at address!
Two Englishmen battling it out in the Arizona desert for the biggest individual match play title in the golfing world. Ian Poulter eventually beat Paul Casey to become the Accenture Match Play Champion. Clearly, that is not a bad start to the year for English golf. I do think though that looking back a few years most people with any kind of knowledge in the game would agree that it is surprising.
Having turned professional at the age of 19, off a handicap of 4, Poulter’s career is nothing short of neither remarkable nor outstanding. As the story goes he was forced by his boss where he worked as an assistant pro to pay a full greenfee every time he wanted to play in a tournament. Therefore he did not really play in events. Somehow though he made it on to the European Challenge Tour to capture his first win in 1999. One year later he was the Henry Cotton Rookie of the year on the main tour and to say that the rest is history is certainly and understatement.
As late as January 2008 Poutler was laughed and joked about when he in an interview for a magazine said that the day he does play to his potential, it will only be about him and Tiger. I have a feeling Ian Poutler may prove to us all that he was right before we know it!
It is a busy week! When a number of the European Tour players can afford to take a week off and perhaps do some skiing, the top 64 (or perhaps it is 65 then with Woods not present) are to fight it out for the first match play event of the year. I was going to say the only but the there is that weekend thing in Wales in October so I won’t do that. Ross McGowan is out against the World no 2, Steve Stricker, in the first match which should be a lot of fun for Ross. Follow this action here.
In a different part of the World the amateur season is now kicking off in Europe. Traditionally the season opener is the Portuguese Amateur, and so again this year. 16 English players are ready to open their season in what is normally a nice warm up for the Spanish Amateur the coming week. What is really nice is that the winner usually gets an invitation to the Portuguese Open on the European Tour. That alone is a pretty good reason to travel to Portugal! Follow the English players’ progress here.
Last night I did a session for the so called Sussex County Coaches network. This network is part of the initiatives supported by the County Golf Partnership which in turn is supported by funding from Sport England through the England Golf Partnership. Pretty much each county that has formed a partnership should have one of these networks, designed to train, educate and develop the coaches and the coaching that operate within the county. What last night’s session made me realise is what a complete paradigm shift this is. Coach education has always been considered the job of the PGA by the amateur bodies. Even though it still is, these amateur bodies like the county unions and the national unions are now starting to realise that if we want the world’s best players, we will need the world’s best coaches. What I found last night was a group of young, aspiring, motivated and willing to learn people that almost without exception work full time in coaching. The times of the pro running the pro shop and giving lessons for a few hours per week are gone, at least if you really want to get into coaching. Coaching is a full time job that requires specialist training!
Lots to carry and lots to wear!
The other day I caught a flight from Stockholm to London. It was a busy morning on Scandinavian Airlines and it did not take long for me to realise why. On board were parts of the Swedish Olympic Team on their way to Vancouver. No, the number of direct flights between the Swedish Capital and the winter sports centre of all attention for the next few weeks is non existing, so a stopover in London is probably the best alternative for those heading that way.
On board that flight I realised what a uniform can do. People were very cheerful and sent their best wishes and good luck to the future Olympians. I do not think anybody actually recognised any of the faces but the uniforms you could not miss. Bright yellow and blue tracksuits and combinations of T-shirts and sweaters that actually looked really cool.
I have had the same experience once before. In Barcelona Airport when I ran into the Barcelona football team. Not being such a football nut I could not recognise the faces, even though I did spot Thierry Henry as he walked by, but the uniforms were way too obvious not to be noticed. Bright orange tops with light brown jogging pants. When golfers travel in uniform it is usually in their blazer. Even though that can be an efficient way to get the lucky upgrade on the flight I am not sure it is what the players would pick, had they had the choice. A cool, relaxed outfit in the team colours would probably go down better!