Archive for March, 2010

The urban meeting culture

This week I am part of a new age movement that is spreading like a disease across the world. If you have ever walked into a hotel lobby, preferably in one of the international hotel chains in a reasonably big city, or perhaps even at the coffee shop down the street although this venue is usually a bit more lively and therefore not as ideal, you have probably seen it;
The ‘meetings’ with 2-4 people, about twice the number of cups of finished cafe lattes on the table and a couple of laptops, that seem rather spontaneous but of course have been carefully planned way in advance.
A good meeting venue is centrally located and easy accessible by public transport as you do not want to waste time driving. It is reasonably large with tables and comfy chairs as even though these meetings would not be about the state secrets, you don’t necessarily want to hear about the neighbours’ issues. Spread around the room and well located in relation to the tables there are power sockets for the laptop and perhaps to charge the mobile. The wi-fi is a given and of course it is of the highest quality. Free of charge is a great bonus and will no doubt pay off in coffee sales for the place in question. And yes, the coffee needs to be Italian and add to that some foccacias and paninis and I will be prepared to spend money here all day. As will many others. The number of drinks and sandwiches that you get for the price of a private meeting room is quite substantial!

Oh, subject for the meetings? Yes, we are recruiting new Squad Managers so I am in the process of meeting the most amazing people. Highly motivated, inspired and ready to get involved to give of their time. For the chance of being part of England Golf. That is pretty special!

In form?

The PGA Tour is back at Bay Hill this week. As is customary the leaderboard is full of top class players. I guess many of them live just around the corner from Bay Hill so I am sure it is a good week for them to play. One that don’t, as he live on the West Coast, is Phil Mickelson. Just before he left for Orlando Phil apparently shot 58 around his home course. Not a bad round… Of course that home course is not like Bay Hill, set up to welcome the world’s best for a week, but still it should give some sort of indication to whether Phil is in form or not. It is the classic discussion about if it is at all possible to make predictions in golf. If you run 400m and one day break your personal best then I would think that you very seldom come out a few days after that and run 2 seconds slower. In golf that seems to happen all the time. Henrik Stenson shot 67 the first round at Bay Hill. And then followed up with a 78 to almost miss the cut. Anyone that has ever played competitive golf knows that happens. You have to wonder why it is so difficult to get away from though.

Phil Mickelson? Well, with 71-67 he is one shot of the pace going into the weekend!

A new winner

Rhys Davies has won on the European Tour. Even though it might seem like it took the 2005 and 2007 Walker Cup player a little while to accomplish, this is actually a fantastic achievement. It is interesting to have a closer look at Rhys way to become a European Tour Champion. The European Tour biography pages give really good insights on what players have been up to for those of us that are interested.

Rhys won the Boys Amateur Championship in 2003 after which he pursued a scholarship at Tennessee State University. At college he won no less than 10 times and his scoring average in 2005/06 was the lowest of all players in college. Overall in college he scored under par 89 times out of the 149 rounds he played and had another 20 top three finishes, to add to his victories. A pretty impressive resume!

As Rhys turned to the professional game in 2007 it was not until a sponsor’s invitation gained him entry to the Challenge Tour event on home soil that things really started to happen. He won this event and another one in Spain en route to a fourth place finish in the overall Challenge Tour standings. This, thank you very much, gave Rhys the European Tour Card for 2010!

We are now in March and after a bit of a rocky start Rhys has posted a 6th in Abu Dhabi and a 3rd in Malaysia on his way to winning in Morocco. This does make you wonder where he had been without that exemption into the SWALEC Wales Challenge in 2009!

England win in Sotogrande

23 shots! Not a bad statement to make in the first team event of the year. The England Team of Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Haines, Tom Lewis and Chris Paisley showed no mercy with the other teams and cruised to a start to finish lead and victory. In the individual event the English had to surrender to Italian Nino Bertasio who finished one shot ahead of the nearest contender, Tommy Fleetwood.

For full results click here for team and here for individual.

European Nations Cup

England is in a winning position going into the last round of the European Nations Cup at Sotogrande in Spain. With the last round being played today, Saturday, England have secured a bit of a cushion with 18 holes to go, 19 shots ahead of Italy.

For full team results click here.

In the individual event there is a tie with Italy (Nino Bertasio) and England (Chris Paisley) in the lead in 207. Two further Englishmen are also following closely behind:

For full individual results click here.

Pace of play

Yes, the Big Easy is back in the winner’s circle again. When the second World Golf Championship event of the year concluded in Doral, Fl, last night it was Ernie Els who got to kiss the trophy. This was Ernie’s first win in two years and I bet he is pleased to be back. Glancing through some of the written stuff from this weekend I come across an article on Golfweek that talks about Ernie Els’ schedule and how he feels he has cooled down to do things more the way he wants to rather than doing what other wants him to do. I do come to think about an old athletics coach that I did some work with a few years ago as he was gradually making a move into golf. His question was always, looking at the top players in the world;-

‘Who wins the tournaments? Is it the best guy that week or is it the least bad one?’

Of course he was referring to the preparation and the pacing of yourself to give the best possible opportunity for peak performance when you really want it and need it. I think compared to how the athletes in athletics do it this is a pretty unknown art form in golf. And of course the return question is always;-

‘Is it even possible to plan for peak performance in golf’?

One thing is sure though; many have tried and failed. A number are still more guided by the tournaments that show up on that schedule put together by the European or PGA Tour, or why not by the Amateur authorities, than by their own needs and ideas. Others hope that the more I play the better I get, or even the luckier I get. The interesting thing is that there is enough proof to suggest that all techniques work. Or they don’t work. At least not all the time. And at the end of the day, that is the bottom line. Is there anything that works always??? I am pretty sure there isn’t so in the meantime, perhaps a good idea is to try to find something that works more often than it fails? It would seem that is what the Big Easy has done. At least for now.

The rain in Spain

When I lived in southern Spain in the mid nineties for a couple of years I was as cold as wet as I have ever been during one of the winters. I believe that winter must have broken every record in the book with regards to rainfall in the region. From what I understand, it could be that this winter has seen that record sky-rocket as it seems like nobody has seen as much water on the Costa del Sol as what has fallen from the sky this year. The Spanish Amateur was heavily affected by the rain and I think the tournament director must have tried every trick to somehow be able to crown a champion in the end. No shadow, or rain, should fall on the two English men that battled it out in the final though. In the end it was Matthew Haines who proved to be the strongest of the two when he birdied the first extra hole to capture the trophy from fellow Walker Cup player Tommy Fleetwood. Matt can now look forward to a place in the Spanish Open on the European Tour which the Spanish Golf Federation usually allocate to the winner of the National Championship. For full results from the Spanish Amateur click here.

Out of your comfort zone

Laurie Canter, the England A-Squad player, has just won the South African Amateur Match Play Championships. A great achievement by the Gordon Brand Jr protegé. To me though the actual winning the championship is only a minor part of what Laurie has shown himself capable of. Quite often when I speak to young players I ask them what their plans are going forward. Almost as often, the reply that I get is something along the lines of “I hope to get picked for the … squad”. That is not a plan. That should only ever be a bonus to a personal pathway.

This winter Laurie has shown that he is different. When most of his pears waited around in England for something to happen to them, Laurie took charge of his own destiny and planned a trip to South Africa for practice and a few tournaments. Those of us that have seen the British winter can probably appreciate where the chances of developing as a golfer have been the greatest. I know that it takes some financial backing and that not everybody have the possibilities to do what Laurie has done. What we all could have though is the inner drive to think ahead and plan our way from where we are to where we want to go. That does not necessarily mean we have to go to South Africa. What it does mean though is that we do the best of what we have got. Laurie did that and it is likely that it earned him a spot in the South African Open on the European Tour next year.

Spring time

As rumour has it that the World no 1 is back practicing and the Golden Bear says he cannot imagine Augusta without Woods, the amateur circuit has got a true sense of spring to it. Even though the weather in Spain has been everything but spring like, the Spanish Amateur traditionally and officially means that the season has started. Not everybody played in Portugal two weeks ago but when the schedule has reached Spain, pretty much every European based amateur is there to compete. If your Spanish is up to scratch you can follow the action this week by clicking here.

Olympic hockey (on ice…)

Canada win the Gold Medal

Canada win the Gold Medal

Last night was one of those magic moments. Canada vs the USA in the Olympic ice-hockey final on home soil. The country that claims that “hockey is our sport” could not have had a better finish to their Olympic Games by the best Hollywood producer. For anybody with the slightest interest in the sport, this was as good as it gets. The Olympic Games that once were reserved for the true amateurs now had the best hockey players in the world, all probably worth their weight in gold, battling it out to defend their countries honour. Once and for all the match last night killed the old belief that to play for your country and its glory was something only true amateurs would sign up to. Last night showed that true sports is forever worth more than any contract.

As I surf through a couple of columns on the web today the debate evolves around hockey’s (read NHL’s) yes or no to its place in the 2014 games. FoxNews explains how last night’s final brought hockey back again. Another column questions how the NHL can even consider turning down the opportunity to get free exposure from the Olympics. As golf steps into the Olympic family in 2016 it will be more than interesting to follow the lead up. What friends of hockey watched last night was the power of National recognition where the team and the country is always bigger than any individual. Considering where golf is at the moment – that would be a pretty welcome way forward!

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