Archive for June, 2010

Hopeful ones…

Yes! The Open qualifiers are done for this year. The 150th Open Championship is played at Sta Andrews and today three English amateurs earned their places in the field. New England cap Laurie Canter proved why he was picked for the European Championships, Tyrrell Hatton had conserved his good form from the Brabazon Trophy and Jamie Abbott got to work overtime and made it through a play off. I know there is about 153 other players in the field but there is something special about amateurs making it through the qualifying. It is what an Open Championship is all about!

Check all results here.

An Englishman in Germany

No, being English in Germany on Sunday must not have been the best experience. Unless you were David Horsey of course! When Germany taught England a lesson of football David showed the German’s what golf should be like by winning the BMW International title in Munich. Obviously this is a fantastic win for David and looking back at his CV is a very impressive resume of what a player’s development could be like, when the right work is put in. David has been working with his long term coach Graham Walker to carefully map out his way forward for many years now. Graham was instrumental in David’s progress through the England Squads and the concept of not changing a winning formula applies well to the two. Having said that, they are also a great example of how carefully introducing new things along the way can pay dividends. For example Graham’s players would be regular visitors at Sheffield Hallam University where they benefit from the latest in Sports Science and research. A Walker Cup player in 2007 David went on to win the Challenge Tour in his first year as a professional which qualified him for the main tour. A year and a half later he has won and he has every reason to set his target on bigger things in the future.
Brabazon winner Darren Wright © Tom Ward

Darren Wright

At the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake it was 2006 all over again. When the Open visited in that year it was so dry that smoking was banned on the course. I do not think that ban was applied when the Brabazon was played but it probably was not far from needed. Darren Wright mastered the fiery course best of all and was no doubt a worthy winner in the end.

A Sunday in June

The Us Open winner

The Us Open winner

Europe has a winner of the US Open after 40 years! when Dustin Johnson’s wheels came of big time on the links of Pebble Beach, Graeme McDowell surfaced as a steady rock. When he holed out his par on 18 he was one shot ahead of Gregory Havret, the French player who once rounded off his amateur career by winning the European Individual Championship at Celtic Manor. Graeme is no doubt well worth this win and perhaps he served his apprenticeship for it already in college. I remember him coming out of college as the top ranked player only to turn pro into a bit of ‘limbo’ as many players would do when they really have got nowhere to play. The difference here was that Graeme won in his third start as a professional – at Kungsangen, outside Stockholm in the Scandinavian Masters! Graeme had been given a start as a member (!) of the club, through a sponsor’s exemption. Today he sits there with that massive trophy!

This week is a big one in English Amateur golf. It is time for the Brabazon Trophy! Follow everything on the EGU website by clicking here.

So close, and yet so far away

After an evening where England failed to impress against Algeria in the football World Cup two golfers in a certain part of Scotland probably could not care less about this fact. They have bigger things on their minds as they prepare for the final of the Amateur Championship at Muirfield tomorrow. After 36 holes on Saturday and up to 10 rounds in the last week one of James Byrne, Scotland and Jin Jeong, South Korea, will lift the trophy that apart from a place in the history books will give the holder a place in the field of the Open Championships in three weeks’ time and in the Masters Tournament at Augusta next year.

This year two Englishmen made it to the semi-final. Matt Nixon and Chris Paisley have every reason to be pleased with their week while they reflect on the key question;
– ‘If I had the chance over again, what would I do differently?’.
Finding the right answer to that question can without a doubt be just as life and career changing as lifting that trophy!

Major week

This week is actually pretty special. Two majors are on at the same time! In the US the ‘across the pond Open’ is obviously something to look forward to, starting on Thursday. Lee Westwood probably could not have asked for a better way to prepare than winning the St Jude Classic in a play-off on Sunday. I have a feeling he will now go into the US Open with a stronger than ever belief in himself. One major that Lee never won though is the one that started in North Berwick and Murifield yesterday – The Amateur Championship. Lee had a solid amateur career, winning the British Youth Championships, The McEvoy Trophy and the Golf Foundation Age Group Championships, twice at the age of 15 and 16, but in fairness he probably turned professional before he really had a chance to compete for that very prestigious Amateur Trophy.

The first recognised Amateur Championship was played for the first time at Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake in 1885. It was part of the early Grand Slam of golf with the four majors being the Opens and the Amateur Championships on either side of the Atlantic. Things have obviously moved on since then but the Amateur Championship remains a fantastic event and whoever wins it is very likely to be a player with a bright future ahead of him in the game of golf.

The first stroke play round was played yesterday and before the end of today it is really difficult to guess what 64 players will make it into the match play stages. It seems scoring at North Berwick and Muirfield vary greatly between the two and as always with any event on these great old links, the weather will play a big part. Follow the action by clicking here.

One of those weeks…

Justin and Jack at the Memorial Tournament

Justin and Jack at the Memorial Tournament

It is already Thursday this week and it would be easy to think that I have been lazy to not update the blog. Guess I have as I obviously should have written loads about Justin Rose winning at Muirfield Village and of course Matthew Southgate’s outstanding performance at the Home of Golf, in the St Andrews Links Trophy. Having said that you will have found the news elsewhere and as my aim is usually to provide more thoughts rather than news, perhaps this is not too late. Talking about news you need to check out Southgate’s blog as it is brilliant. Not sure how much of it he does himself (seems to be mostly George’s Mum that does the updating…) but in terms of keeping people up to date on what you are doing and raising your profile it is great.

I have actually had a busy start to the week as Stephen Burnett and I were out in Sweden to measure the course for this summer’s European Championship, Osteraker Golf Club. Just north-east of Stockholm Osteraker is the home club of PGA Tour winner Richard Johnson and they do, quite rightly, take great pride in this. Richard welcomes visitors and members on a big poster and this coming week he holds his own invitation with about 200 players over two days. The course could be an interesting test for the young amateurs in July but it needs for the rough to grow a bit. A bit of rain over Sweden will make it lush and tricky. We will see what the weather gods might have in stock!

Coming back to Rose his win in the Memorial Tournament must come as a great relief. Having been Europe’s no 1 a few years ago Justin has been through some tough times on the golf course and my guess is he now feels he has come out on the other side. Second to Justin and having led pretty much all the way was wonder boy Ricky Fowler. Ricky is a rookie on Tour this year who comes fresh off a very successful amateur career including two Walker Cup appearances. Looking at his resume it is easy to think that development is linear and almost guaranteed if you are good at a young age. If you look at Justin on the other hand you quickly realise that is not the case for everyone. After his fairytale Open at Birkdale he lined up the missed cuts and with the personal difficulties he went through when his dad passed away to add to that not many had been surprised if that had been the last we saw of Justin Rose. Talent though, equals ability AND desire and as Justin has both he now is where he is and where he belongs. We could be facing a really interesting week at St Andrews in July!

From great to… not so great!

Golf is an interesting sport. The difference from one day to another can be like night and day. Most hobby golfers would know this from personal experience but even most elite players will probably share this experience. I was at the EGU South Eastern Boys Qualifier the other day. A fantastic event I have to say, where the 11 counties of the South East come with their top 6 under 18 players to try to qualify for the County Finals. 5 out of 6 scores count each round and no doubt there is a bit of pressure on to put good scores on the door. Towards the end of the day I ended up in a discussion with a couple of people around “why is it that a scratch golfer is all of a sudden a 10 hcp?”. Great question! Usain Bolt or any other top athlete in most other sports would very seldom show that kind of discrepancy from one day to another.

Looking at the results from Celtic Manor it is easy to see that Chris Wood had a very similar experience. A fantastic 65 in the first round to something a lot less special on the second day that saw him sink like a stone on the leaderboard. To me this is the great beauty of golf! The combination of physical attributes that will help you hit all the shots you can think of and the mental demands that are unlike most other sports. All it takes is a decision that is not quite 100%, a failure to commit to a decision that could have been right or one little distraction that gets to you at the wrong moment. This means a missed putt, a missed fairway or an unfortunate penalty shot. From there the viscous circle can get started. Every now and then though you will be able to break this circle. The key is to find out what you did then. If you don’t know – try to look at or speak to somebody else and steal his or her recipe!

To follow some of the action this weekend click the below links:

St Andrews Links Trophy 2010

Wales Open

Memorial Tournament

What it takes…

Wednesday and generally a bit of an “off” day in the competitive golf community. On tour this day is reserved for those that make the party possible – the sponsors – who all compete and enjoy themselves in the Pro-Am. For the players that is probably not the most productive day as I am sure they would rather be preparing and practicing. At the same time they are very well aware that if it was not for this day their pay checks would look very different. The amateur schedule nowadays is not very different from the professional one. Big amateur events tend to be played Thursday to Sunday or perhaps Friday to Sunday with a 36 hole final on the last day. The times of working a full week to then be able to compete on the weekend are more or less gone.

On a Wednesday like this I take a bit of time to look through the results of the recent tournaments. Two names stand out: Luke Donald (great diary if you click the link!) and Andy Sullivan. Luke had not won in a while and he has been through a bit of a difficult period with an injury that took longer than expected to come back from. Today he is playing the Pro-Am in Wales having come fresh off a great win in Madrid and an excellent second finish at Wentworth. Andy Sullivan is the player who seems to be winning everything, with a margin, in and around the Midlands. In more nation wide events he has, so far, found it a bit more difficult. Perhaps winning the Lagonda is a step in the right direction that might open the gates for him?

The question of what it takes to win is one of those discussions that can and will go on forever. I think it is something that needs practice just like driving, chipping and putting. Very often we hear things like “he can’t close a match” or “he bottled it down the last” but way too seldom do we really go into the kind of practice we could do to stop this from happening. Pressure is difficult to create or simulate but a little pressure is better than no pressure so there is every reason to try. When I grew up the competitions for ice-cream around the putting green at the golf club were just as important and full of pressure as any real competition. We need more of that stuff and we need players and coaches that are creative enough to come up with exciting and challenging activities!

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