Archive for November, 2010

Around the world in X days

England International and amateur superstar Tom Lewis has gone on a bit of a walkabout. Probably not of the kind that Crocodile Dundee once went on but eventually the tour he is on will take him around the world before Christmas. Tom asked for and was granted an invitation to the New South Wales Open played at the Vintage Golf Club north of Sydney in NSW. Next week he is playing in the Australian Open and then he continues to the US for the Dixie Amateur.

I have a feeling both the organisers of the NSW Open and the Golf Australia organising team for the Australian Open are pretty pleased they gave that invite to the young Englishman. Tom did fly the flag very well when finishing 2nd, beaten in a play-off by Peter O’Malley. I am not sure but I suspect O’Malley was playing professional golf before Tom was even born. This is the kind of thing that makes me wonder what golf would be like if all players were just players. If there wasn’t this overly complicated line between amateurs and professionals that nobody outside of golf understands anyway. If Tom did not have to play in some sort of parallel world where only occasionally he was allowed to visit in the other world. If he could play at the highest possible level where only his playing skills determined where he could play. I think the golfing world would be a lot simpler. We would not have the many hopefuls that once again have had their dreams crushed by the qualifying school this week as they came from a great amateur career only to find that professional golf was something different. Instead players would either realise sooner that this job I was hoping to get might not be for me or they would excel into the world where they could play golf for a living. Darwin said it, the one most fit for purpose would prevail…

The education of the perfect pro

Every now and then amateur golf gets a bit of recognition in the golf press. Alistair Tait at Golfweek is one of those that follow the players closely and very often he has clever and insightful things to say. The other day he wrote about the extensive travel schedule that many of today’s top amateurs have and how different it is from the times when players went up to the loft to get the clubs out in early May and then hung them back in the same place sometime in September. Today many of the amateurs in National Teams around the world have a schedule that is no short of one of a full time professional. This of course must be a better way to prepare for life as a European Tour or US Tour player as per the principle ‘practice the way you compete’.

The downside of the busy life of the so called amateurs is that very few have the time or the inclination to do anything but play golf. When the second stage of the Qualifying School for next year’s European Tour starts later this week there won’t be many in the field with some sort of degree, let alone a job outside possibly a few that spend a few hours in a shop or giving lessons in a week. And of course, how could anyone find the time to do that given the hourly requirements of playing golf at this level?

I always find it amazing therefore that not more players embrace the opportunity to play college golf where in fact you have every chance to kill two birds win one stone – school and golf!

Squaring the circle

It has been one of those weeks again. Popularly labelled ‘meeting weeks’, when the National Golf Centre is filled with board members, committees and voting members for 2-3 days. The theory is that the ‘meeting week’ is down to the fact that most of the time after a couple of days of these meetings, pretty much everybody would feel like they have done a whole week of work.

In the main these meetings are really useful. I am always struck by the number of people that genuinely care about English golf and its development. Different from when I worked for the Swedish Federation and felt rather lonely in my attempts to nurture the future World Class players, here is a whole hoard of county officials, ideally in support of what is being done. Nothing then is more annoying than having this stone in the shoe that just does not seem to be possible to remove. The decreasing interest in County Golf is such a stone. For the Counties, the league matches, the qualifiers for the County Championship and the Championship itself are the biggest things of the year and the whole reason to why they spend money on trying to develop players in the first place. The fact that it is more and more difficult to fit these events into the calendar is nothing but sad and even worse is that it is so difficult to come up with a solution.

Stephen Covey used to say that whenever you are faced with a dilemma there is always a third way that you have not seen that is the solution. It is now time to dig deep and find that opportunity!

Are you Getting Things Done?

I went to a pretty intriguing seminar yesterday. ‘Getting things done’ based on the theories of American management guru Dave Allen. The history of Getting things done, or GTD in its abbreviated form, is that Allen worked as a strategy consultant for some years. As such he would go into companies to work with their higher levels of management and help them develop the vision, mission and high flying strategic plans that would take them into the future. This is often a quite exciting part of work as it involves being a bit creative and thinking outside the so called box. However, even the most aggressive strategic plans fall pretty flat if they are not accompanied by some hard work on a day to day basis. Any athlete preparing for a major sport event knows this.

In David Allen’s case though he got increasingly frustrated when he returned to the companies he had worked with some 8 to 10 weeks down the road only to find that very little had actually changed. What he found was that the people in the companies were practically buried. Under memos, reports, telephone calls and everything that nowadays so often accompany us at work. They simply did not have time to implement any new strategies.

This caused David to start developing his theories around GTD and of course in true American way this has now become a major business that touch pretty much all parts of the world. And to be quite honest, it is quite mind-blowing. I thought that I was pretty good at getting things done but I now realise that I am good at being strategic and cracking ideas. I have a lot to learn when it comes to putting those into action. And to some respect – I think that applies to all people. Most of us had some great dreams as kids and still do as adults. Are we prepared to bring them to life is the big question though!

To share is to learn

A week has gone by since the World Amateur Team Championship concluded in Buenos Aires. I have gotten over the time difference and re-adjusted to the slightly cooler European conditions, rather than the springlike South American. I have always said that the perhaps most important reason to compete in events like the Eisenhower Trophy, European Championships or other major events is to benchmark ourselves and find out where we are strong, what we can improve in relation to our competitors and to learn from the highest level of our sport. This time was no difference and I know, having discussed with them, that all our three players came back with loads of really important information and lessons learnt about their own game and what they need to do to develop further. The Eisenhower Trophy is a bit of a one-off event given that it only has three players from each of the participating countries. It is likely that the number 4 player from the US, France, England and any of the major golfing countries is stronger than some of the top ranked players from the smaller countries. Therefore the starting field will by no means be the strongest these players compete in during the season. In fact, Brad James, the Australian Performance Director and previously the coach at the University of Minnesota, said there are probably 50 college events that are stronger than the Eisenhower. Having said this, the only time that the best amateurs from all parts of the World come together to compete is this, which means that winning is pretty special and the top 10 or top 20 is as strong as it can ever be in amateur golf.

Winning no doubt requires a lot of hard work and determination, not just from players but from the whole staff and set-up. It is interesting therefore that the person most keen to develop an idea we had over a coffee in Buenos Aires – to organise a day for Performance Directors from a number of countries to discuss various issues with a view to learn from each other – is the French Performance Director. Having just come back victorious he cannot wait to continue to build on what they have and learn from others to improve any weaknesses. And in my world, that is the key. Open rather than closed. Linux rather than Microsoft…

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