Archive for April, 2011

Stand the test of time

While a million people turned out in Central London to celebrate the ceremony of Kate Middleton and Prince William quite a few of the top amateur golfers in Europe once again teed it off at the Royal Lytham Golf Club for the first major of the year. In 2012 the Open Championship returns to Lytham again, for the 11th time, and the golf course have been slightly refurbished to cater for the modern game. It is almost laughable to see Tom Lehman’s driver on the wall in the club house from his win 15 years ago. The persimmon head makes it look like something from ancient history compared to the drivers that are in the bags today.

The thing with Royal Lytham though, as with most links courses, is that as long as the wind blows it does stand the test. This golf course today was as hard as any course these guys will play all year. The wind was a fresh breeze but could have been a lot worse. The greens were as good as they will ever be on the links but the rough is still gentle. Wait until July 2012 and it will be a different ball game. My guess is Royal Lytham will be ready.

While I was gone

No, I have not given up this blogging business. All that happened was that I took a week’s holiday. Or actually only a few days as with the Bank Holiday madness that is going on in Britain at the moment it did not take any more than that to get a full week off. As if my working hours were Monday to Friday. Anyway, after a week away the Middleton’s are not the only ones with a busy week ahead. The traditional Lytham Trophy, the first major in amateur golf on British soil for the year is around the corner and I bet we are all hoping for some continuous summer weather. A weekend around the links at Lytham and St Annes is a true treat even if all you do is walk by the side of the fairway.

While I was gone Lee Westwood regained the title as World number 1. Interesting was that he could have been overtaken by countryman Luke Donald who had his chance at Harbout Town on the PGA Tour. Unfortunately he was pipped by the post by Brandt Snedeker, in a play off. Two Englishmen in the World’s top 3 is not all that bad though.

While I was gone the fascinating world of golf once again reminded us about the opportunities that exist. Two of our U18 players got the chance to travel to Sage Valley where the Junior Invitational was played over Easter. I am sure the tournament was fascinating and the compeition fierce. What is even more fascinating though is the level of support that this event has. A quick look at the Sponsorship page reveals a world that for most sports is completely unknown. The fact that there are people out there that are prepared to cough up $2,500 for the chance to play a round of golf at this fabuluous golf course and to be around some of the potential world beaters of tomorrow is nothing short of inbeleivable. But something both we as a sport and the youngsters that had this trip of a lifetime, at least so far, come their way should be very, very grateful for.

To be or not to be

Yesterday was quite a special day. Or at least it could be. Of course that all depends on happens from now on. But if yesterday was anything to judge by we are up for an interesting future. I am talking about the launch and press conference of Power Play Golf. I went to Celtic Manor not really knowing what to expect when the big press conference was scheduled to take place. But with a line up of George O’Grady, Chief Executive of the European Tour, Colin Montgomerie and Paul Casey together with the Marketing Director of SAAB in the UK it was difficult not to be impressed. Words like ‘different, exciting, challenging, the best I have seen so far and this could be it’ were thrown around the room. I guess we will have to wait and see what becomes. One thing is for sure though. On May the 30th there will be another chapter of golfing history written at Celtic Manor. Who knows, maybe one day we will have a round of power play in the Ryder Cup?

Signs of a bright future

This Wednesday and Thursday pretty much all of the cream of UK under 18 golfers will turn to Copt Heath and the McEvoy Trophy in Solihull, just outside Birmingham. In fact there is likely to be also a few European countries/teams/players (notice how I have learnt to separate GB&I and the rest of Europe….Can’t believe I just did that!) in the field as well as this tournament is quite prestiguous by now. By all right that is as it is ran in a very professional way. The trophy holds some pretty impressive names, many whom have gone on the do great things in the professional ranks. Most names of the past though remain pretty unknown as somewhere along the way they faded away from golf’s fame and glory, or perhaps they just made a choice to have a different career than the playing one.

In one way of looking at it there is nothing strange at all about this and nothing to be upset about. It is a tough world out there and the competition will mean that only the fittest will survive in true Darwinism fashion. On the other hand one would hope that this sends a signal to the many hopefuls in today’s field. In sports we have a tendency to find big fish in small ponds. Hence a winner of the McEvoy is considered to have a bright future ahead of him. Quiet possibly he could but a look at the statistics would perhaps give us a more balanced and sensible view of this. Not to mention the hopes and dreams of the player himself.

Of course the further up the age ladder we get it is more and more likely that results are a good indicator of future success. If we turn the other way it is not surprising that the opposite apply. At under 14 level it seems like it is better not to win than to win. That is if you want to be the next Martin Kaymer of course. And I have a feeling that is what many of these youngsters are looking for. Or at least the parents that take their children to the World under 9 Championships. To me it does not get any more crazy than that…

Solid rather than spectacular

Rory McIlroy was one of he first off the golf course and back in the club house at Augusta National yesterday. Solid rather than spectacular, that is how hee described his first round of 65 shots. He went on to describe how he had played to ‘his spots’ on the course and how he had really stuck to his plan. He emphasised how important it is to make a clear decision, which often can be to play to a spot some 25 yards away from the pin on the green, and to be positive and aggressive towards that decision.

Those of us that have come across the philosophies of Shivas Irons and his adventures on the golf course in the Kingdom (of Fyfe) will know that golf is very often just like life itself. His words about golf being an ‘x-ray of the soul’ pop up in my head when I hear the interview with Rory. It actually is not a bad lesson for life that he presents: 1. Make a plan for what you want with clear steps on the way to get there;
2. Be specific on your decisions as more often than not you will find yourself getting just what you asked for; 3. Act positively on your decisions and steer away from any doubts; 4. Review and return to 1…

Solid rather than spectacular. Spectacular however, is often what comes when this process is repeated. It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow…

Completed hat.trick!

I spent yesterday at Sotogrande in southern Spain. One of the first courses on the coast, the old course at Sotogrande (the new one is what later became Valderrama) is still quite a track. No, it probably will not ever host a European Tour event (again? I am not sure if it ever has?) given that both players and equipment have outgrown courses like this. That is not to say that it is not an interesting test though. With greens as slick as marble floors and pin positions, some of which by players would be regarded as criminal, in challenging places it is a true test of any player’s temper and patience. When Saturday’s round started England was in the lead by 7 which would seem like a comfortable cushion. A few three putts later the situation was totally different.

Canter, Lewis, Senior and Sullivan pulled it together in the end though and England won the European Nation’s Cup for the third year running, by two shots in the end: – Team results:
http://www.rfegolf.com/Lists/Resultados/Attachments/612/copasotograndeequioposmas0411.pdf

Individual:
http://www.rfegolf.com/Lists/Resultados/Attachments/611/copasotograndeindmas0411.pdf

As I leave Malaga airport I enjoy my last cup of the wonderful Spanish coffee. And in the airport’s brand new departure hall there are now two Starbucks shops. Who came up with that idea? That Starbucks was born in the US, with the world’s worst coffee I can understand. But what are they doing in the country with the world’s best coffee? I don’t get it.

Happy ever after?

Yesterday could have been a historical day. The first ever County Academy Conference took place and it happened because the main organisations involved in English Golf came together and pulled it off. In my opening address I commented on the complexity of British Sports. You know the one that means that when Andy Murray does well in tennis he is a great British athlete. However, when he stumbles on the final hurdle of the Grand Slam final he is the Scot that has lost again. In golf somebody had counted to 18 bodies in some way involved in developing the sport. That team is not that easily co-ordinated!

Nobody though can take away from the fact that English golf at the moment is perhaps the most successful national programme outside the USA. In a few years a serious contender will be Canada. The National Coach, Henry Brunton, was one of the speakers yesterday and his message was loud and clear: When organisations come together and share not only the same vision but the ways in which it will be achieved – serious things start to happen. Each party have their own role and responsibility but they follow a common philosophy. If yesterday was anything to go by – we are just getting started in England!


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