Archive for May, 2011

Men and women in golf

When Annika Sorenstam played with the men in the PGA Tour event at Colonial in 2003 I was invited to Studio 1 on Swedish radio to discuss the concept of men’s and women’s sports and the possibility of uniting the two. Or perhaps the lack of interest in bringing the two together. Of course when Annika played, it was  a huge thing in the world of sport and it was probably the first time that golf, and perhaps sports in general, played a part in Studio 1. This is were they would normally discuss things like domestic politics and the Middle East crisis. Now Annika had given the world’s media a chance to make her the lone soldier of the female population, ready to take on the men and the unequal society. In Annika’s own mind she had only accepted a chance to test herself against the men and she later admitted that perhaps this was a bit naive. She simply could not understand how big this was going to become.

I am once again reminded about this when I read about the first woman to qualify for a men’s tour in golf. Isabelle Beisiegel has earned her card for the Canadian Tour and even though that is not one of the major places of work for professional golfers it is quite a step for a female golfer. When I was on Studio 1, philosopher  Claudio Tamburrini, argued that separating men and women in sports is just another act of sexism. He claims that separating the two is merely a case of the men being afraid of losing to the women. One example that he gives is the 1992 Olympics where 14 year old Shan Zang won the gold medal in trap shooting, against the men. After that the sport was removed from the Olympic programme and when it returned in 2000 men and women were separated. It will be interesting to see what happens in golf going forward!

The Critical Path in Coaching

Having been in the planning stages for quite some time now the England Coaches this week embarked on the PDS Coach development course with Mark Bennett. With a background in the Special Forces and extensive experience from helping people perform better Mark’s coaching course is all about the ‘soft skills’ of coaching. I think we generally speaking have great technical coaches in golf. Most of them are also very experienced in the game as a whole and can spot improvement areas in players by watching only a few holes of play. The challenge though for most coaches, no matter what field we are talking about, is to get the pupil to understand what needs to be done in order to follow the critical path towards their goal. How often have we not had players that say they want to reach a specific goal, we know what needs to be done, we think the player know what needs to be done, but the player is not doing it. In fairness, some of us might even have personal experience of knowing what we want, what we need to do to get there – but we are not doing it…

The skill of a great coach is to constantly communicate, remind, test the will and the understanding of the pupil in order to get him or her from A to B. That is what a coach does. Move people from one plac e to another.

Status update: not friends

My Friday night reading consists of both the Daily Telegraph and The Times. Not a bad collection at all if I may say so. Both papers give quite a lot of exposure to the rather embarrassing affair of Facebook vs Google. Apparently Facebook has tried to attack Google with ‘a slur campagin of dirty tricks’ by hiring a top global PR agency to place negative stories about Google in magazines and online. This is of course a result of the search engine giant’s plan to launch a number of social networking products in the next few months. It is interesting that Facebook’s global press team is run by a former Google executive and perhaps he has gotten a bit nervous.

Whoever thought this was a good idea cannot know about the basic rule of competition:- You do not grow taller by chopping somebody else’s head off!

Golf’s matador is gone

There will be many articles and blogs on golf websites around the world talking about Severiano Ballesteros this weekend. Golf’s (last?) true magician has finally lost his battle against cancer and the world of golf is a sadder place for it. I usually turn to Golfweek to get the in-depth analysis of important happenings in golf and so also this time. Alistair Tait has written an excellent tribute to the five time major champion that was so much more than ‘just’ a major champion. Every golfer will today revert to think about their own memories of Seve. Two immediately come to my mind; the video that I once got, showing Seve’s win in the 1984 Open Championship at St Andrews and the first opportunity that I had to watch him live – in the Scandinavian Enterprise Open. He was the golfer we all wanted to be. Not because of his brilliant technique but for what he could do with a golf ball. And for the way he took on a golf course.

At the England v Spain match I come to talk to the Spanish Coach, Domingo Hospital, who played a lot with Seve. Domingo tells me how they always played the practice rounds together on tour and with a tear in his eye he says that there will never be another player like him. I think we all know Domingo is right which makes yesterday an even sadder day.

A silent minute for Seve

A silent minute for Seve, picture © Tom Ward

By some very magical coincidence the great National hero picked this weekend to pass away. The European Tour are in Spain for the Spanish Open and the Spanish amateur team are playing a match against England. Tributes were held all over the world and to witness the silent minute held at the Berkshire Golf Club was very emotional. The tribute finished with a round of applause that never seemed to wat to finish. Severiano Ballesteros has left the game that he helped to define. The game will live on but it won’t be anywhere near as exciting as it once was.

Separate lives

The Lytham Trophy concluded on Sunday and after a pretty cruel couple of days over the Links. Jack Senior, Lancashire, finished on top of the leaderboard. Jack is on a good run and now holds the title in Egypt, having won the Egypt Amateur in the autumn, in New South Wales in Australia where he beat fellow country man Andy Sullivan in the final and since Sunday, at Lytham. Jack will no doubt be one to watch over this summer.

As so often before though my reflections after a tournament is not really about the winner. This time they are instead about two players that were not even playing. They were caddying. Matt Nixon and James Robinson both walked around Royal Lytham carrying a bag or pulling a cart. The reason they did this is that they are now professionals and have therefore joined another life. Matt got his European Tour card in December and has since made quite an impressive start to his professional career. James on the other hand has joined the Europro Tour and will need some good finishes to start climbing up the ladder. I can’t help thinking that it would have been quite nice if they could have played rather than caddied. Why is it that we have to have these incredibly rigid rules that stop the flow of players moving up and down the ladder? The ball does not care if you are an amateur or a professional. A Matt Nixon in the field would have given the young guns a real chance to test themselves against a tour player. In fact one that was one of them, in this field last year. And for Matt – I bet he would have made the best of a chance to play four days around an Open Championship golf course. No matter how grim the conditions were…

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