Posts Tagged 'blog'

Glory Days

Alistair Tait of Golfweek has a pen that I like. He is out in Abu Dhabi this week for the European Tour event and of course something that will be watched very closely over the first few weeks is how the new grooves rule will change the game. If any that is. Alistair has spent some time with Paul Lawrie who seems to be dreaming about his once very Glory Days. Paul says he is looking forward to the season and he hopes that things will be more like they used to be. In other words, hitting fairways will once again be important and the ability to control the ball and not just bash it and trust that the spin will make it stop on the green will make certain players return to the lime light.

Is Paul Lawrie right? I am not sure. It would be rather nice if he was though I think as I do think that the one-dimensional golf of the last decade or more could do with a bit of “freshening up”. Returning to what used to be seems to be the flavour at the moment bearing in mind that such as swimming axed their super swim suites. Science is a difficult one to beat though and there could be something new out there already!

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Laptop heaven

What do you do when your laptop stops working? I wonder if mine has had a severe case of burnout… A number of keys on the keyboard has given up on me and therefore one thing that I certainly have not done is to update the blog. I had it all lined up with something about how sweet the victory is. I know that there has been a couple of times when I have made reference to Swedish players winning on the major tours around the world on the same weekend. Well this weekend it was England’s turn, at least in the men’s game. Ross McGowan won on the European Tour in Madrid having shot a stunning 60 in the third round. On the same day John Parry took his first victory on the Challenge Tour. For John this could be a break through moment as it took him to number 12 in the Challenge Tour rankings where the big goal is to get within the 20 that get their hands on the much wanted European Tour card for next year. For Ross, with the European Tour already being his place of work, a win places him in a very different category and he will be able to plan his golf life much the way he wants it.

Ross McGowan celebrates winning the Madrid Masters Photo: AFP

Ross McGowan celebrates winning the Madrid Masters Photo: AFP

I spoke to Ross today and asked him how you go about shooting 60 with two bogeys on the card. Funny enough he said “it was not that special really”. He said he started off hitting it quite close and holing some putts. A couple of long ones really got him going but having just two putted 10 for a birdie he dropped a shot on 11 and did not think that 6 under after 11 was that good. This of course changed a bit by the 5 under on the last 4 finish. I asked him if he felt he had been in the zone. He said “not really, it was like I wasn’t really aware of anything. All I kept focusing on was to hit the next shot close”. To me, that is a pretty good recipe to get into the zone!

The other thing Ross said which I have heard from other winning players before was that he almost pulled out of the tournament before it started. He said he had picked up a cold the week before (thanks to the fresh breeze at St Andrews one would expect!) and his preparation had been as bad as ever. He had gone to bed early every night and his only focus was to make it through the tournament. It is quite amazing what lowered expectations can do for your performance!

The difference between learning and teaching

Michael Hebron has for long been a pioneer in the golf industry. He was the man behind the first Teaching and Coaching Summit in the US and his work in changing his coaching from teaching (telling) to providing learning opportunities (discovering) has been ground breaking. Thanks to Steven Orr of the Scott Cranfield Academies some 40 coaches from all over the UK have had the chance to spend time with Michael this week. Yesterday was a pretty special day where the seminar with Michael went on between about 9 and 16 during the day. I guess in most professions people would have then gone back to their hotels, gone sightseeing or taken the opportunity to do some shopping while waiting for dinner and bedtime. Not golf professionals. Most participants stayed for a drink at the golf club which turned into a three hour discussion on coaching and the development of both golf and golfers. This was followed by rushing to the dinner place where a further four hour discussion took place. The topic? Well, you guessed it.

I might be very biased but I have a feeling that this is pretty unique and it makes me wonder where this thirst for knowledge comes from. Many of the coaches in golf would have had the same drive as players, wanting to be the best that they can be, and it may be that this drive just transfers into their coach role. Because it is certainly not financially driven or based on wanting to become ‘a big name’. It is about wanting to get better and somewhere down the road, being the very best that you can be. Most of us know though that this ambition will stay with us for as long as we are around and we will probably never get there. But as a source of motivation – it will do just fine! Perhaps something for the world’s financial institutions to look at…

Sink or swim?

Have you ever wondered how well you would stack up against the best? This week some of golf’s greatest talent had the chance to test themselves at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass in Florida. Known as the home of the fifth major in golf, the course was bound to give the juniors one or two things to think about as the PGA Tour once again gave the American Junior Golf Tour the opportunity to invite their players to one of the greatest treats in junior golf – The Junior Players Championship at Sawgrass. The idea is to give the juniors a chance to experience exactly what a tour event is like. Well, perhaps the crowds were not quite there but pretty much everything else was. The pin positions, the firm greens, the first class treatment – everything was there – and I am hoping that apart from the wonderful experience, these kids come away with a good sense of what they need to work on.  The winner, Bobby Wyatt, made the three rounds at Sawgrass in 6 under which is pretty impressive. For England’s hopes, Chris Lloyd and Max Smith, things were a bit tougher even though they both carded decent finishes. But guys, if you look at what Stenson did there earlier this year, I have a feeling there might be a couple of things to work on. Which is great. This is only one of the best benchmarks you can ever find. The interesting thing now is how you deal with it.

Home Internationals

England in the Home Internationals (© Tom Ward)

England in the Home Internationals (© Tom Ward)

It is a big week, this one. The Home Internationals (I think it must be only in the UK you can play Internationals with the Home countries…), for a long time seen as the pinnacle event for amateurs in Britain. Even though it is now challenged by a number of other high profile events in the amateur calendar there is no doubt that it is one of the finest tournaments in the year. Teams of 11 players tee it up in 5 foursomes every morning and 10 singles in the afternoon. All four countries, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, play each other to find a winner. To field 11 competitive players, strong enough to represent their country in the required way does call for some strength in depth and not many other countries would ever be able to compete with the Home Unions in this. The amateur culture just is not strong enough and most of those amateurs good enough to take part would have already turned professional before it is time to pick the time. To represent you country in an 11 men team, that is a pretty special thing though and perhaps it does serve as a spring board for players to go on to even bigger things. With the Walker Cup being just around the corner it will no doubt help to put those players in the match play mode they need to be at Merion against the USA.

When the ‘Homes’ started today England managed to beat Scotland 9.5 against 5.5 and Wales won against Ireland. You can follow the action with live scoring here.

Golf in the Olympics?

I guess one could say that it was a preliminary verdict delivered yesterday as the IOC Executive Board recommended two sports for inclusion in the Olympic Games from 2016. The full committee will vote in October and as they are not bound by their board’s recommendation golf is not fully there yet but let’s say we have had a good first round.

Of course now discussions will continue as to whether inclusion would be good or not. As for me I am convinced that it will be great. It will not, at least not at first, be a tournament with the kudos of the Major Championships. But it will put golf on the agenda in so many other countries that today would not even consider it. And it will be different. Golf is not exactly growing at the moment and this could be the change that we need.

As for what the tournament will be it shall be quite interesting to follow. The International Golf Federation has recommended a competition with 60 players in both the men’s and the women’s event. The top 15 in the World Rankings are guaranteed a place and then it will follow the rankings with a maximum of two players per country. They reckon this will mean participants from about 30 countries. If you go down the rankings to find 30 countries you soon realise that you will end up a long way down. No doubt there will therefore be the occasional Eddie the Eagle (the British Ski Jumper that competed in the Winter Olympics with his only target being to survive) taking place. And it is likely that the number of players with a fair chance of winning the event will actually be quite limited. On the other hand, that is no different from a 100m final!

Under 14 Championships

This week the Under 14 Championships for the Reid Trophy is being held at the Kendleshire Golf Club outside Bristol. For many of the players it will be a first taste of what golf at a fairly high level is like. The EGU know how to run their Championships and this one is not exception. The course will be properly set up, the referees all geared up and the scores posted on the big score boards outside the caravan. At the end of the tournament somebody will leave with a nice trophy, crowned as the best Under 14 golf in the country.

I always have mixed feelings about appointing National Champions at that young age. A number of the better players in the World had hardly started playing golf at that age, let alone found the fairway enough times to even consider competing at a National level. Others were already soon to become Champions and had dominated their age group for years already. The tricky one is that it is very difficult to determine who is going to go on to be the great player of the future. I have seen under 14 Champions disappear of the radar completely before the age of 19 which kind of makes you worry why we bothered to find out who the best under 14 was in the first place. I have seen other under 14 Champions become European Tour players before they left their teenage years. What I do wonder quite often though is why we insist of having this age focus in a sport like golf. It is not exactly a body contact sport, nor is it necessarily a sport where the development of the right playing mindset comes with age. It is for a fact a sport that we can play against like minded and like skilled regardless of age. In fact, that is what I think we should do a lot more of – play with those that give us a good challenge – regardless of how old they are. So instead of going to the World under 9 Championships as some parents seem to think is a great idea (and perhaps it is for all sorts of other reasons…), think about where that under 9 waiting to become a champion could get the challenge that he or she needs. I have a feeling that could be found at the next door club!

So is there then any reason to crown an Under 14 National Champion? Of course there is. Kids like to compete and fantastic inspiration an energy can come from having something like this as a target to aim for. The only problems are if the Champion starts thinking that he or she is now the best in the country or if the rest of the players in the field think they are not good enough, or worse, can’t become good enough. There are throusands of players in the country that are better then the Under 14 Champion. They just happen to be of a different age. So all the Champion needs to do is to go and find the next challenge. And for those that did not win – I guarentee that there are more top 10 players in the World that never won the Under 14 Championship than those that did!


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