It’s been an exiting time for the JFGA recently with a new member of staff joining the team and also some cool trips away from the academy. PGA Pro Phil Moore has taken on the role of JFGA coach to join me at the academy and I’m looking forward to the partnership. I’ve known him for about 6 years, firstly as a student and now as a fellow coach. He’s well educated, keen to learn and judging by his work record throughout his PGA studies, I know he understands the time & effort it takes to be the successful coach.
Before I headed off to Wentworth for the prestigious BMW Championship, I spent the Monday of tournament week on a learning course at the Belfry entitled ‘Meeting of the Minds’. It proved to be a worthwhile experience as I got the chance to listen to a number of presenters discussing their findings on topics ranging from ‘working with elite players’ to ‘club fitting & performance’. I would encourage any ambitious coach to attend these CPDs (Continued Professional Development), as I believe completely in one of the maxims that David Leadbetter lives by ‘those of us who teach, should never stop learning’. I always manage to learn something new that can be applied to a pupil or farther strengthen what I feel I already do. I admire the professionals who present at these seminars as they are putting a lot of their own ideas up for scrutiny in front of a knowledgeable audience.
So then it was off down to Surrey for the European Tour’s flagship event where the full Ryder Cup team were in attendance at the magnificent Wentworth Estate. As always Tuesday was the usual scrum on the range and there was very little breathing space to hit balls. The last thing you want is to be squeezed behind an unusually flat backswing on the range at Wentworth! There were dozens of players, caddies, coaches, psychologist, managers, wives, girlfriends….you name it, Wentworth has it! I shouldn’t complain because up until a few years ago I was also ‘making up the numbers’ on the range – just watching & learning. It was also a memorable day for me as I got to catch up with my cousin John whom I hadn’t seen in years. We had no problem picking up from the last time we met and it was a good craic reflecting on the North of Ireland’s we both played in – well at least you enjoyed the strokeplay JB!
Congratulations were in order for Gareth Maybin as he had just become a dad! He was naturally thrilled that everything had gone well and it great to see so many players take an interest and see how things had gone. So amidst all the congratulatory handshakes we had a good range session with the joys of spring in the air, then some work on the putting green and off the see the course in the company of Michael Hoey. Wentworth really is a top track that asks you to shape it both ways from the tee and control the trajectory of your irons in the swirling wind. The caddies say it is one of the toughest courses of the year to read the wind and its never surprise when the ‘cad’ gives him man a ‘mystery’ or unusual club selection! And of course Ernie’s re design means the green complexes and bunkers are no picnic either. It was no surprise to see a player like Matteo win – when he’s on, he’s made for a place like the West Course.
Gareth hit the ball lovely for the full round – controlled his flight, kept his tempo and best of all he could tell why he was / was not hitting the shot exactly as he wanted to. I have complete faith in his ability and when the putts start to fall again, bingo! It was a really enjoyable afternoon with Michael, Gareth, the 2 Andrews (Snoddy & Park), JB and of course the caddies – Gerry & ‘Bakes’. They had a really competitive game with Ballyclare beating Shandon narrowly. Shades of the Belfast & District Cup.
Wednesday was a day for a little more coaching with Gareth but also one for the JFGA’s development. I had a few really interesting meetings which I won’t say much about here but potentially they could be very good business in the future and they relate directly to elite golf in Ireland. Wentworth is that kind of place – the atmosphere is as much about business as golf. Many a deal is done there and it’s definitely worth a visit to see how BMW run the tournament, not to mention the field of players & world class course. The surrounding area is just littered with top golf courses and the drive home each night to Ascot, past Sunningdale is encouragement to keep working hard!
So before the hire car ‘Cannonball Run’ to Heathrow, we again went through a good quality session on the range, the short game area and some on course simulation. Plenty more good long term signs. Heathrow is the only airport in the world that I find you are never totally happy until the hire car is left returned and the shuttle bus has you at the terminal. The traffic is that bad! During the two days practice it really hit home to me that after coaching at some twenty tour events, the tournament venues themselves offer very little opportunity to introduce any new ideas to a player. The practice facilities are only for observation, assurance and maintenance. So any aspiring ‘tour’ coaches out there, get your tuition delivered to your player at home long before you arrive at the venue and use the practice days to gather information and reinforce the process.
Once home Thursday was a full day at the JFGA, then down Carton House with NUIM on Friday and pleasantly on Saturday I won my first ever coaching award – University of Ulster ‘Coach of the Year’. I was delighted to win obviously but I have to say that when UU won the team section of the Inter Varsity Championship, Ryan Gribben won the men’s and Paula Grant won the ladies trophies – I felt a bit like the manager of the Harlem Globetrotters…I just supplied the Brasso!!
I made one last quick hop back across on Monday to Walton Heath to caddy in the US Open final qualifying. Luckily it was a sunny day as I can’t imagine carrying one of those big professional bags for 36 holes with a wet suit, gloves, towels etc. I now have a new found respect for the tireless caddies, in fact I’m going to start referring to them as ‘professional yardage & wind consultants’.
Catch me again after this year’s home fixture – the Irish Open at Carton House. I may even nip across to watch Gareth Shaw compete in the Scottish Challenge Tour event at Spey Valley if time allows before then.
Thanks for reading,