Hi folks, having just returned from 3 European Tour events in 4 weeks I can catch my breath and reflect on what proved to be a successful time for a few JFGA students in particular. The first tournament on the agenda was the Irish Open, this year staged on the Montgomerie Course, Carton House. Over the years, the ‘Monty’ course has been labelled as being a touch ‘bland’ or uninspirational. But if you speak to the players, you will hear that it’s also a good strong test of ball striking, course management, it puts a premium on shaping the ball correctly off the tee and is dotted with penal bunkers.
Both Gareth Shaw and Gareth Maybin were looking forward to it for different reasons – Shaw because it was a great opportunity to play in a ‘full field’ European Tour event and Maybin as he wanted to continue the good form that saw him qualify for the Open on the Monday of tournament week, at Sunningdale with rounds of 67 & 69. So as practice began for me on the Tuesday with the 2 lads, things were setting up well for a good week. Tuesday was also the day that many of the golfing fraternity got to meet Phil Moore, the JFGA’s newest instructor. I have known Phil for a longtime now and was always impressed with his work ethic and his desire to learn – 2 qualities needed to improve as a coach!
After meeting with Gareth Shaw and his performance coach Fergie Wallace for breakfast, it was off to the range. It’s amazing the amount of people from the past I seem to meet at the Irish Open, and of course it’s always fun listening to old friends describe what they are doing now and if they are still playing any competitive golf. Some have gone onto be very good players and some don’t play at all. Colm Moriarty was one such guy I hadn’t spoken to at length for a long time, and as usual ‘Mort’ was good craic and we actually discussed a few intriguing ideas for the future. What a good player Mort was, and still is when he decides to play nowadays!
Gareth Shaw convinced me he was happy enough with his game (and why not given his results in recent weeks!) and headed out to play his practice round with some pals from his college days at ETSU. So awaiting Gareth Maybin’s arrival, Phil and I had a browse around the range, met the usual coaches who work on tour, chatted to Donal Hughes and also came across ‘Wyldsson Elite Nutrition’. I get asked a lot about what the top players eat & drink, well this is a good example of simple nutrition that’s easy to carry and provides suitable energy release for a day of golf. If interested, check it out.
Gareth Maybin was keen to get straight out and see the course, so we set off on the front 9 and as ever played some ‘scoring games’ and discussed course strategy. The Montgomerie definitely asks you some stern questions – can you move the ball both ways? Can you accept the bunkers being real ‘penalties’? It’s as much a strategist’s course as it is for the longer hitters who can carry a few of the deep bunkers from the tee. So Gareth had a good look at the first half of the course and I would join him again for a lap round the other 9 during the pro am on Wednesday morning.
Pro am day arrived bathed in sunshine which presented the opportunity to ensure the two lads would be fully prepared. As I mentioned, I started early by walking a few holes with Maybin, then headed back to the clubhouse for a few meetings which were followed by an afternoon range session with Shaw. As is always the case on Wednesday, the range was jammed and Gareth Shaw managed to find himself a spot to test some new fairway woods which he thought would be useful during this particular week. He was hitting the ball well generally so it gave the two of us a chance to monitor the improvements he has been implementing since Xmas. As his schedule has been so busy, the onus has really been on him to make sure his practice sessions are ‘effective and purposeful’ – a phrase we use a lot! He’s certainly improving at this and I could see his address position reflected his attention to detail – for my money it was the best on the range!
The evening finished for me with some bunker work with Gareth Maybin as he hasn’t quite been satisfied with a few shots he had hit during his last few rounds. His satisfaction levels began to rise however when he relieved his coach of a few hard earned ‘quid’ in the traps. A steward’s enquiry had to be filed however as Gareth’s new ‘bagman’ Mark was official score keeper and I’m convinced he was too easy on the new boss!
Given that the tournament was a ‘home’ tie for me I decided to stay on for Thursday’s first round and I’m glad I did. I watched both guys in action and was reasonably pleased with what I saw. Both lads displayed a good attitude and I could see them trusting the areas that we’ve been developing. The first day scores were Maybin 71 (1 under) and Shaw birdieing his last hole for a hard fought 73. So after a very positive range session with Gareth Shaw before I left, I felt good that the JFGA would have two representatives over the weekend. Such is golf! Gareth Maybin unluckily missed by a single shot (5th time this year) and Gareth Shaw went onto finish a very credible 5th.
All in all, an interesting week in terms of what I learned by watching the lads compete and also the heart Gareth Shaw displayed when he got his chance. I didn’t know exactly how well things would unfold over the next few weeks for both, but I was right to assume they were in good form.
Thanks for reading and check out my next diary entry as a heat wave hits Northern Scotland! A contradiction in terms?