Hello everybody, the King’s course in Agadir was the grounds for my latest European Tour adventure. It was a great experience and one that I’m glad I took as I believe the tournament is going to Marrakech next year, so I may never see a golf course in such condition again unless I’m lucky enough to coach at the Masters someday! It was quite incredible to literally see a course with no divots, no sand on the greens and no pitch marks. From what I gathered the course, which is in the palatial grounds is only played 3 or 4 times a year, apart from when the tournament is on. As the climate is perfect and I’d imagine no budget restrictions, it’s easy to see why it must be a green keeper’s dream!
I’d resisted going to the event previously because it is a full travel day on the Monday and then owing to the flights, it means staying until Saturday night. However, I’m glad I finally did decide to go down with Michael Hoey as the weather was gorgeous and it gave me the opportunity to watch Michael compete. Observation of competitive rounds is something that the next two events I attend (Spanish Open and BMW Championship) won’t allow me to do and is a vital cog in coaching in my view.
I bumped into Gerry (Michael’s caddy) and Steve (Kevin Phelan’s caddy) as we boarded our Ryanair flight to Brussels and they became my travel companions for the day. Both of them are good fun and it was amusing listening to their stories as we waited for our second flight to Agadir around lunchtime. Steve, from all his experience made a very point about what he had noticed was the difference between elite amateurs on the cusp of turning pro and established professionals you see on TV every week seemingly making a lot of money – a good pro will limit his high scores to 72 whereas a good amateur will still have the odd 77. It seems very simplistic but having coached at and observed all levels of golf, I am inclined to agree. The ‘professionals’ have good enough mental skills and a sharp enough shortgame to keep themselves around par most of the time. It also helps that they ‘understand’ better their own swings. This enables them to manage their games more predictably. The travelling was also a good chance to catch up with Gerry and get his thoughts on Michael’s recent 2nd place in the Tswhane Open.
Eventually I found my hotel and the view from the balcony gives a pretty good feel for this part of Morocco – luxury around the players’ hotel, course and beach area with lots of building sites and ‘not so luxurious’ in between. It reminded me of developing Spain when I first went there and a lot of South Africa with a visible divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.
Tuesday was the first look at the course that Michael and Gerry knew well, so it was just a matter of me keeping an eye on Michael’s game and listening in as the two lads developed their game plan for the week. This is where a good ‘bagman’ like Gerry is invaluable as he can offer his ideas based on the sound knowledge of how Michael likes to play, considering his strengths and weaknesses. It’s also a chance to share some of the reflections from the previous tournaments and what the style of play is going to be this week. Michael, as past champion spent the late afternoon playing in a 6 person exhibition which featured Olazabal, Karlsson and McGinley, aswell as 4 lady professionals who were competing in their tournament at an adjacent course. It turned out to be a fascinating afternoon for me as I got a chance to chat with all of the above and listen to their ideas on modern coaching and generally what has made them successful. I must say 2 things – firstly, I’m lucky to be helping a player of Michael’s stature as it affords me these wonderful opportunities that I enjoy so much; and secondly, Robert Karlsson is a very polite and thoughtful guy. A true professional. One point he made that stuck with me was how, on the PGA Tour he noticed that the technical elements of the players weren’t as strong as those in Europe, but he said he had never seen so many incredibly good short games. He went as far as to say that unless you have an outstanding wedge & putter, don’t even attempt to go and compete there!
Wednesday was a chance to do our final preparations – range work continuing on the themes we’ve been developing back at home (mainly address basics and setting the club better on the backswing), awkward bunker lies as the traps are small this week, the usual putting drills focusing on pace & holing out and lastly spin control on distance wedges. Controlling the trajectory on the wedges will be especially important as it tends to get windy here and one of the courses defences is the Tour’s ability to cut the pins in difficult positions, especially the par 5s which sometimes demand a lay up to the 80 yard mark.
After a good day’s work at the practice facilities and the formalities of the pro am, it was a visit to a local Indian restaurant in the company of Shiv Kapur, his coach Jamie Gough, Michael and Kevin Phelan. Interestingly, Shiv had recently played an exhibition with Tiger in India so he had to field a few of our questions as you can imagine! It was a good night and Shiv managed to translate all our food requests into something edible for everyone.
Each of the next few days took on the same routine – observing and sometimes helping the warm up, walking a few holes on the course, meeting and chatting with various other coaches & players at lunch and helping Michael if he needed it before a bus back to the hotel. I enjoyed the calmness of these days as they are very relaxed and they provide a chance to gather my thoughts from the week and plan the coaching strategy going forward. It’s amazing what you can learn by watching a student compete. As Bob Torrance said “why would you build a boat if you aren’t going to let it go to sea!” It’s also a chance to study what other players and coaches are doing on the practice ground and I always try and figure out what makes each a success.
At the end of the week, Michael finished 30th, which overall is a steady result given that we have all worked toward helping Michael become more consistent. I reminded him that he had broken par for 11 rounds in a row and also made money in his last 8 European Tour events – both firsts! As I headed to the airport on Saturday night with Simon Thornton, David Higgins and Peter Lawrie I reflected upon a really enjoyable trip. The highlights were the weather, the condition of the course and Michael’s consistency in general. He is really starting to understand the value of a correct process and the benefits are there for him to see. With some refining at home, his game will be in good shape for Justin when they meet in Dubai before the Asian tournaments.
Thanks for reading and check out my next post from sunny Spain in May which will be a double bonus for me as F1 are testing at a nearby circuit!