There have been a number of special components of the golf Monthly Play Your Best prize. The clubs, the lessons and mentoring are obvious and key to achieving my challenge. A little less obvious was the day at the BMW PGA Championships at Wentworth!
It was quiet a long drive to deepest Surrey on a hot May day, but as the direction signs changed from “The South” to Motorway blue and eventually AA yellow the excitement started to mount. OK I have been to big events before, rugby world cups, a couple of Ryder Cups and of course The Open. This time though I was going to be “inside the ropes” and get another perspective. And what an insight it was.
I was a little early arriving and managed to get a drink in the magnificent Wentworth club house without having to show a badge. What a magnificent venue, well appointed and so much memorabilia of past and present golfers and their achievements – to walk past the wall of clubs donated by past winners and to read the names by them reminded me of the rich heritage of our game and how fortunate we are to be able to walk in their footsteps.
There can be few other games where competitors play the same arena – few football players ever play at Wembley – and get the chance to emulate Pele, Best or Beckham. Or rugby players dropping a goal at Twickenham, or scoring that try in the corner of the Millennium Stadium.
We golfers however do get this unique opportunity to have that put, that chip and if we are lucky that drive to. Ok we will never be able to bend it like Beckham – but we can putt it like Luke! Enough of those day dreams – but being there encourages the imagination!
Our first session, after the essential photographs and interviews was a putting with Tom Lewis. I was enormously impressed with Tom. He arrived with an entourage of staff – his manager, caddy and goodness knows who else.
An indication perhaps of the life of a tour player and the enormous external demands on their time. But to Tom time didn’t seem to matter – he showed us his three main putting drills – which I am sure will be featured in Golf Monthly soon, especially the distance drill as editor Michael was wanting to test it himself! We each then had a one to one session with Tom.
I discussed my hesitance over those slidy downhill three footers – best advice be positive and hit the ball, don’t tap it and finish the put with the putter pointing down the line! Obviously we discussed a few other issues too!
Next of to the range, it is so impressive to be so close to the list of household names and to watch them go through their warm up and practice drills – if I come away with one thing to hold onto its TEMPO! I was also amazed at the amount of business that seems to go on at the range – managers in suits, manufacturers with their wares – grips, range finders, balls, etc. all chatting to the players and their caddies.
It’s a big business getting a player to endorse products. The putting green was just the same – the short game gurus at one end and the putting devices at the other!
After a quick walk around a few holes watching Tom Lewis and a few other it was back to the media centre for a quick visit and the opportunity to be on that podium, in front of those logos and of course pose for a few photographs. It was interesting to see the names of those golfing journalists that we all enjoy reading above their allocated places – it was nice to see that Golf Monthly had a great position – obviously reflecting their status amongst their peers!
Finally to the PING tour van/workshop and yet another highlight of the day. From the outside the PING van looks like another large lorry with impressive graphics but inside its an Aladdin’s cave of golf. Tools and equipment and more drawers than my wife’s wardrobe!
Drawers filled with shafts of various sorts, makes, lengths and specifications, drawers with iron heads others with woods or hybrids, boxes of grips and casually leaning against a chair 9 gold putters!
7 for Lee Westwood celebrating tour wins and earnings and 2 for Jose-Marie! They truly are impressive. But my highlight – was chatting casually and comfortably to Bob Torrance – what a treat.
I think these elite coaches have had a huge impact on the success of British and world Golf and sadly other than through their TV work like Harmon, Pugh and others or their revelations like Haney don’t get the recognition they deserve. I know that my time with the golf monthly top 25 coach Gary Alliss has made a huge difference to my game.
That was it resplendent in my new PING hat and Wentworth pullover I started the journey home, which gave me plenty of time to reflect on what had been a unique and fantastic day – a day when I had walked in the footsteps and with champions of golf.