The best event in recent years for playing alongside the pros has been the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth. The Wednesday Pro-Am regularly attracts some big names and crowds in excess of 20,000 – which can be both a little daunting and dangerous.
Dan Walker On Playing With The Pros
I do love my job. Yes, I have to get up at 3:10 a few mornings a week, but BBC Breakfast has been great fun and in addition to that, with my sporting beret on, I’ve been able to cover some amazing events.
One of the most significant perks is the opportunity to play golf in some wonderful places alongside some rather impressive individuals.
My first experience of this was as a young reporter at ITV many moons ago.
I was filming a piece with Nick Dougherty at Formby Hall GC.
We played nine holes together – he was 8-under-par for those nine holes having missed a 12-footer on the 7th to complete the set.
I learned a lot watching his majestic swing, perfect irons and annoyingly accurate putting stroke. He wiped the floor with me.
The best golf I have ever witnessed live was produced by a fella called Richard Walker, who came very close to playing in the Walker Cup and flirted with turning pro.
When we met at Frodsham GC in Cheshire, he was playing off a dizzying plus 6! I was off 6 at the time and when he said, “I like a challenge, you can have the full 12 shots,” I teed it up feeling confident.
I shot a couple over my handicap and was absolutely mullered 4&3. Every fairway was middled, every green found and every putt holed.
The following week he shot 76, 78 after being invited to a EuroPro Tour event. The vagaries of golf.
The last time The Open was at Sandwich I played with Sergio Garcia in a pairs event organised by TaylorMade. Dustin Johnson nearly wrote off a brand new Jaguar with a wayward drive, Anton Du Beke struck one of the sweetest 3-woods you’ll ever see and Sergio and I brought home the bacon. It was an elaborate points system.
Our pairing scored 85… I am proud to say that two of those were mine.
Last year it was great to have both Danny Willett and Matt Fitzpatrick play in my charity golf day at Hallamshire.
They both ripped the place to pieces but thankfully turned down all the prizes.
I played with Danny at the British Masters Pro-Am at The Grove last year.
He was great company, sorted out my chipping mid-round but did penalise me two shots for using my Bushnell to measure the length of a drive which had hit the path on the 5th hole. If you’re interested it was 383 yards.
The best event in recent years for playing alongside the pros has been the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth.
The Wednesday Pro-Am regularly attracts some big names and crowds in excess of 20,000 – which can be both a little daunting and dangerous.
It’s been wonderful to play in it and I’ve had the privilege of teeing it up alongside the likes of Paul McGinley, Paul Lawrie, George Coetzee and Thorbjørn Olesen.
The young Dane hit the best shot I have ever seen up close on the par-5 4th on the West course.
He was 278 yards from the green, and you could only see half of his ball in that second cut of rough on the right-hand side of the fairway under overhanging branches.
I saw him twirl a 3-wood and asked, “What’s the plan here, chief?” “Well”, came the confident response, “I’m aiming low at the bunker on the left of the green. Hopefully it will squeeze out, cut about 20 yards, land short and run up through the gap to the green.”
About six minutes later he was holing out from eight feet for an eagle.
It’s hard to say this next sentence without sounding like I’m bragging but, for five of the six years I’ve played in the Pro-Am, I’ve won the longest drive down the 12th hole.
It’s amazing what difference a bit of expert advice makes. In 2014 Mr McGinley touched me on the shoulder and said, “You’ve been driving it great all day. Aim at the bunker, turn through it and you’ve got this.”
I stood over the ball feeling ten feet tall and let fly on a 338-yard slinger. “Does that secure me a slot at Gleneagles, boss?” I asked as we strolled up the fairway. “I’ve seen you putt, Dan” was the insightful response.
This year, alongside the magnificent Jamie Donaldson, Stephen Hendry (9) and Dwight Yorke (3), we managed to actually win by a single shot.
Sadly, the only footage of my contribution is a video of me almost decapitating a young lady with a thinned bunker shot. I held the finishing position beautifully while hollering ‘FORE’ at the top of my voice. It was my final shot on an otherwise memorable day.