I could have been a contender…

I could have been a contender…

The annual pilgrimage by Irish players to the European Tour School is playing out at present at Lumine Golf Club in Spain. Three Irish players are competing this week, hoping to gain playing status on the main European Tour in 2019. It got me thinking about why, we as a country, currently, are patently struggling to get players onto the European Tour each year. It would be easy to sit here and blame the governing bodies, to blame Sport Ireland and the team tasked to help bridge the gap between players dominating amateur golf in these islands and playing on Tour but that would be "swimming with the dead fish."  

This is the mission statement of the Confederation of Golf in Ireland.

We are committed to having a positive impact on the future of Golf by being the leaders of change through the continuous development of club-based participation initiatives, club support services, community engagement and good practice resources for Golf Clubs across Ireland.

Certainly seem to be ticking all the boxes here and knowing their former boss, John Roche, they would be fiercely committed to the good of Irish golf. Nowhere, does it say they are responsible for Joe or Jenny progressing from playing for pride to playing for money. So we will have to swim a bit further to reach the crux of the problem.

This is where it gets interesting, let's head over to Sport Ireland who had total funding of just over twenty million for the National Governing Bodies for Sport and High-Performance Programmes in 2018. What could they be doing with all of this money? Surely, Joe and Jenny can have some? Delve deeper and you will soon find that John Treacy (CEO Sport Ireland) and company had a plethora of sports to fund, including, this year alone,

  • World Equestrian Games.
  • Hosting of the World Amateur Team Golf Championships.
  • The Hockey World Cups for both men and women.
  • Hosting the IPC European Para-Swimming Championships.
  • and finally, for good measure the Special Olympics!
Even a cursory glance at their infomercials for 2017 below will astound you at the level of sports funding in a small country like Ireland.

Let me tell you a story - I was teaching short game at my local golf club, Roganstown, towards the end of August this year and I met a young 15-year-old French player, (plus 3 handicap) with his coach in tow who was there for the week to get coaching and play some links courses. I got talking to his coach and was stunned to hear his schedule for the end of the year and running into the start of 2019. He had a full winter golf coaching program set out for him, in Florida. A couple of weeks home for Christmas and back to the grind with some more winter training in Southern Spain. Hard to see much change from a thousand euros a week to fund that. Reality Bites.

"I would argue that the governing bodies are there to help but the final responsibility lies with the individual themselves. There is no cavalry coming over the hill to save you, if you want it bad enough, you have to earn it "

Let me tell you a story - I was out teaching on the LPGA Tour in 2016 and a young pro contacted me to inquire if I could somehow get her an introduction with a particular coach at the Titleist Performance Institute. She wanted an initial weeks analysis, followed by both physical and online coaching throughout the season. Her ambition was to make it onto the LPGA Tour. (She is still trying.) The cost of the initial week was 5,000 dollars. Yep, that is not a typo! I also know for a fact, that the players David Leadbetter is coaching on the LPGA Tour are paying a fraction of this amount BUT the last I heard was David ain't picking up the phone for new business anytime soon. He is in that rarified space of being able to pick and choose, and my young contact isn't on his speed dial. Reality Bites.

I was reading this tweet lately from Brandel Chamblee, and whether you agree or not with the Golf Channel analyst, there can be no doubt that golfers have become stronger and fitter as the decades have passed. This comes down to better education, better technology and better facilities in which to improve.  

Sam Horsfield won last years Tour School final with an astonishing twenty-seven under par score for the six rounds.Thirteen under par got a tour card! Twenty under par leads after four rounds of this years Tour school grind.

Swimming with the dead fish, conforming with the expected norm, and then expecting a different result is, well, madness. The crux of our participation on the European Tour is down to a number of issues. Patently, we are just not good enough to shoot the scores required to progress. Why?

  • Too many players are attempting to qualify that are not good enough. Before you choke on your prawn sandwich, I'm all for dreams, I'm living one! but if you are not dominating the amateur scene at home, don't waste the €2K entering Tour School. Better spent trying to improve yourself to the point that you are a genuine plus five handicap. Yes-plus five, that is the standard, anything less, keep working at it.
  • It's a money game, this is like stating the obvious, but you need serious money to give yourself a chance of making it to tour. If you don't have a benefactor, you need to work and save for it. Buying real expertise to help costs real money. You can multiply my two reality bites stories above by a multitude across the world and it will give you an idea of the mountain to climb ahead. 
  • It's a numbers game, only 43 players from twelve venues who entered this year at the first and second stage of tour school are playing this week in Spain. Of the 156 strong field that are playing, only 25 and ties will receive Category 16 cards. You are entering the lottery world here, and only the best-prepared players have a realistic chance of progressing. 
But then again, tell that to Ian James Poulter above who turned pro off a four handicap and worked his way up to superstardom. He had the one thing that money or hard work can't buy you, innate talent.

Player Watch - Matt Kuchar

Matt Kuchar returned to the winners circle last weekend at the Mayakoba Classic for the 8th time. Nothing extrodinary in that you might think except that he has now passed an incredible 45 milllion dollars in earnings on Tour. The 40 year old is only the 10th player on Tour to achieve this feat and it does seem quite a large figure with just eight wins until you take into account an even more incredible figure, he is just one shy of 100 times finishing in the top ten of a tour event since he started out 417 tour events ago! Think about that figure, nearly one in four times he has finished in the top ten, now that's consistency! 

It feels extra sweet having kind of had to suffer through a year of not playing great in 2018, being four years removed since my last victory I realize how difficult it is to win on the PGA Tour.”  

Kuchar had started the week with a local caddie assigned to him by the tournament director as his regular caddie, John Wood, was away at a reunion, (terrible timing that!) David "Toucan" Ortiz caddies every day at the El Camaleon Golf Club and will be another man crunching the numbers with whatever percentage of the massive 1.3 million dollar paycheck he negotiated starting out! 

“Turns out,” Kuchar said, “forty may be the new twenty.”

Swing Myths 
Release your hands to hit it further? 

Swing Myths this week gets to feature Lexi Thompson again! If you look at her hand position, you will see the hands are fully released after impact. This is the result of a sequence known as the Kinematic Sequence, which is a fancy way to describe how the body correctly unravels from the top of the backswing and down through impact. It is not a position to attempt to recreate, not going to happen! I have heard many teachers repeat the mantra, "the quicker you release the hands the further you will hit it." In my experience, this is ill-advised, as very few students are able to time this motion with their hands and mostly just end up smothering the shot. Manipulating body parts in slow motion, in a mirror to achieve this release position above is a futile exercise as it doesn't relate to what is actually happening in the swing. That is my opinion and there are many out there!

"Take the time to learn how to get into a good striking position at the top (loading) and then how to sequence the downswing to achieve an efficient strike. This is the only true way to achieve the swing positions you desire."   

Around the World

  • Sergio Garcia - there are up and downs and well, unbelievable, up and downs, Garica shows some magic at the Nedbank Challenge in Sun City. Seve would have been proud of this!
  • Danny Willet - discusses the important subject of elephants diets.
  • Lee Westwood - celebrates win number 24, the first in four years!

An hour to spare?
Podcast Corner!

I am a big fan of Podcasts, I like to listen to them in the background while working on all things digital! There are some terrific ones around (if you know where to look) and I will try to guide you towards some of my favorites! This week it's Bryson DeChambeau, with five PGA Tour wins and now ranked 5th in the World! Brought to you by the always entertaining, "Earn your Edges" podcast.

"My last year in High School, I always felt I was behind, through failure, it gave me belief..." Bryson DeChambeau.

Quotes of the week 

“ People have always been telling me what I can't do. I guess I have wanted to show them. That's been one of my driving forces all my life.” Ben Hogan, The Legend.

“Honestly, I forgot what par was... I was just flowing.” Cameron Champ. That man, again delivers, as he shoots a nine under par round of 62 in the second round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic.

You are never sure if you are going to be able to do it again.” Lee Westwood after his win last weekend in Sun City at the Nedbank Challenge!

Last Word

The last word this week goes to The European Tour Q School. Having been there three times, on the bag, with three different players, it gives me a unique insight into the week from hell. Six rounds of golf, under severe pressure, is enough to unravel the best of a golf swing but when it's all played out under the bright lights of "the next twelve months of my life are determined here" it becomes the ultimate mind bender. 

This happy chappie, Jonathan Thompson, qualified last year for the European Tour. He played twenty-one times and earned €209K, good enough for another trip to Q School this week, it's that tough even when you get out...to stay out!  Respect!

Thank you for reading, enjoy your golf this week if you get out to play, and I will talk to you all on Friday!

Finally, Best of luck to three Irishmen, who at this time of writing are all still standing for the final 36 holes of Q School!


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