TPS: You played County 1st Team golf for many years and also captained the 1st Team. You played with and captained players that have gone on to great things in the game. How important is playing County and National golf to becoming a top pro and player?
I think it’s really important. There will always be exceptions, but the vast majority of successful British tour players played for their County and then their Country at amateur level. Most of the top British pros played in the Walker Cup too….it’s no coincidence.
It's a shame that finance, or more precisely the lack of it, leads to many players turning pro when they haven't even reached the top of the amateur game. A bit simplistic I know, but the last 10 years or so has shown that if you can play well enough to play for England, then you've got a chance of making a living on The European Tour.....but if you can't reach the top of the amateur game, then you've got next to no chance of breaking through as a pro anytime soon. Some players can afford to keep going for years, but most aren't lucky enough to be in that position.
Have a look at the England Men's Order of Merit from 2009
and see how many have progressed to be successful in the pro game. There's a few names in there that have done brilliantly ("Rooney" included), but not too many.TPS: Of the players from Gloucestershire that have gone on to better things, is there a unique skill that they all share in your opinion?
If I knew the answer to that I’d be a millionaire!
If I think of Gordon Brand Jnr and Chris Wood especially, I’ve seen both of them practicing really hard at all times of the day in any conditions, so the desire and determination to do that goes a very long way…but more than that, they’ve both got the belief in themselves to play their best golf in the events that count, and if there is one thing that separates them, then that's it for me. There's no point in doing loads of practice if you're going to doubt yourself at the most crucial times.
Many, many players are intimidated by tough courses, conditions and opponents, but the very best players aren’t. I think they just see it all as a challenge, and importantly, a challenge that they can come out on top of….and if it doesn’t work out first time, they just keep working at their game and keep going back for more. In sporting terms, they've got real grit, and they're always looking for ways to get better and achieve more.TPS: Now you are Coaching Chairman for Gloucestershire Golf from Juniors right through to 1st team. Can you give us a brief description of your role?
I find it hard to do “brief”, but I’ll try !! In my role as Coaching Chairman, I’m primarily responsible for the quality and structure of all of the coaching support that we provide across every age group, from 12 year old players right up to the very best 1st Team players. I try to help our coaches and managers do the very best that they can to create an inspirational environment for the players, and I also need to keep the County Executive and Council updated with what we’re doing.
In Gloucestershire, we’re incredibly lucky that the County is prepared to provide such fantastic support for what we want to do (both financial and moral). My job is to try to ensure that we make the most of the help that every member of every golf club in Gloucestershire provides....and to keep learning as we go.TPS: You have produced an amazing statistics package for all our players to use, giving them every bit of feedback they need to improve. How many county players use this, and how vital is stats feedback in your opinion?
About 30 players used the system to some extent in 2013. Since I started it up in 2008, I’ve recorded data for just over 2500 rounds, about 600 of those coming from Nick Day, Tyler Hogarty, Tom Workman and Laurie Potter….the County Stroke Average tables don’t tell too many lies.
In terms of their importance, then there’s not a successful business in the world that doesn’t know where it spends its money, so if you’re serious about becoming a golfer who wins trophies, then why wouldn’t you want to know where you’re “spending your shots” ? And just as importantly, why wouldn’t you want to be sure that the practice that you’re putting in day after day, and month after month isn’t having a positive effect…you might not see improvements immediately on the score card, but the stats packages can tell you that they’re happening.
A few years back, I can remember telling Nick Day that if every hole on the course was a Par 4 under 360 yards, then on average Chris Lloyd would beat him by over 6 shots a round. Nick couldn’t believe it, and the next year he improved his average on those holes significantly. He still hasn't matched Lloydy's 3.77 for the season though.....yet.
It only takes five minutes after a round to record and submit the information required, and the information that we can give back is getting better and better all the time.TPS: With our current coaching packages, we are using some of the best coaches at our disposal in all areas of the game, is the next Chris Wood / Chris Lloyd just around the corner?
I certainly hope so, and I’m also hoping that it will be more than the odd one in the years ahead. At the moment, we have a really strong crop of young players coming through, but it will ultimately be down to their individual determination to keep getting better….they’re good in relation to their peers now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be in the same position in a few years time.
There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind though that it is possible to create an environment where a snowball effect can start to occur. We’re so lucky that Chris Wood and Chris Lloyd are still so supportive of the County, and I’m sure that they can have a huge influence on our upcoming players, as can others who have turned pro in recent years e.g. it’s great to see Paul Reed helping out with our younger players too. He's got a great attitude to the game and has loads of experience.TPS: Was it difficult picking players in 2014 to fill the Gold and Silver squads, as Gloucestershire seem to have an abundance of talent coming though? What criteria do you look for when picking these players?
It was difficult picking players for the Gold Squad in particular, but to be honest I hope that it will be even harder in the years to come. There were a few players that we would have liked to offer a place, but as with any selection there will always be people who fall on the wrong side of the line....those players just need to work hard to prove us wrong. The door is always open to anybody who wants to walk through it.
In terms of criteria, then we have some really clear objectives now from a coaching programme perspective; primarily, we’re looking to create an environment where we have an increasing number of players competing at the top of the National Men’s game by their very early 20’s. So we're looking for players who have the ambition and commitment levels to do that. Some of the players selected this year have quite a bit of time to get to that standard, so as long as they are able to maintain a Gold standard in terms of their commitment to improvement, then there’s no reason for them not to get there.....but saying that you're going to do it, and doing it are two very different things.....if you didn't notice, that's a challenge lads!TPS: You are a big advocate of “proper” practice to really make improvements in your game. What advice would you give to players to make sure they are using their practice time wisely?
Good question, and so much of what I’ve said earlier about the top players and stats would come into play here.
The simple advice is to keep going round in circles…..
…..and then do it all over again.
Never stop, and always stay positive…..you can get always get better at something if you really believe that it’s possible.
Also, try and practice in a way that best reflects the way that golf is played on a course. Graeme Walker, the England Lead Coach, once said that you play golf with a pencil in your pocket, so why don't you practice that way too. That's great advice I think.
And whatever you do, don’t ignore the mental side of the game. I said earlier that the very best players have the ability to play their very best game when they need it most….that’s no accident, and they weren’t born lucky. They’ve worked out how to do it, and they’ve practiced it over and over, both on and off the course.
TPS: If there are any young lads reading this that want to get some of the best coaching from Gloucestershire, how do they get themselves into the squads?
To get noticed by the County, then you have to be prepared to get out and play in front of your peers, it’s as simple as that.
That basically means that players need to be playing in as many of our ranking events as they can. We record the score of every GGU qualified player that plays in those events, so if you’re prepared to compete then you will be considered.
For the younger lads and those that are close to them, then it’s really important to understand that we’re looking for players who want to get out and play, and who love competing. Their current standard of play is far less important....don't be afraid to try, and keep trying.
Given that we’re looking to help players reach the top of the amateur game by their early twenties, then they’ve still got plenty of time when they’re in their early to mid-teens, as long as they’re willing to make the effort required.......we're looking for players who love golf, and who love to compete.