A few years ago, when I got my card, I was invited to go to Woodhall Spa to talk with Tom Lewis and Paul Casey to the English amateur squads. I may have written about this before, but I remember walking in and on one side of the room was a whiteboard. On it were lots of numbers. It was to do with statistics, and possibly the statistics of the players in the room if memory serves me right. Either way, I remember thinking it was pretty Einsteinian. I saw this before I went up to speak and recall saying to myself that I should bring this up when I do speak as what I’ll say may ruffle a few feathers…
Our time came to chat. I think Paul at that time was working with one of the England coaches who happened to also coach the boys team. Both Paul and his coach were right into their stats, which is fine obviously, I absolutely see a place for them in the game. Then I found out that every single player, boy or girl, had to fill their stats out else they wouldn’t get their funding. I get that the players were simply being asked to “buy into” the philosophy of the coaching staff at the time, but I was unsure about the benefits of this somewhat Orwellian measure.
This is where Tyrell Hatton, Andrew “Beef” Johnston and Andy Sullivan come in. I am trying to imagine them in that environment. I mean, I would’ve told someone at the EGU to shove it up their ass, so god knows what may have come out of one of their mouths! Although, to be fair, the three guys above probably wouldn’t have been too forthright with their views at the time, but I certainly know what they’d of been thinking.
Beef was suspended from the England team for a period when he was still a junior. I wrote about this not long ago. Tyrell, I feel confident enough in saying, was never in favour with the EGU. His temperament probably had something to do with that, even though Tyrell’s temperament has turned out to be one of his biggest assets. And Sulli, well Sulli was busy stacking shelves at this point. Also, Sulli is the kind of guy who shoots his 65 then goes down the pub for a few beers. I can’t see him logging onto strokeaverage.com and detailing how close he hit that 8iron on the 4th at 9pm…
You probably know the point I’m trying to make, but I’ll make it anyway. How much talent slips through the net when you put these stringent requirements on people, especially young people. Of course, there’ll be some who love the analytical side of the game and will happily abide by the rules. But naturally, there will be guys, like myself and probably the guys above, who would’ve preferred not to have done it.
Victor Dubuisson would’ve likely ended up in a juvenile detention centre before becoming a professional golfer if he were English. When I think how different I am now to when I was 16/17, it’s remarkable. I guess I was lucky to have Dave Ridley and Brian Hemmings there. When I think back now, I laugh, because Brian was always the shoulder I had to lean on, even though some of my thoughts at the time would’ve seemed so irrational. But the system would bend, the coaches were flexible. They had their beliefs about what it took to become a great golfer, but they never forced it upon you. They understood how an individual becomes more responsible with age, and if the individual doesn’t, then by and large they fail.
I hope this story doesn’t contradict all I’ve said above, it’s not meant to. And it was a rarity.
We were at a training camp at Arcos Gardens once, it may have been 2010. And we had to play 18 holes. Every player had to. It was part of the overall skills challenge that week. I was drawn out with Sulli, in a two ball. It could’ve been the first time I had really met him. By the 8th tee he knew who I was alright, when, I hit a bad tee shot, and really frustrated with my game, I asked the head coach if I could go in and practice. Fair request I thought. He said no. Sternly. So I gave him 150 yards and screamed at the top of my lungs, “C**TS”…. I can’t write it all. I felt part of an Orwellian nightmare that day! And all that was asked of me was that I play 18 holes a golf! Me and Sulli still laugh about that.
Thankfully they never threw me off the team because of my antics that day.
Anyway, It’s good to see Tyrell, Beef and Sulli doing the English proud. And what’s better, they’re blue-collared boys doing it.