• GIRLS AND GOLF 24th November 2016

    Despite having around 3,000 golf clubs in the UK and Ireland a 2013 study found only 14% of the 1.2 million members are female, which sadly leaves the ‘home of golf’ lagging behind other European countries. So what can be done to encourage them into the game?

    wigi-logopeter-dawsonIn 2005 a WIGI survey found that many women left the sport because of the attitudes they faced and more needed to be done to make women feel welcomed on the course. If last year’s debate about whether or not men-only golf clubs should remain and R&A President, Peter Dawson’s view that “For some people, it’s a way of life that they rather like” is anything to go by, it doesn’t seem much has changed since then.

    sue-tibballsWhilst only 1% of UK golf clubs have a single-sex membership policy, the fact that they exist conveys an outdated and frankly unwanted message that will do nothing to attract women into the game. The issue troubles Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation CEO, Sue Tibballs. “While it may be lawful for private member clubs to remain men-only, it is clearly damaging to the sport’s reputation. A number of golfing bodies are working very hard to break down the traditional perceptions of the sport and encourage a new generation of female participants, and these clubs do nothing to help that cause.” Statistics released by England Golf last year bear this out, showing that the average club in England has only 3 female members under the age of 16.

    county-golf-partnerships-logoQuite rightly, there are organisations working to educate course owners and staff on how to better support female participation. In 2012, Hays teamed up with City Golf and were inundated with applications for their “Golf for Girls” initiative, which aimed to engage female talent. The County Golf Partnerships reported that 54,000 people were inspired to “Get into golf” last summer, 35% of which were women. The key though is getting these new players to continue playing and that is where the attitude of existing members is so important.

    Schools could (and should) play a vital role in re-educating girls. In 2013, the ‘Taking Part’ survey reported that the most common sport for 11-15 year olds was football, played mainly by boys who were also more likely than girls to take part in inter-school sports competitions. Secondary pupils participate less as they got older and, even more worryingly, the difference in boys’ and girls’ participation widens as they move up the school. It begs the question: are schools doing enough to try to redress this trend?

    Golf has not been a traditional sport for schools and remains very much the ‘poor relation’. It did not make the top twenty sports in terms of participation, with only horse riding and angling recording a lower figure! The 2010 PE and Sport Survey found that, on average, schools had links to clubs for nine different sports. Golf barely featured.ssp

    However, government investment in the School Sports Partnerships and School Club Links programmes provides an opportunity to start changing this situation and golf’s governing bodies must take full advantage of it. Given impetus by the work of the Golf Foundation, the last few years have seen some encouraging signs, but the improvement is from such a very low base that there is an awful lot more still needing to be done.

    golf-xtremetri-golf‘Tri-Golf’, and ‘Golf Xtreme’ are innovative and attractive projects for primary and secondary schools respectively. They make golf easy and fun to play. However, as I have pointed out in a previous article, it is unproductive to light a spark in schools unless there is a progressive framework in place that will thereafter continue to nurture both interest and skill development. At present that framework is patchy at best.

    The School Club Links Programme led by the Golf Foundation in association with EGU/EGWU and club PGA professionals has met with some success, but a lot more needs to be done (with more specific targeting of those groups traditionally unlikely to have had exposure to the sport). More club PGA professionals, especially female professionals, need to get out into schools and promote the sport, especially through after-school club activity, while clubs need to forge improved links with schools and find ways to open their facilities to them via youth programmes. If the popular perception that golf is a game for the privileged few is to be challenged and the decline in participation that has been evident in recent years is to be reversed, then a number of clubs need to cast off their overly insular and elitist values and embrace the public more wholeheartedly.

    young-girlyoung-boySociety’s attitude also needs to change. The 2015 research mentioned earlier showed that girls tend to stop playing sport outside of school as early as 8 years old and the drop-off rate increases as they get older. The reasons for this are just as worrying as the figures themselves. The media in general, but more specifically advertising, is often guilty of peddling gender stereotypes and exacerbating image issues in young women. Perhaps as a result, UK society simply doesn’t do enough to dismantle such stereotypes and convince girls that it doesn’t matter what narrow-minded people think or say. The result is that far too many girls have personal issues about participating in sport. They don’t want to be seen sweating, without make-up and with untidy hair because they think it makes them unattractive to boys.

    lexi-thompson-2natalie-gulbisthisgirlgolfsIn reality, playing sport tones the body, including those parts that, when in great shape, men find sexy – as magazine photoshoots featuring golfers like Lexi Thompson, Paige Spiranac and Natalie Gulbis testify. Equally important are the videos posted by these same ladies showing themselves without make-up, their hair scraped back, exercising hard and getting hot and sweaty. The two are definitely not mutually exclusive.

    The ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, launched last year by Sport England, was all about changing attitudes and inspired England Golf’s irreverent #ThisGirlGolfs video, which ridiculed the conservative and male-chauvinist values that sadly still persist within the game, representing golf in a rather more modern and ‘edgy’ light!.

    Every golf administrator should be made to watch it!

  • ‘THIS GIRL CAN’ CAMPAIGN: WOMEN IN GOLF 8th March 2016

    Sport England LogoWomen DriversOn International Women’s Day, we at Fitter Golfers want to ‘flag up’ Sport England’s “This Girl Can” initiative, which aims to get women and girls moving, regardless of shape, size and ability.

    Research reveals a huge difference in the number of men and women playing sport in the UK (two million fewer 14-40 year olds). And it’s not because females don’t want to get active (>75% say they do). The sad truth is that millions of our women and girls are afraid to exercise because they fear judgement. “Worries about being judged for being the wrong size, not fit enough and not skilled enough came up time and again,” said Sport England CEO Jennie Price.

    I Kick BallsTheir nationwide campaign tells the real story of women who play sport by using images that are the complete opposite of the idealised and stylised images of women we are used to seeing. Neither does it hold back in trying to encourage women to beat their barriers: “I kick balls, deal with it”, “Talk to the backhand” and “Damn right I’m hot” are among the hard-hitting lines used to change attitudes and help boost women’s confidence.

    Damn Right I Look HotJennie is keen to point out that “women who exercise and play sport… come in all shapes and sizes and all levels of ability… This campaign says it really doesn’t matter if you are a bit rubbish or completely brilliant, the main thing is that you are a woman and you are doing something, and that deserves to be celebrated.”

    At Fitter Golfers we think the game of golf provides a perfect opportunity for girls and women to get active. Whilst Cameron Diaz, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Celine Dion, Sharon Stone, Denise Van Outen and the current Miss Universe, Jennifer Hawkins, are just some of the hundreds of famous women who are keen golfers, you don’t have to be rich and famous, or even especially athletic, to enjoy the game at recreational level.

    Here are just a few reasons why we think golf is a good option:Girls & Golf

    • Playing golf gets you outdoors in the fresh air and is proven to improve mood, stress levels and self-esteem. It brings some impressive health and wellbeing benefits that can help you look and feel your best. It combines, the core ingredients that doctors recommend for optimum physical and mental health and wellbeing. Indeed, according to a Swedish study, playing golf regularly will add five years to your life expectancy.
    • Golf is a great way to stay in shape too. [A round of golf will burn over 1,000 calories if you walk with a trolley.]
    • Golfers Make Friends Easily: With plenty of opportunity for conversation, golf is a great way to make new friends, or grow closer bonds Get into Golf Look Good Feel Greatwith people you already know. It can afford you quality time with your boss, colleagues, boyfriend, or family far removed from the stress of everyday living. And if time is at a premium, it does not need to take all day: playing just 9 holes is increasingly popular and will only take you a couple of hours.
    • Golf is fun: It’s an easy way to make exercise enjoyable. It’s like sex in that you don’t have to be great at it to enjoy it! And remember, only 10% of golfers ever get below 100 on their scorecard, so you can relax and have fun, knowing you’ll more than likely be in good company!
    • Golf needn’t be expensive: you can spend as little or as much as you like. Beginner courses start from around £25 for five weeks, with equipment provided through the ‘Get into golf’ initiative. There are playing options, equipment and Get Into Golfclothing to suit all budgets. So, golf is great value when compared to many other activities and its unique handicap scoring system means that men and women of all ages and ability levels can play together either socially or competitively.
    • On a more frivolous note, as anyone who has watched LPGA Tour events on TV will know, golf fashion is big business and taking up the game is the perfect excuse for going out and buying some amazing new outfits!If you are career-minded, golf is one of few sports widely accepted in the workplace as a way to Golf Fashionbuild relationships and close deals quickly. Adrienne Wax, co-author of ‘Even Par: How Golf helps Women Gain The Upper Hand In Business’ says “If you can talk about golf, all of the sudden you have a reason to talk to the CEO or your boss two levels above you.”
    • And finally, golf gives you even more reasons to travel the world. There are so many amazing and beautiful courses around the world, golf gives you the perfect excuse to go visit them!

    So get out and play girls! Remember #thisgirlcan
    NB: To find out more about ‘This Girl Can’, go to www.thisgirlcan.co.uk where you can get also tips on how to get active and join the national debate. You can use the hashtag #thisgirlcan to join the conversation on Twitter.

     

  • Stacy Lewis – a role model for all golfers 11th February 2016

    Stacy Lewis 2ScoliosisAs all golfers should do, world number 3, Stacy Lewis takes good care of her back through regular stretching and strengthening exercises. However Stacy has even more reason than most. When she was eleven, a school screening exam revealed a spinal asymmetry when she bent forward. Subsequent x-rays confirmed that she had scoliosis, an excessive rotational deformity of the spine. Stacy’s spine had a 30% curvature, which meant she was forced to wear a brace 18 hours a day for the next seven and a half years until she stopped growing. Unfortunately for Stacy, when the brace was finally removed, her spinal deformity continued to worsen until, in 2003, a titanium rod and five screws were inserted in her back to straighten it. For many that would have been the end of their professional golfing dream, but Stacy is a fighter and was determined to put her back problems behind her: “I like a challenge. I’d consider myself a grinder, a fighter.”

    Scoliosis BraceAfter 3 more months back in her brace and a further 6 months of rehabilitation, Stacy began to chip and putt (which was all her doctors would allow her to do) while working out to build up her fitness. Her road to recovery was thus travelled step by step until she turned professional during the 2008 season.

    The following year, while working with Joe Hallett, her coach to improve her takeaway, it became evident that a number of her ‘swing issues’ were owing to a lack of strength and stability. She had a problem keeping the trail scapular down and flat up against her back/ribcage. She also needed greater stability in both the shoulder and pelvic girdles and better trunk rotation. So fitness coach David Donatucci, from the Florida Institute of Performance at PGA National was hired to strengthen her body so she could actually make the moves she was working on.

    Stacy Lewis 3Donatucci says his role was to make her a better athlete and in turn make it easier for her coach, Joe Hallett, to make her a better player. He is convinced that golf fitness has been a vital part of Stacy’s success and it seems that Stacy would agree: “For me my fitness and my routine in the gym is as important as hitting balls and practising… Since… working with Dave, I’ve played better golf and have gotten a lot stronger. I am physically able to make moves at the golf ball that I couldn’t do before… I’ve seen success: I’m hitting the ball better, I’m hitting it further…”

    Good posture is vital for efficient movement and, because of her shoulder stability issues, a lot of Stacy’s posture work had a shoulder focus. Their goal was efficiency of motion to enhance her golf swing – whether that be improved shoulder girdle stability, rotation or whatever else was needed.

    Accordingly, Stacy put in a lot of work to stabilise her scapular through range of motion, because she could only begin working to generate more power (strength and speed combined) once she had attained the requisite stability.

    Stacy LewisShe does a lot of exercises and drills in which the shoulders move the hands at speed. In the gym, she frequently uses a medicine ball for explosiveness. Then, when out on Tour, imitates a lot of those same exercises using resistance bands. One of her favourites is a combination row and extension, which works her back, arms, and shoulders all at once.

    Stacy does a lot of resistance training on her ‘core’ – abs and back – and squats, squat jumps and lunges to strengthen her back, shoulders and legs. “I focus a lot on squats, lunges and throwing a medicine ball against the wall and the ground, since having strong legs and a solid core help me hit the ball farther.”

    “Flexibility and core strength are both key to rotate through the swing properly, [so] I stretch before and after every time I play.”

  • EXCITING NEW LADIES TEAM EVENT 13th October 2015

    Dame Laura DaviesDame Laura Davies, former women’s world number one, will captain a Ladies European Tour team in a new match play event, the snappily named ‘The Queens presented by Kowa,’ to be held at the Miyoshi Country Club in Japan on December 4-6.

    The 52-year-old four-time major champion, Britain’s most successful ever golfer having won 79 titles, will also play in the inaugural tournament. “It’s a one of a kind tournament and I’ll enjoy being part of it,” she said. “I love Japan and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to go.” With the same direct and no-nonsense sort of approach that she brought to her golf game, Dame Laura continued, “As a playing captain, you put your team out in order and have a bit of fun. I don’t think there’s too much involved and so when I was asked I said yes straight away. I can see myself playing in the four ball and I’ll drop out of the foursomes. I’ll just make sure everyone plays with someone they get on with. When it gets to Sunday and the singles it’s like every woman for herself and you’ve just got to get a point on the board and beat the opposition. I think it sounds like good fun.”

    The tournament involves four teams of nine players representing the ALPG, JLPGA, KLPGA and the LET.

    Dame Laura has no captain’s picks. The other eight members of her team will comprise the leading six eligible players from the LET Order of Merit and the next two leading eligible players from the World Rankings. We will know the exact composition of the LET team later this month.

    The format will run along pretty traditional lines for such an event, with the opening two days of the three day tournament featuring four ball and foursomes match play, with eight players from each team competing each day and the final day will see all nine players compete in singles match play with a points scoring system in operation to decide the winning team.

    The winning team will take home 45 million yen (about €0.3m euros) along with a further 1 million yen to donate to the charity of their choice and the total the prize money will stretch to an impressive 100million yen.

    Ivan Khodabakhsh (LET CEO)LET CEO Ivan Khodabakhsh said: “The Ladies European Tour is delighted that Laura has accepted the role of Captain for the first edition of ‘The Queens presented by Kowa.’ Laura is a sporting icon whose popularity transcends borders and golf… Everyone at the Ladies European Tour is extremely excited to be involved and cannot wait for the event to tee off.”

    Hiromi Kobayashi (JLPGA)Unsurprisingly, JLPGA Chairman Hiromi Kobayashi expressed similar excitement: “Having 36 top players from four of the world’s major tours competing in a team competition in Japan for the first time has really excited sports fans and we are really looking forward to this dream tournament which is certain to be extremely competitive.” (translated)

  • JORDAN SPIETH: ATHLETE FIRST 12th October 2015

    Jordan SpiethJordan Spieth has a lot of natural ability, a level head and a relentless drive to succeed – undoubtedly attributes that are extremely useful when it comes to playing golf, or indeed any sport, at a high level.

    Nowadays you can add to that list of attributes a well-honed body that is totally ‘golf fit’, but that wasn’t always the case.

    Damon GoddardWhen, in 2009, at the tender age of 16, Jordan first met his trainer, Damon Goddard of AMP Fitness, he was in Goddard’s words “tall and lanky with hardly any backside,” a bit like “Bambi on ice” and “needed a lot of work.” Goddard quickly identified a need to increase his body weight and muscle strength.

    By 2011, the year before he turned professional aged 19, he had gained almost 25lb, most of it muscle, and filled out physically. He now had ‘an athletic build’ and that should really come as no surprise at all, given the fact that Goddard’s premise has long been to develop the athlete first and then the golfer. [AMP is an acronym: Assess, Move, Perform].

    Now aged 22, Jordan can deadlift more than twice his body weight. When he’s not on the golf course, he spends about four days a week in the gym with Goddard working out. His programme focuses on strength in the core and the lower body for stability, speed and power.” All lean muscle at 6’1” and 185 pounds, nowadays Goddard refers to that one-time “Bambi on ice” as being “country-strong”. It is always important to balance strength work with mobility training and Jordan combines his with foam rolling and stretching routines to help increase flexibility and mobility.

    As you can see, golf-specific conditioning has played a major part in Jordan Spieth’s rise to the top of the game – just as it has done with golf’s other two musketeers, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy. So, club  golfers take heed – if you are serious about improving your game, the first thing you need to do is to make sure that your body is properly ‘golf fit’. Remember Damon Goddard’s premise? Always develop the athlete first!

    www.fittergolers.com – peak performance to a tee

  • RORY McILROY: GOLF FITNESS TRAINING IS A NECESSITY 12th October 2015

    Ask Rory McIlroy about golf fitness training and he will tell you: “It’s a necessity. It gives me the best possible chance to go out onto the golf course and perform to the best of my ability.”

    Rory McIlroy 2007When Rory first came on the professional scene about 6 years ago, he was relatively slight in stature and his musculature was more ‘soft’ than firmly toned. But since the end of 2010 when he began working on his fitness under the tutelage of British trainer Steve McGregor, the results have been dramatic.

    Showing impeccable diplomacy, McGregor described McIlroy, back in 2010, as having “untapped” fitness potential.

    I want to talk a little bit about what McGregor and McIlroy did to get him into shape to play the kind of golf that elevated him to the world number one spot, because it provides extremely useful information for any of you out there who want to improve your own game.

    Steve McGregorAs always, the first step was to assess current levels of balance, flexibility, strength and, crucially important, muscular symmetry. McGregor recalls, “I measured his muscle strength and saw imbalances.” “He had issues with his back in 2010. He was only 21 then, but there was evidence of overuse injury. He’d been swinging a club since the age of two without much focus on fitness. Rory, himself, recalls with an infectious smile, “I wasn’t really big into the gym… I couldn’t stand on one leg for more than ten seconds and couldn’t hold the plank for more than thirty seconds.”

    McIlroy’s left side, from his back through his legs, was weaker than his right. So balancing the right and left sides of his body was a top priority. Over time, the nature of the golf swing – a repetitive unilateral rotation – creates imbalances in your body. It’s vitally important that you prevent that imbalance from getting out of control. A better strength ratio between the two sides of your body provides more stability and reduces your risk of injury. McGregor still pays “special attention to keeping his back strong.”

    [29] Rory McIlroyRory himself freely admits, “I didn’t have a strong enough core or lower back and glutes to stabilise my pelvis. I’ve concentrated a lot on the core and my legs and being balanced from the ground up. I’m the same weight as I was when I started, around 164 lbs, but I’ve gained quite a lot of muscle or lean mass.” As a result, he will now tell you, “I feel like I can hit it harder without losing balance. I just feel I don’t have to go after it as much to get the length.”

    After creating balance and stability, Rory progressed to more strength training, and eventually power training. Recognise that pattern? If you haven’t read my previous posts on Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, take a look. The important point here is that he was taken through a proper progression – (i) assessment (ii) flexibility/mobility (iii) balance/stability (iv) strength (v) power.

    If you want to improve your own game, the Fitter Golfers self-assessment screening programme is a great place to start. [FREE to download from this website]

    Our comprehensive modular programme of exercise videos means that you can design your own individual programme (ensuring that you follow the correct progression mentioned earlier) and choose only those modules that directly address your needs (as identified in the screening process), so there is no ‘dead time’.  Also all our foundation level exercises can be done at home without the need for equipment, so there is no unnecessary expense.

    To summarise the benefits of golf-specific conditioning: scientific research has linked a properly designed exercise programme with a significant increase in clubhead speed and a drop in handicap of up to 7 shots in a relatively short period of time; there’s also a lot of scientific evidence that links being strong and physically fit with increased self-confidence and psychological well-being – not bad things to have out on the course! Game for improvement? Get conditioned to success.

    WWW.FITTERGOLFERS.COM – Peak Performance to a Tee

     

  • FITNESS AND STRENGTH TRAINING GOT JASON DAY CONDITIONED TO SUCCESS 12th October 2015

    Jason Day27-year-old Jason Day’s almost meteoric rise to the very peak of elite golf performance would not have happened if he hadn’t first transformed his body.

     That’s the firm belief of his trainer, Cornel Driessen, whose workouts have dramatically increased Day’s core strength and stability, stripped away over six pounds of unwanted fat and replaced it with 15 pounds of lean muscle.

     Driessen thinks the back twinge that forced him to pull out of the Barclay’s pre-tournament pro-am in August would almost certainly been a serious problem were it not for the physical conditioning he’s undertaken. According to Driessen, Jason “tweaked his back moving an item under his motor coach” and aggravated “a long-standing disc issue.” He went on to say, “If Jason had the same strength profile that he had last year, he would likely have missed the FedEx Cup, that’s my professional opinion… he would not be as resilient as he is now.”

    cornel-dresenSouth African Driessen, who took on Day after last year’s FedEx Cup, pinpointed core weakness as a significant inhibiter to his performance and injury prevention. Day quickly ‘bought into’ Driessen’s training philosophy and, as a consequence, is now reaping the benefits.

    In Driessen’s own words, “His lower core and abs are now incredible and they were close to non-existent in comparison a year ago. He is showing as much as 800% improvement in dynamic core flexion strength and significant improvements across the board.”

    Why not follow Jason’s example and use the fast approaching close season to get conditioned for success next year? Download our FREE screening programme to pinpoint the areas that are potentially having an adverse impact on your performance. Then use the appropriate golf specific exercise programme(s) to get your body totally fit for golf and help to transform your game. Their modular format means you choose only those that address your individual needs.

    www.fittergolfers.com – peak performance to a tee

  • HOW SHOULD GOLF’S GOVERNING BODIES RESPOND TO ASIA’S DOMINANCE OF WOMEN’S GOLF? 2nd October 2015

    Darren ClarkeAs Darren Clarke is named as captain of Europe’s 2016 EurAsia Cup team, the whole question of Asian golf enters the spotlight once again, especially given that Clarke will also captain Team Europe in next year’s Ryder Cup.

    The EurAsia Cup will take place at Kuala Lumpur’s Glenmarie Golf and Country Club on 15-17 January and will provide Clarke with a useful ‘dry run’ as a team captain and the chance to try out a few ideas ahead of next September’s Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.

    In the only previous competition back, in 2014, the two teams fought out a nail-biting 10-10 draw and Clarke commented, “Both teams that are assembled will be desperate to win the EurAsia Cup for the first time.”

    However, putting all the expected niceties aside for a moment, we are left to ponder the question: what kind of team will Europe assemble? With no disrespect intended, a comparison of the respective 2014 EurAsia and Ryder Cup teams suggests that last time around the European Tour attached more importance to the latter.

    Given the disparity in the world rankings, perhaps it is not surprising. The 10th ranked European has a world ranking of 41, while the 10th ranked Asian lies at 134. There are five Europeans in the top 20 and only one Asian.

    Inbee ParkEven more pertinent then is the question why is there not a similar competition for the women? Inbee Park’s clear win by three shots at the Ricoh Women’s British Open in August this year confirmed her as the world’s top female player. The fact that the top three places all went to Asian golfers served further to highlight current Asian dominance of the Ladies game.

    A look at the current women’s world rankings is hugely revealing. There are ten Asian golfers in the top twenty and no less than twenty-five in the top fifty! So, how is the women’s game reacting to this situation? Laggardly, at best. When, a couple of years ago, a fifth major was added to the calendar, it would hardly have been a surprise had the authorities seen fit to stage it somewhere like Nine Bridges GC, or the Jack Nicklaus, Korea or Hirono GC, or Tokyo GC in Japan. It’s not as if suitable venues don’t exist!

    Instead they chose to upgrade the Evian Championship – another European venue (which was, incidentally, dominated by Asian players once again in both 2014 and 2015 – as if to underline my point!). The decision, many would say inadvisedly, flew in the face of current developments in the world game.

    If there is a place for the EurAsia Cup in the men’s game, given the world rankings a women’s version would be a more prestigious affair. The Solheim Cup showcases women’s golf in its most exciting format and no-one would want to see that disappear, but in non-Solheim years, there would surely be a market for another intercontinental contest that included Asia.

     If congestion is an issue, then Europe and America could conceivably alternate as Asia’s opponents.

    Any further exposure for the ladies’ game is surely to be applauded and could only help the attempts being made by the UK authorities to attract more girls to the game.

    As history tells us, in any sport success is cyclical and that only serves to exacerbate the need for prompt action. Current Asian dominance provides a window of opportunity that the game’s governing bodies would be foolish to let pass by.

  • SOLHEIM CUP 17th September 2015

     

    Juli InksterLevity, or gravitas? Setting the tone can be a headache for a team captain and knowing your players is vital. Keen to ‘stop the rot’, which some believe is threatening to set in, following successive Solheim Cup defeats, America’s current captain, Juli Inkster (right), has enforced a “strictly business” attitude to events in Heidelberg this week.

     Though she would not have the atmosphere in the American team room resemble that of a holy shrine, there is no place for the kind of adolescent indulgence that has characterised recent American campaigns. “I just think we are all grown women,” she said. “I don’t see a lot of grown women with face paint on. I want to get back to playing golf. They can have fun and can do their nails and whatever, but I would like us to play golf and get back to basics. I think they were all OK with it. It’s a different group, so we’re doing fine.”

    Whether or not red, white and blue nail polish will adorn the fairways at St. Leon-Rot Golf Club remains to be seen. However, team members Stacy Lewis and Lizette Salas confirmed that American flag face paint seems unlikely to make an appearance this time around: “I think everybody’s grown up,” Lewis said. “Hopefully everybody is past all the tattoos and the face paint and all that… We’re not here to pump up the crowds and do all that, we’re here to win this thing.”

    “I think Juli said no more of this rah-rah stuff,” Salas said. “And I was, like, OK, we’re not cheerleaders, so none of that face paint or none of those tattoos. It’s definitely toned down quite a bit since the first Solheim I was at. And I think it’s a lot of excess energy that’s used on… where do I put this tattoo or does this ribbon match this outfit? None of that. We go out and handle our business and play the best golf it that we can. And I think it’s working.”

     Newly appointed Solheim Captain, Carin Koch from Sweden poses with the trophyIn sharp contrast, there will no doubt be plenty of laughter in the European team room. This will not be down to an edict from captain, Carin Koch (left). but the inevitable consequence of Charley Hull’s presence. Suzann Petterson, making her eighth appearance in the biennial matchplay event, is convinced that the infusion of Hull’s infectious youthful energy and enthusiasm two years ago in Colorado was a key factor in Europe’s first retention of the trophy. She regards Hull as a unique character whose ‘presence’ acts as a team-bonding agent.

    “You have no idea what world Charley lives in from day to day. It changes so much and it’s a totally different planet to the rest of us. It gives us all a very good laugh. I think she’s just trying to be herself, but for the rest of us it’s so unreal that it cracks us up every time something comes out of her mouth. She’s fun to be around. I just wish I was that age again.”

    The sense of team spirit that European teams seem to generate has been a source of much Ryder Cup debate and should the Americans need to ‘lighten up a tad’ they can always take a look at the tapes of Charley’s media conferences.

    Last time around she shared a room with her elder sister. “This time I’m by myself… Last time my sister rode in the night before at like four in the morning and, like, woke me up because she was, like, drinking. She’s 10 years older. I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ She was, like, ‘I’m just coming in from my party.’ I’m like, ‘OK, you do know I’ve got a big game tomorrow?’ She’s like, ‘Oh, you’ll be fine.’ She cracks me up.

    “For instance, last year I missed a three-foot putt on the last hole that put me one behind the lead. She was like, ‘That was rubbish. I’m wearing flip flops and I could have holed-that.’ She hasn’t got much clue about golf, but it’s quite funny when she watches. She’s actually like an older version of me.”

    Teenager Hull – Charley turned 19 this spring – might have something of a chaotic streak in her personality, but she has become a force to be reckoned with out on the course and starts her second appearance in the competition as a lot more than a team mascot.

    Charley HullHull (left) arrived in Colorado two years ago as pretty much an unknown, but those few days catapulted her to stardom and she quickly had to kiss goodbye to her anonymity. At the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco, she said, “I walked outside the cubicle and someone asked me for my autograph. I said, ‘Yes, but could I just wash my hands first?’ That was quite funny.”

    Speaking about her Solheim Cup experience, she said. “Even now I always get, ‘You were great at the Solheim’. I think it gave me a big boost of confidence as well, plus a lot of people definitely know me because of that. I’m quite grateful because it really set the standards for me. I felt more comfortable knowing that I can beat some of the best players in the world. Everyone figured out that I was pretty good after that instead of people doubting me, if you know what I’m saying.”

    Her record reinforces that fact. Charley achieved no less than five consecutive second places at the outset of her pro career and followed that up last year, in only her second season, with her first victory and the Order of Merit crown on the Ladies European Tour. A second win has yet to materialise, but she knows that her game is still a work in progress at this stage in her development and she is not at all bothered.

    “I said to my dad when I was about 14, ‘I’m not going to bother too much until I’m 21’. So, I’m still working on stuff,” she explained. “Everything has been a bonus. I’m just trying to feel comfortable, starting new gym stuff, new caddie, just ticking off things. I’m happy and still going in the right direction. I only turned 19 in March. You are only a teenager once. I always said I wouldn’t go full-time to America until I was older. I will have 20, 30 years playing golf. I still want to enjoy life.”

  • ANOTHER ‘YOUNG LION’ TO WATCH OUT FOR 28th August 2015

    Tom Murray 2Back in June I penned a post entitled ‘The Next Generation’, in which I spoke about the relatively ailing fortunes of some of this country’s established Tour Players, such as Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, and asked if it was time for a ‘changing of the guard’. One of the ‘young pretenders’ I mentioned was the as yet little known Tom Murray, a member at Headingley Golf Club, who had just broken his home course record, carding a superb 63. I listed him as being one to keep an eye out for in the next few years.

    Harry GoddardWell another ‘young lion’ to look out for could well be 15-year-old Harry Goddard from Chesunt. The Hanbury Manor player is in the form of his life having recently carded a four-under par final round of 68 to win the North of England U16 Championship at Heswall Golf Club and consign Charlie Wilkinson (Cheshunt Park) and Archie Palmer (Bramhall GC) to share the runner’s up spot.

    “I’m still U15, so this was a good win for me, I was chuffed,” said Goddard, who finished on 287, one-under par for the 72 holes.

    What I particularly liked about his win was that young Harry had to force his way back into contention after a disappointing opening round of 75 had left him 6 shots behind the early front-runner, Yorkshire’s Barclay Brown, who opened with a 3-under par 69.

    “I didn’t get off to a great start, I went par, par, quadruple. But I didn’t let it get to me, I just knuckled down to see what I could do and finished the round three-over,” said Goddard. He followed that up with a much improved one-under par 71 in the second round, but still found himself six shots down on Brown.

    The Cheshunt School pupil, who had watched his hero, Justin Rose, climb through the leaderboard from T11 after the first round at the recent USPGA Championship at Whistling Straits, said: “Going into the last 36 holes I just decided to see how many I could pull back. The weather wasn’t great in the morning so one-over was a good score and then I played really well in the last round.”

    Harry Goddard 2Goddard trains with the England Golf U16 squad and is coached by Rob Watts at his Performance Academy in Reading, Berkshire. To date, 2015 has been a memorable season for him. He was sixth in the South Eastern Junior Championship, T13 at the prestigious Sir Henry Cooper Junior Masters and earlier this month, he finished a hugely creditable third to Denmark’s Marcus Helligkilde in the RB German Junior Masters at Heidelberg-Lobenfeld, when he also scored 68 in the last round.

    Speaking of that final round in Heidelberg, he said: “It gave me a bit more confidence to know that I could shoot that much under.” So, couple that with the extra boost he will surely derive from yet another great finish, this time much closer to home in The Wirral, and what can we expect of him in the future, I wonder?

    His putting stats for the four rounds at Heswall averaged out at +0.816 – which compares very favourably with PGA professional putting standards – and his sister, Lucy, herself a professional golfer attached to Hanbury Manor, commented: “That proves his putting stats are tour standard. Without a doubt he is one to watch out for. I’ve known it for years, since he started golf, but the stats are now proving it.”