Check out Robin Williams having a conversation with a drunken Scotsman about the game of golf. Pure comedy gold, I had forgotten what a genius he is since I saw him in Jumanji! Discretion advised, not for the kids!
Estoril Open de Portugal Oitavos Dunes Cascais, Portugal
Gonzalo Fernandez Castano 20/1 Let’s try this streaky Spaniard to spoil the Portuguese party. Maybe not a prolific winner but this week Gonzalo is a definite each way shot. He finished fifth here last year two shots behind Bourdy, but in truth if it wasn’t for a poor third round, Castano would have cruised to victory. He may feel this tournament owes him one. Graeme Storm 28/1 There’s a storm on the horizon. Struggled of late to recapture the form that saw him capture the Open de France title in 2007 but solid golf last week in Andalucia where a final round 69 saw him tie for third. Expect another good week from Storm in Portugal where he also finished third in 2007.
Alastair Forsyth 33/1 Ally’s in really good form coming into Portugal with a nice fifth place finish last week. Came to prominence on the world stage in the PGA championship last year, finishing ninth in Oakland Hills. Desperately unlucky not to win this tournament in 2008 losing out in a three man playoff to Gregory Bourdy. The third man that day was David Howell who is also entered this week. It’s nice to see David back swapping the commentator’s microphone for the clubs.
Shell Houston Open Monday Mar 30 – Sunday Apr 5, 2009 Redstone Golf Club Tournament Course · Humble, Texas
Steve Stricker 25/1 Wily old Steve Stricker is coming back to something approaching his best form lately having had three top five finishes since January. A regular top tenner in Houston, Stricker finished as high as third here in 2006 and with his new found game could go one or two better. Always gives a solid ride for your wager.
Stuart Appleby 33/1 Traditionally strong time of the year for Aussie Appleby. Of his eight wins on tour, five have come between January and May. Won by six shots here in 2006 and only lost out to a rampant Adam Scott in 2007.
Bob Estes 66/1 Bob Estes surfaces once a year for this, his home state tournament. Now 43, Estes has finished in the top ten here for the last three years, the highlight a second place finish in 2006. A four time winner on tour, the last at Kemper in 2002. An each way shot only.
Birth Date: 7 January 1982 Height: 5’9’’ Weight: 11 stone 6 pounds Turned Pro: 2004 Brithplace: Medellin, Colombia College: Univ. of Florida (2004, Business) PGA Tour Victories: (2) 2008 BMW Championship, THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola.
Camilo is already is a legend in his native Colombia. Colombian TV bought the rights to air 30 PGA tour golf events when he started in 2006. Known as the “Spider Man” for his unusual method of crouching down to read putts. Featured in the July 2006 issue of GQ. Says the article in GQ, "He's got a closet full of tight trousers, a set of boxer's biceps and more screaming female fans than Justin Timberlake.". His brother Manny has also recently featured on the PGA tour.
What’s In The Bag
Driver The new Cobra Speed S9-1Pro S driver. It has a 44-inch Matrix X-flex shaft. Fairway Woods The 3-wood is a Cobra Speed LD. Bent strong to 14 degrees. Camilo likes to hit his fairway woods high and the Speed LD creates the perfect spin to do so. The 5-wood is also a Cobra Speed LD, bent 2 degrees strong, and cut really short for extra control and use from the rough. Irons 3-iron. Is Cobra Carbon CB with Rifle Project X Flighted steel shafts, 7.0. Different from all the other irons, with more weight on the bottom to help get the ball up in the air easier.
The 5-iron-PW are King Cobra Pro CB. Camillo uses slightly longer shafts due to a more upright stance after a recent swing change. The 4 iron has been removed to make room for a 63º wedge.
Wedges Wedges: Titleist/Vokey Spin Milled 53º, 58º and 63º degrees. Vokey grind the edge of the wedges square especially for Camillo. Putter Putter: Customized orange and blue (Florida Gators) Scotty Cameron by Titleist. Circa 62 No. 3 made of German stainless steel.
Misc Ball: Titleist Pro V1 marked “CV” always in orange Marker: Australian 50 cent because it’s visible from both sides of the line of the putt.
Four Lads In a Car- Castleknock Golf Club
Its great to be back on the “Four Lads” trail for the new season. Our first review of the year happened almost accidentally back in February. Jaded after a journey from Mayo to do a job in Dublin city centre I called pal Mark Howell to see if he was up for a few holes somewhere. “Meet you on Dame Street”, he said, “We’ll be on the tee in Castleknock Golf Club in ten minutes”. Down to Heuston Station, straight through the Phoenix Park, out through Castleknock village. Sure enough we got there on time. On entering Castleknock Golf Club, the first thing you see is the hotel; it’s not related to the club but shares the land and adds to the visual impact. The drive in whets the golfing appetite with plenty of water and large undulating greens on show.
We were joined for the round by Mark Lynch, Sales and Marketing Manager with Castleknock, a towering figure more suited to triple crowns than triple bogeys. Mark’s driver was an original antique Big Bertha from which I deduced he doesn’t get to play much, but he could still spank it 15 yards past us every time.
The first hole in Castleknock is a very clever par four. The hole seems long from the tee with water all down the left and trees flanking the right. It leaves you sweating over your very first shot which is a clever little touch. It’s an optical illusion really, the hole is short and there is more room out there than meets the eye. From there you’re off a very enjoyable journey through designer Jonathon Gaunt’s imagination. At 6700 yards the course is not long; some holes like the fifth are very short so if you’re a 12 handicap or under, you should try it from the back. I really enjoyed all of the par-3’s. They are framed beautifully with water and bunkers aplenty and play very long and tough. I bet you wont make par on the third. Unusually the ninth and 18th holes are also par-3’s which share a green on front of the clubhouse.
The plus points of Castleknock Golf Club are manifold. Firstly, it’s one of those year round “bone-dry” places and the greens are absolutely excellent. Peter Lawrie who represents the club on tour claims they are “The best in Ireland” and running at 12 on the stimpmeter at their quickest in the Summer, he may well be right. Second, though the facilities still boast all the little luxuries we got used to during the boom, the golf is very affordable with open days of €30 aplenty. Check out the offers on http://www.castleknockgolfclub.ie/. You will always get a tee time and pace of play is brisk. So next time you’re in Dublin City for work or to see a match and looking to get out for a quick few holes at an affordable rate, be sure check out Castleknock Golf Club. Bloggy Underfoot- Happy Gilmore To Change Handicap System
With all hell breaking loose in the Dail and some statue toppling predicted soon, a leaked memo has emerged describing how Labour propose to tweak the R&A handicap system for the sake of fairness and to increase the tax take. Here’s what we got a hold of.
WE WOULD LIKE TO INFORM ALL GOLFERS
Should the labour party be in government after the next general election, Happy Gilmore proposes to introduce some major changes to the game of golf. This is only a preview as the complete rulebook is being written now. Here are a couple of basic changes.
Golfers with handicaps: - below 10 will have their green fees increased by 35% - between 11 and 18 will see no increase in green fees - above 18 will play for free and even get a check from the club/course played
The € amount put in for bets will be as follows: -for handicaps below 10 an additional €10 -between 11 and 18 no additional amount -above 18 you will receive the total amount in the pot and you do not even have to play. The term “gimme” putt will be changed to “entitlement” and will be used as follows:
-handicaps below 10, no entitlements -handicaps above 11 to 17, entitlements for putter length putts -handicaps above 18, if on green, no need to ever putt, just pick it up
These entitlements are intended to bring about fairness in scoring so that the final scores of all players will be about the same. In addition, a player will be limited to a max of one birdie and/or six pars, any excess must be given to those fellow players who have not yet scored a birdie or par. Only after all players have received a birdie or par from the player making the birdie or par, can that Player begin to count his score again. The current R&A handicap system will be used for the above purposes but the term ‘net score’ will be available only for scoring those players with handicaps 18 and above. This is intended to ‘redistribute’ the success of winning by making sure that in every competition the above 18 handicap players will post only ‘net score’ against every other player’s gross score. These new Rules are intended to CHANGE the game of golf. Golf must be about Fairness Only. It should have nothing to do with Ability.
Dr. and The Medic: Rolling Putter
Problem You lift the putter off of the ground just after contact with the ball.
Cure Stay down throughout the entire stroke. Do not allow your forward wrist to hinge or push the putter into the ball.
Therapy Imagine that there are wheels attached to the bottom of the putter. During your forward stroke, you want your hands slightly ahead of the putterhead. This way it almost feels as if you are allowing the club to roll through your stroke. This will allow you to drag the club through the ball instead of pushing it. Remember to keep your wrists quiet throughout the stroke.
I Want One Of Those: Taylor Made R9 Driver
The days of buying a club and changing your swing to suit are rapidly drawing to a close. The Taylor Made R9 is the first of what is sure to be a plethora of player adjustable drivers. Simply bring to the range, move the clubhead into 8 different positions, adding or decreasing loft, opening or closing the face. Also adjust the three moveable weights (1x 16gram and 2 x 1 gram) and you’re getting 24 drivers in one and as a result, you can amend side-by-side flight by up to 75 yards.
Fancy Reviewing Ireland's Top Courses For Free With The SpinDoctor???
It can sometimes get lonely reviewing Ireland's top courses for the Irish Examiner. I look at the empty seat in the buggy beside me and think hey! why don't loyal Irish Examiner readers share in the adventure.
So if you're available at short notice, up for a bit of fun, have a handicap of 18ish or better, then e mail me your name, address, club/society and handicap and contact details and I will include you in my reviewing panel.
E-mail me on email@example.com or text 087-3140467. (e-mail is better)
Each week I will e-mail the panel, let you know what's coming up and if the date suits, e-mail me back. I will choose the players in the fairest manner possible. Brought to you by the SpinDoctor's one man economic stimulus package to promote Irish golf!
Hank Haney’s Toughest Test
The show every one is talking about at the moment is the Golf Channel’s reality show “The Haney Project” featuring Tiger Woods' swing coach Hank Haney. In it he get the toughest challenge of his life, trying to fix the crocked swing of basketball legend Charles Barkley. With regular appearances from Barkley’s friend Tiger, the show provides an in depth looks at the methods used by arguably the world’s best coach. In a recent episode Haney revealed the incredible "Tiger workout" schedule which goes on for, wait for it, twelve hours!
Tiger’s Aussie Blow-up
Tiger Woods didn’t face the usual barrage of questions about his fitness last week at Bay Hill but rather the rapidly growing controversy regarding his appearance fees. The announcement of his first trip to in Australia since the President’s Cup in 1998 was quickly followed by news of a $3 million appearance fee, half of which will come from taxpayers in the state of Victoria.
Woods defended the appearance money saying, “Most of the guys get appearance fees to play around the world. I’ve played all around the world and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed going.” At least Tiger is going to do some work before grabbing hard earned taxpayers money, not like some people I know.
Seve Still Battling
Seve Ballesteros said his spirits were “still high” before facing into a fourth round of chemotherapy as he continues cancer treatment. The five-time major winner has already also had four brain surgeries to remove the brain tumour. Blood tests from his third round of chemotherapy showed that he still required further treatment which began three days ago.
It can sometimes get lonely reviewing Ireland's top courses for the Irish Examiner. I look at the empty seat in the buggy beside me and think hey!....why don't my loyal readers share in the fun!!!!!
I need you to join me in the SpinDoctor's adventures and together we will golf the balls out of Ireland.
So if you're available at short notice, up for a bit of fun, have a handicap of 18ish or better, then e mail me your name, address, club/society and handicap and contact details and I will include you in my reviewing panel.
The mere thought of the Titleist Pro V1, conjures up images of highly skilled tour professionals, scientists, shiny gold boxes and trophies held aloft. You visualise Padraig Harrington’s Carnoustie Open winning gap wedge fizz up to the flag, then rip to a stop, as if on a string. Or Rory mashing a monster drive in the desert. Yes, for those of us lucky to own a sleeve, the Pro V1 is a thing of beauty, a prized possession to be carefully dotted with red sharpie at the kitchen table the night before play. Many men I know love their Pro-V’s so much they impose strict usage conditions; never use one in practise, where “out of bounds” flanks a fairway and absolutely never on any hole containing water.
My quest to get deep behind the gleaming exterior of the Pro V1 brought me to the quiet town of Fairhaven about 50 miles from Boston in Massachusetts and home of Titleist. On entering the reception, I thought for a second I was in Willy Wonka’s golf factory, as laid out before me was a treasure trove of the latest gleaming Titleist clubs, bags and balls while the walls were adorned with the latest model Footjoy shoes (also part of the parent brand). I was greeted by Rick Veitch, a highly engaging marketing guru for Titleist who eventually gave in to the SpinDoctor’s Paddy’s Day request (aka begging session) for a tour of the Pro V1 manufacturing process. “My wife is a “Hughes” from Cork”, he proudly exclaimed within 30 seconds of first shaking hands. I think that’s what may have secured my golden ticket. The Pro V1 plant is located about ten minutes drive from the Titleist administrative building near the Acushnet river which gives the parent company its name. Before heading up there, Rick and I chatted about all matters golf. We talked about recession; Titleist hadn’t escaped its tsunami like force with layoffs in all areas. We talked about the power of the brand and how the kids that fished Pro V1’s from ponds ten years ago are now the grown up single figure handicappers who wouldn’t use any other ball. I ask Rick a somewhat tricky question about "defectors" (my words not Gregs), like Tiger to Nike, Phil to Callaway, Sergio to TaylorMade and Vijay to Srixon to which he philosophically replied “They all started out using the Pro V1”. Where the sales and marketing strategy of the new high end ball companies is to offer huge amounts of cash to marquee players to switch to their ball, Titleist adopt a different tack. “We have a plurality approach to cultivating and supporting our Brand Ambassadors”, Rick tells me. “We want wide representation of top players from every level of play, from the worldwide professional tours, down through the developmental tour, PGA club professional, college and amateur ranks”. In lay mans terms Titleist reps worldwide ensure every budding amateur talent always has a Pro V1 to reach for in their bag, so when the day finally comes that they do turn professional, they might remember on which side their bread is buttered. This is borne out by the stats which show on average five times more wins worldwide with Pro V1’s than with any competitor ball and why players like Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy and Camilo Villegas are among the host of current greats who represent the brand.
Rick then points to a grey door across the hall. Every few minutes, the door opens and an anxious looking man strides out. He has that preoccupied facial expression, as if mentally working through the final steps of a complex quadratic equation, the solution to which may lead to an earth shattering breakthrough. I recognize him. He’s a scientist. The Research and Development section of Titleist comprises 50 such chemists, physicists and engineers constantly locked in a battle to push the barriers of ball technology to even greater levels.
As I travel in Rick’s car the short distance to the Pro V1 ball plant, so begins the process of myth shattering that is to continue apace throughout the day. Sizing up Rick, I see an ex-professional golfer with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Titleist. He is part of an elite team charged with marketing the brand worldwide, a position I always regard as being like a goalkeeper; one fumble and the whole team suffers. Yet he doesn’t wear a tie, his car is not like something from Top Gear and holidaying abroad is not an option right now because of the drop in value of currency. Yet, I think he is enjoying getting out of the office for a few hours. At the door of the Titleist Pro V1 plant, we are kindly greeted by senior director of the facility Dan Gendreau. I notice Dan’s shirt sleeves are rolled up; always the sign of a hard worker. Chuffed, I explain that it’s an honour to meet the director, such a gesture in Ireland is reserved only for auditors and bank managers.
I’m not really sure what I expected in the Pro V1 ball manufacturing facility but images of men in white coats with clipboards standing around nodding in agreement whilst robots carved out balls were floating around in my head somewhere. The reality is altogether different. The process of ball manufacture though heavily reliant on machine is actually also highly labour intensive and about as glamorous as an East German weightlifter. The production floor is a kind of marriage between a bakery and a car factory. Parts of the factory are extremely noisy, others are hot, yet others again very damp. Smells range from the distinctive aroma of hot rubber to the sharp niff of lacquer. One thousand highly organized workers busily weave in and out through countless machines each churning out a vital component in what is a very complex process. Today’s quota is 580,000 Pro V1’s.
Here’s how they do it! Step 1. Powders are mixed in giant silos and rubbers and chemicals added on conveyors to make a giant dough like mixture. Of course the ingredients are top secret but I’m sure I saw “limestone” on one the silo’s!
Step 2. The rubbery dough is extruded into sheets. Each sheet will become the core of approximately 42,000 balls.
Step 3. The rubbery dough is then cut into strips. Each strip is then further chopped into cork like shapes called “preps”. The left pic is the core of the Pro V1x, the right is the core of the Pro V1
Step 4. These preps go into moulds where they are heated and compressed into circular cores. Pro V1-x’s actually have two cores, which explains the difference in performance characteristics of the finished ball. The cores are given a shave to remove any rough edges.
Step 5. The cores are then placed in a clear casing made from a material called surlyn. More heat and compression moulds the surlyn onto the core. The seam of the surlyn covered core is then smoothed up and its surface heated by a flame to ensure its next coating bonds to its surface.
Step 6. Liquid urethane is poured into a half ball shaped dimpled mould and the surlyn covered core then precisely positioned in the mould. Two moulds flip together seamlessly, are bolted and fused to create the familiar golf ball shape. After smoothing, it is practically impossible for the eye to identify the seam of the ball.
Step 7. The balls are then painted white and screened printed with the iconic Titleist and Pro V1 logos. The final clear coat bonds the print and helps make the ball more durable.
Step 8. Every ball is scrutinized by robots as well as good old fashioned expert human eyes. Balls with even the tiniest imperfection or ink smudge do not make the grade.
Step 9. At the end of the production line, pristine Pro V1’s and Pro V1x’s pop out like everlasting gobstoppers. Balls destined for all regions of the world are stored in giant tote bins, packed and readied for shipping.
Just like with Willy Wonka, there are plenty of people like “Mr Slugworth” seeking to acquire the magic recipe, but that’s a story for another day. Seeing the countless containers at the end of the line brimming with endless Pro V1’s made me want burst into song and dive right in. After two hours touring, I emerged fascinated, educated and full of admiration for the hard working staff in the plant. Though working in a bustling environment there is a huge sense of contentedness and pride among the workers. The fact that the average employee here has at least 15 years experience is testimony to that fact. Our guide David Glynn, senior machine design engineer, has been here three years, which makes him still a rookie! Thanking all for the visit, I leave to find a place to watch the rugby, vowing never again to complain about the price of golf balls and deciding that from now on, my Pro V1’s shall be treated like my children. They’re worth every cent and should be cherished for the short time you have them!
Amidst the financial doom and gloom worldwide, it’s as if golf businesses are like soldiers going over the top of the trenches only to get cut down after a few short steps. There are however, the chosen few that avoid the snipers of recession and go on to succeed. I met up with the top three Irish exhibitors at this years PGA show in Florida to issue them their “purple heart” for outstanding bravery in the face of grave financial adversity.
I never knew what I wanted to do with my life when I was still in school. I’m still not sure. When I met Stephen Riley the MD of Premier Licensing from Down, I couldn’t believe it when he told me he gave up life as a PGA pro golfer based in South Africa to pursue a life in sales. One look at his product however and I saw the light. Exceptional quality Liverpool golf bags, Chelsea umbrellas and Manchester United headcovers are just a few of their brand new products on display at the PGA show. “I had a lovely Arsenal headcover on display here too,” Stephen tells
me, “But Ian Poulter just ran up and nicked it!” “It’s going to be in his bag at the Masters!” adds the brains behind the operation, Kevin Funnell. Having seen the success of branded sporting goods such as in the NFL and collegiate sports in the USA, Riley and his team took the idea and ran with it, straight to the doors of the premierships top teams. So impressed were they at the range and quality of the products, the leading clubs all entered licensing agreements. It wasn’t easy and negotiations to seal the deals took two years. But when Real Madrid and the British and Irish Lions heard that Man. United and co were producing golf merchandise, they excitedly came to Premier Licensing seeking a piece of the action. Premier Licensing now boasts the most complete range of golf accessories for the die hard supporter or the perfect present for the sports mad birthday boy! All the branded products are now available in Irish sports and golf stores but for some real father-son bonding time check out the website http://www.premier-licensing.com/. I tried it and I don’t know who was more excited, my seven year old or me!
Young product designer Martin Greeves from Antrim is the inventor of shaft “skinz”. What are skinz? We are all now familiar with all the colours and patterns on graphite shafts. Well, “Skinz” are a simple way to pimp-up (ahem! decorate) boring old steel or stale grey shafts. The technology behind skinz is not new, it has been used in packaging for many years. For instance every plastic lucozade bottle has it. The decoration on the bottle is simply a plastic “skin” which is heat sealed onto a blank curved bottle. What shaft skinz does is to bring this technology to golf; all you need is a shaft skin and a hairdryer. Yes, a hairdryer. The simplest ideas are always the best. When Martin Greeves produced his first test batch of skinz, 13 out of the first 15 shops he introduced it to, bought the product. The Golf Channel even loved skinz, featuring it on their show “Fore Inventors Only” where the product made it into the top ten out of 13,000 new golf products. Martin then took his skinz to The Crowne Plaza Invitational on the US Tour and even from outside the ropes, managed to catch the eye of then defending champion Rory Sabbatini, who immediately fitted them to his putter. Five players used skinz in last years British Open and the product is equally popular on the ladies tour. Shaft skinz are now sold worldwide. They don’t affect the club in any way, are funky, cheap and removable in seconds. Who needs Dragons Den when you have Rory Sabbatini to use your product? But the best laugh came when my wife saw me heading off with the hairdryer. “You have no hair” she said. When I explained I needed it for my “shaft skinz” she was pretty horrified. I think you can probably guess the rest. Check out http://www.shaftskinz.com/
You would think that only a mad man would want to be in the golf vacations industry nowadays, but I checked, and Eamonn Kennelly the MD of Dublin company “Golf Vacations Ireland” is as sane as they come. Eamonn’s company offers inbound golf tourists a never to be forgotten golfing holiday package which include Ireland’s top links courses. Destinations such as Old Head, Ballybunion, Murvagh and Ballyliffin are all on Eamonn’s itinerary. After verifying his sanity, I learned that the US tourist market is actually on the up again and what I thought were the boom times weren’t actually so. Eamonn gives me a lesson in geopolitics. “In February 2001 we had ‘Foot and mouth’ and the image of burning pyres of carcasses on CNN and the Cliffs of Moher being shut down didn’t do much for tourism. In September we had 9/11 and then SARS came along, both of which had a huge impact on international travel. Then came the Iraq war and the subsequent drop in the value of the dollar.” Add into the mix the huge inflation in Irish clubs’ green fees at the time and you begin to see why tourism has suffered over the past eight years. Hope springs eternal however and with the dollar now strengthening and the euphoria over Barrack Obama’s appointment still in the ether, Ireland is once again becoming an attractive proposition for golf tourists. Eamonn is optimistic that 2009 will be a good year for tourists to visit and play golf in Ireland. As a big supermarket says “Every little helps” the Irish economy.
Trevor Immelman certainly wasn’t in a huff when he exited the WGC Accenture in the first round last week at the hands of Shingo Katayama. “I’m just out of the refrigerator”, he told me when we met up a couple of weeks ago. After a Winter in the gym building up layers of muscle in all the right places, Immelman is only now picking up his sticks again. As he waggles the latest technology from Nike, I get the South Africans views on equipment, practise, Padraig and Augusta as he attempts to recreate last years glory all over again.
What do you practise most? “I practise my irons most but lately I’m trying to ramp up practise on my short game because I feel that’s the thing that’s halting my progress right now. My iron play (I think) is right up there.”
What do you practise the least? “You know the driver is probably the thing I practise the least. For a few reasons. Once you find the driver that you’re comfortable with and that’s set up right for you, that’s the one you are going to use. Not too much is going to change there. I believe you have to make a slightly different swing with your driver. With new technology we are able to grip it stronger, play the ball further up in our stance and hit it more on the upswing as opposed to irons which you try to sweep off the deck. For me, if I hit too many drivers it feeds bad tendencies.”
What, in your opinion, is the key to golfing success? “I think the top athletes play their best when they train hard and then go and play without caring for the result. Have your strategy and when you get you out there just swing for the fences and trust that it’s going to be there.”
It seems like most of the players on tour are going more towards bigger style cavity back clubs. Why should any amateur ever again consider playing blades? “I’m going to be 100% honest and say no amateur should ever consider playing blades. There’s no advantage to it. It’s like having a choice between a Ferrari and a bicycle and choosing the bicycle. The stuff that the engineers and scientists (who design clubs) are coming up with is pretty incredible. The challenge is to utilise the technology while still retaining the look of the club. My clubs have the perimeter heel-toe weighting, which gives a bigger sweet spot. But my (Nike victory red) irons have very little offset, so when you put it down it appears to be a blade but you’re getting the advantage of the technology.”
We all know golf goes in cycles and form goes in cycles but do you try to build yourself for one special period every year? When are you targeting to be at your peak? It’s really difficult to try and peak at the right time. Obviously you’ve got the four Majors. Tiger and Paddy have spoilt us really, leading people to maybe believe it’s easily done. The truth is it’s not.” Trevor laughs because he has done it! “The game is so fickle, it comes and goes so regularly, so I think the main thing you can aim for is to be mentally tough and to be able to handle the times when your game is not quite there. All the greatest champions are still able to win when they’ve not got their best stuff there. Those are the things you learn as you mature in the game.”
Do you feel it’s an advantage going to Augusta, the one major with the same course and the same set up? Does it make it any easier to win? “It’s unique being the only major we do play on the same course year after year, so guys get familiar with it. They start to get comfortable with it; they get to know the greens and the lines off the tees. Once you’ve won there, obviously every time you go back, you’ve got a lot of good memories. That part is going to be fun, it’s going to be nice but I’m also going to have to deal with so many emotions every time I go back because that day was the greatest of my career. Yep, there’s going to be a lot of crazy emotions, but I’m looking forward to it.”
It’s the eve of the PGA merchandising show in Orlando Florida. An annual event, the show is an enormous gathering of the great and the good of the golf world pedalling every gadget gizmo and weapon you could possibly think of.
On the day before the main show kicks off, a “demo day” is held for PGA professionals and media members. Disguised as Rory McIlroy, I board the bus for the venue located about forty minutes out into the Florida wilderness. I must admit, having never been to this event before I am like an excited child. To me it’s like Disneyland for golfers. All the others around me are as serious as a heart attack, I guess they’ve seen this circus act many times before.
The bus drops us at the entrance to the world’s largest driving range. The layout is a circle 450 yards in diameter, which means patrons can hit balls from anywhere around the perimeter of the circle without fear of hitting anyone the other side. As a result all the worlds’ golf companies have set up their stalls around the entire circumference of the range which makes for a rather awesome site. Recession or no recession, golf is seriously big business.
What’s really interesting to note here is the pecking order of the big golf companies. One would think that in a circular set up, the position of every stall would be irrelevant but when you take into account the direction wind that all changes. The company that’s done its homework with the met and struck gold is Nike who have set the stall up with their back to the prevailing wind. It makes a serious difference to those people then trying Nike clubs. With the wind at their backs the ball flies further and the feelgood factor for Nike equipment rises accordingly. The poors sods across the other side of the range have the wind whipping into them and are left cursing their luck.
Like most of the major companies, the Nike set up includes a media marquee and about ten hitting bays facing into the circle. Directly behind the bays they have about fifty golf bags laden with every iron, driver and shaft combo you can dream of. There’s also a section where Nike are busy fitting out a line of enthusiastic PGA pros with their new interchangeable driver shaft system. The whole operation is manned by about 50 pristinely clad staff, who greet you with “Hello Sir, may I suggest I a club for you to try today”. After about 5 minutes of hitting balls, the staff clear the bays and Suzanne Petterson emerges from the shadows. I get a chance to get up close and personal with one of the world’s top female golfers. I wish! Er.....actually on second thoughts I don’t. Though obviously there on a paid marketing mission, there’s very little hint of any sort of enthusiasm or even a semblance of a smile on Petterson’s face; kind of like the Iraqi shoe throwing journo at the Bush press conference. Easily six foot with legs like wonder woman, Suzanne begins belting balls for the gathering crowd. She hits them with that impressive dull clicking sound that only the pro’s can produce whilst answering questions from the Nike guy with the mike. It's what golfers call "multi-tasking".
I break free of the Nike electromagnet and stroll further along the arc until I come across two rather forlorn looking Asian gents surrounded by clubs and a “trackman” swing measuring device. They’re from the Japanese company Maruman and speak little or no English. They invite me to have a go off their new driver, the convector. It’s an absolutely smashing club, technologically advanced beyond much of its competition but such is nature of the world of golf, that you may never see one in the shops in Ireland. There’s one master stroke these guys have pulled though and that’s to hand out handy little carry bags to everyone passing. There are the only company on the whole range to have thought of it and as a result the Maruman name is on everyone’s shoulders. The simplest marketing ideas are the best.
I move on to the Taylormade stand to try some of their weaponry. The hitting bay next to me is again set up for “trackman” and a steady stream of people are having their ball speed, stats and carry measured up. In truth they all measure up the same, more or less. The guy operating the trackman is bored out of his mind telling everyone they’ve carried it 266 yards. Next up however is a monster of man from Las Vegas. He proceeds to nail a drive out into the range, the like of which I have never seen before. The guy on the trackman looks up from his screen, stunned in amazement. He frantically beckons over his superiors and asks this guy his name. “Mike Dobbyn” answers this six foot eight inch beast who looks like a cross between Jonah Lomu and Frankenstein. The trackman team invite Mike to hit again and a crowd of about 30 people have suddenly gathered like wasps around fizzy orange. Mike tees up another ball, waggles and unleashes holy hell. There’s an audible gasp from the crowd as they watch the trajectory of the ball shoot out into the middle of the circular range. It’s still rising as it crosses the centre point and it continues all the way across to other side where you can see people diving for cover. The trackman results come back. “Carry: 344 yards, swing speed 183 miles per hour, total distance 440 yards”. He poses for a pic as he tells me his best drive ever was a 551 yard effort on a par-5 in Vegas. Thank God for putting. It’s now evening time and the PGA show starts tomorrow. It took 6 hours to circumnavigate the range today which gives you some idea of the scale of the event. And that’s just clubs. I’m left in absolutely no doubt as to the enormity of the global golf industry. Some say it’s teetering on the brink of collapse as a result of the downturn in the global economy, but I bet not even Bloomberg would make that prediction having witnessed today’s events.
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