Andrew’s Journey to the British Seniors Open 2015 to present
- ‘I have to change everything’. Learning to play again as a Senior (50+)
- 2011 – Oz
- 2012-13 Jon and Evian
- 2014 – Currie and Lead
- 2015 – First attempts at Seniors Events
- 2016 – Right Hip problem. Meditation and Everest Base Camp
- 2017 – JJ, Injury and Yoga
- 2018 – St.Andrews!!
In 2011, after several years playing largely unsuccessfully on the Swiss PGA Tour and occasional events on the Evolve Tour in Spain, I decided to ‘change everything’ in preparation for me turning 50 in 2015 and playing on the Seniors Tour. In particular to qualify for the Seniors British Open (I had previously made 3 attempts to qualify for the British Open in 1991, ’96 and ’97). To ‘change everything’ was a realization that my technique, physique and mental approach to the game were well below what was required to challenge at the top level on the Seniors Tour. And so I embarked on a journey of education and change – in hindsight a slightly mad move (to try and dismiss the theory of ‘you cant teach an old dog new tricks!’) but one which has benefited me not only as a player but as a teacher, coach and person.
2011 – ‘Down Under’ and the late, great Ramsay McMaster
A good friend and European Tour Coach, Jon Wallett, runs an Elite coaching camp in Australia in the winter and so I headed off in January 2011 for a month of ‘change’.
My technique was pretty inefficient – flat and wristy backswing, steep downswing with poor leverage. I could get it round the golf course in mid 70’s but the potential for Seniors Tour level was not there. So Jon and Biomechanist Ryan Lumsden worked hard at changing my grip and backswing – it was a big struggle. My scores went up, I was consumed with technical thoughts and I was hitting the ball all over the golf course. I understood the changes, the need to change and how to change………..but I couldn’t easily change.
(Pic: Biomechanic Analysis Session, Gold Coast, Australia)
Part of the trip was also to improve my golf- and general fitness, which I thought was pretty good for someone in their late 40’s. Then I met Ramsay McMaster. A sightly eccentric Scotsman who was working with Jason Day and Henrik Stenson amongst others – a pioneer of Golf fitness and a guy you should definitely listen to – who assessed me and gave me a training regime. He had me (and the other group of Elite players……. all between 17 and 22 years old) running up and down the sand dunes forwards, backwards, sideways, with bands, without bands till my lungs were bursting. He also had me working everyday with massage balls, something I still do to this day. I learnt a lot about Golf Fitness from the great man who tragically 2 years later died from a stroke.
2012-13 – Jon and Evian
In the following two years I persevered with fitness, swing change and read many books on sports pyschology and positivity to help improve my mind set on the golf course. The good results were few and far between although I could see there was progress on all fronts. I visited Jon, who was working at the beautiful Evian Resort, on several occasions and always came away happy to see improvement. But there were still big differences between practice swing and ball swing, and driving range swing and golf course swing, and I couldn’t solve it.
2014 – Currie and Lead
In 2014 I decided a change of coach may help me make the necessary changes and I went to see Graham Currie at GC Markgräflerland. He saw a big difference in my rhythm on the range and on the course and got me to practice a lot of ‘soft’ wedge shots to help naturally flatten off my downswing.
I also read David Leadbetter’s A-Swing book – a slightly radical, biomechanic based swing method aimed at simplifying the swing movement. While I was still struggling with the backswing move I decided to employ his takeaway method – instant result! Literally the day after I read it, I shot 71 at Gruyere in a Swiss PGA Tournament. Takeaway and Rhythm were key elements for me.
Things were really starting to change!
2015 – European Senior Tour Qualifying Portugal, British Seniors Open Qualifying Foxhills and 1st Swiss PGA Seniors Win
In January 2015 I headed to Portugal for the European Seniors Tour Qualifying at Gramacho. Horrible. Two lacklustre rounds of 80 had me missing the 2 round cut. It was a reality check. I was fit, I could chip and putt (which some of my Senior colleagues were struggling to do) but my ball striking was at best erratic.
In July, with not much improvement, I played the British Seniors Open qualifying at Foxhills. A 77 missed the qualification playoff by 4 shots but I was encouraged.
2 weeks later, in stifling heat, I won my first Seniors Swiss PGA Event in a playoff at Basel.
2016 – Right Hip Problem identified, Meditation and Everest Base Camp
I was making slow progress. Fitter, stronger, technically a bit better, and through my psychology books, a bit calmer on the golf course. But nowhere near the level I knew I could reach.
I was also learning a lot. One further education seminar (amongst many!) I attended at the Schulthess Klinik in Zürich with Michael Dalgleish was a turning point. We were performing Screenings – a series of stretch and exercise tests for golfers – and we identified a fairly major mobility problem in my right hip. That explained a lot – poor movement of the pelvis and instability on the backswing leading to an unconnected arm to body backswing position and subsequent steep downswing. The root of my technical problems at last identified.
My second attempt at British Seniors Open Qualification at Downfield in Scotland was a disappointing 81 (pic: Practice round with Vincente Fernandez at Downfield). I was still struggling but the good shots were better – just too few!
A good friend of mine had for many years invited me to come to his trekking Tour in the Himalayas which doubled up as a fundraiser for the thousands of Nepalese who had suffered in the Earthquake of 2015. So during 2016 I assisted him and his good colleagues at Roche in some fundraising events in Basel and in November headed out to Nepal for the Everest Base Camp Trek. I had also been experimenting on and off in the past few years with Meditation, not just for golf but life in general.
While training for Nepal with several Swiss Alpine hiking trips, I got into Hiking Meditation – focussing on the breath and bringing it into rhythm with the hiking speed – something that changes relative to the ease or difficulty of the hike. I employed it to great effect in the Himalayas and started to apply and adapt it subsequently to the golf course.
2017 – JJ the master Biomechanic, Injury and Yoga
Unfortunately, in March I mysteriously (no accident or overtraining) got an injury in my inner thighs which seriously restricted my motion. I started but pulled out of my first two tournaments and struggled to gain the form I had when working with JJ.
The British Seniors Open Qualifying at Southerndown in Wales nevertheless saw an improvement and my 75 (with a triple bogey at the last!) was 4 shots off the playoff score. Encouragement after a frustrating year with an unresolved but improving injury problem.
In September, I started Yoga classes to help my mobility and combined with a regular home exercise program and gym work at Corposana in Basel, I am once again getting fully fit.
2018 – Ready for St.Andrews!
In the past 7 years, my little inner voice has never stopped telling me that I can get better. ‘If you keep doing the right things, it is inevitable that your scores will improve’. And I believe him. So in January, I was back in Nice with JJ. A great 2 days fine tuning what I had learnt last January and already 5-10 metres longer with all clubs. And the golfing goal for 2018? To qualify for the British Seniors Open at St.Andrews. Now that would be a dream come true.
I go into 2018 with the knowledge that my body, mind, swing, short game, patience and focus through all that I have learned in the last 7 years, are capable of performing at a level I know through experience is good enough to get me to my goal. There is hard work to be done between now and July, but I’ve never been afraid of hard work.
I want to thank all my great and knowledgeable teachers for my education and progress to date. I am delighted I set out on, and continue to enjoy this great……..if slightly mad….journey. I am now convinced that old dogs CAN learn new tricks!