2020 has been an exceptional year in every sense: on a worldwide scale with the COVID-19 pandemic, but also within the Gloucestershire Golf Union, as it saw the most successful year to date despite the circumstances.
The golf season saw the British Amateur first and second place, European Amateur third place, and English Amateur first place titles all won by GGU players Joe Long, Joe Harvey, Haider Hussain, and Jack Cope.
Tom Gillespie, the under-14’s coach said, “I remember meeting all the boys nine years ago, and you always hope one guy in that room will get to that point, so to have four of them this year has been phenomenal.”
So how did the Gloucestershire Golf Union build to this point, and what makes the county so extraordinary?
According to Mark Powell and Dave Hares, it’s the commitment.
“This year has been exceptional,” Mark said, “But it is a result of everything we have done and the work we put in over the past 15 years.”
Dave added, “We’re always trying to build a sense of belonging and a team within Gloucestershire. We try to create a challenging but supportive environment, where we’re challenging players to be the best they can be but not at the expense of being able to support them.
“We have great volunteers, coaches, everyone puts in lots of time to keep things growing.”
The success of 2020 is exactly what Dave, Mark, and the rest of the coaching team dreamed of when they started the programme in 2001.
Mark explained, “There was a lot of talent out there not being recognized and developed as well as it could be.”
With the aim of building stronger players within the union, Mark and Dave put together a unique programme that takes a holistic, well-rounded approach to coaching golf. They look at lifestyle, fitness, nutrition, mental training, and golf technique itself to build players into better individuals, not just better golfers.
Dave said, “It’s the whole person we’re trying to develop, and we’re always looking for how to make the programme better.”
Having played for the county himself since 1980, Dave has always been conscious of the need to look at each player as an individual.
“We’re very conscious of being flexible, because I played and tried to achieve the things they have done this year, I can appreciate the different scenarios and paths that a player takes. We don’t have a standard way of doing things, which is a real strength of the programme,” he said.
Mark added, “We continuously review what we’re doing, and look at what others are doing in golf, and in other sports as well, and see what lessons we can apply here.”
One technique the team decided to implement was player statistics, a detailed spreadsheet of how each player performs from the age of 14 onwards to give their coaches a clear understanding of where a player needs work and improvement. Dave puts together the stats sheets in his own time, showing the same commitment he admires his players and the union for having.
As the programme evolved over the years, they recruited a number of coaches, including under 18’s coach Tom Motley, under 16’s coach James Tuck and under 14’s coaches Jamie Casling and Tom Gillespie to help the players prepare for success in their futures- whether they lie in competitive golf or elsewhere.
James said, “It’s the full package. It’s not just producing a golfer, we want everyone who comes through the programme to be a better individual at the other end. Not everyone will end up a top golfer, we know that, but as long as they come out with a work ethic, understanding behavior, diet and nutrition, and fitness, then we have done our jobs right.”
Tom added, “In the juniors programme, we aim to get the boys to a good benchmark and see where they can progress from there, so seeing players continue to grow is really rewarding. Having seen what Jack, Joe, Joe, and Haider did this year, I know our current juniors will continue to blow us away, no matter where in life they end up.”
Another key to the GGU’s success is what some in the community call the Gloucestershire Way: the involvement of the top players and their willingness to give back to the GGU and its future success.
Mark said, “The top players will always come and help out, give a talk, come for a coaching session. They know where they come from, they know their roots, and still love Gloucestershire. In working with the guys, the juniors realise that they can do it too.”
European Tour Pro and PGA golfer Chris Wood credits his success to the Gloucestershire Way, and comes back every Christmas for a clinic with the juniors to do his part in making sure the Gloucestershire Way continues through up and coming players.
“We’re able to succeed because top players always go above and beyond to be present and answer questions, and to me that was invaluable,” Chris said.
“Now we have myself, Joe Long, Jack Cope, Mitch Waite, among others for the younger players within the county to look to for help, and having been through the entire county system I know how beneficial that can be.”
The coaches, players, parents, and volunteers in the Gloucestershire Golf Union all go above and beyond to build this environment and cultivate success for its players, but the players still know how important their own work ethic in helping them succeed.
Dave said, “Anyone in our under-18 group could become another Haider, Jack, Joe, or Joe, no problem. It’s down to them, any one of them could achieve it, and if they really want to do it, we will find a way to help them do it.”
To learn more about the Gloucestershire Way and join the GGU community click here.