It was the Chinese military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu who once said “victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.” England Golf elected to adopt that strategy last week by organising an impromptu get-together for their elite Men’s and Boys’ squads at their Woodhall Spa headquarters.
The Men’s and Boys’ squads had been scheduled to take part in their respective European Amateur Team Championships at PGA Catalunya in Spain and Furesø Golf Club in Denmark. When it became apparent COVID travel restrictions would force both teams to pull out, they decided to use the free week to bring the two squads together for a few days.
Twenty players took part in the exercise, during which the men and the boys played a series of singles and foursomes matches against each other. The results remain within the four walls of the team room, but Global Golf Post has it on record that a boys’ team comprising Jack Bigham, Seb Cave, Henry Hayward, Luke Perkins, Josh Hill, Alfie Robinson, Frank Kennedy, William Horne and Harley Smith often gave almost as good as they got against a much more experienced men’s group made up of Sam Bairstow, Dan Bradbury, Jack Brooks, Barclay Brown, Jack Cope, Jack Dyer, Arron Edwards-Hill, Joe Harvey Olly Huggins, Haider Hussain and Charlie Thornton.
“Seven or eight of this week’s matches went down to the last,” confirmed Gareth Jenkins, England Golf’s talent development and Men’s Squad manager.
“The men picked up most of the wins but that shows a level of experience the boys (currently) don’t have.
“The boys wanted to beat the men, the men didn’t want to lose to the boys and good things come from that.
“It has been a brilliant exercise and one we’d like to try to do more often.”
The object of the get together could loosely be described as building for the future, both in the short and longer term.
“For the boys, it’s a preparation for the Home Internationals on the Bracken course at Woodhall Spa, and lets us work on foursomes pairings as well as offering them the chance to learn from what the men do,” Jenkins said.
“For the men, it’s a chance to work on pairings for the Home Internationals at Hankley Common and also a chance to reset midway through the season, which is something you don’t often get.
“The men have come off what you might call the ‘Scotland Swing,’ with a lot of links golf where swings can be affected by the weather,” he added. “This is a chance to do some coaching and look at swings and get ready for the next half of the year.
“The boys also get the chance to see (England Golf head coach) Graham Walker, which they don’t often get the chance to do, and the men have time with (lead Under-18 coach) Rob Watts to work on individual stuff.
“All in all, it’s been a fabulous week.”
One of the boys who clearly agreed with that sentiment was 2020 English Boys’ Open Stroke Play (Carris Trophy) champion Hayward, from Kedleston Park in Derbyshire. He clearly relished the opportunity to spend valuable time with the likes of Walker Cup players Brown, Dyer and Cope, who will defend his English Amateur title at Moortown in about a month’s time.
“It’s been an eye-opener to see how good they are,” Hayward admitted.
“For me, it’s been a brilliant experience to practise with that level of player but it’s also heartening to know we are getting close to them, bearing in mind they may have four or five years over some of us.
“It has given me a chance to not only compare myself (to them), but also to learn the little things they do that make the difference,” he added. “They are at a higher level for a reason. Their decision-making and extra level of maturity is something you notice.
“I’ve played the English Amateur and the Brabazon, but it’s the first time I’ve competed head-to-head with the men’s squad, and I’ve learned so much.
“I’m sure this week will help me in the future.”
Top: Barclay Brown