13 Years of Nightmares and Stopping the Putting Yips - A surreal few days in Conwy
28 August 2019 7:57 pm

Last week I played in the Welsh Pro’s event for the first time in three years. It was my first pro event since Esme was born, and I was really quite
apprehensive and nervous because of it!

Held in Conwy Golf Club in North Wales, I went up with my best mate Steff who was caddying for me. We’ve been friends since I moved to Wales aged three, and he’s a scratch golfer himself recently so well done to him! We got there, had a practice day and a catchup which was really nice, few drinks and a nice meal with him and warmed up. Everything was good.

As a putting coach people expect me to be good at putting, which, to be fair, I mostly am! However, about four or five years ago I got the Yips at a Cornish golf course, and as a putting coach that surely could drive business away. But I do like to be honest. I went to the claw grip then returned to the traditional and have felt brilliant about my putting for the last three years.

On the putting green last week though, after a great warm-up, I began to shake. I could feel the Yips were there. The only way I can describe it to people who haven’t had them is that it’s like losing a family member. Obviously it sounds severe, but it’s totally gut-wrenching and gives you a feeling of total injustice inside you.

I started off really well, found myself 40 feet for Birdie on the first hole. I put it six feet away, not so bad. Then, on the par putt, I’m in bits. I made bogey in the end and it really unsettled me.

I get through eight holes and I’m +7. I was thinking this could be a cricket score, and not England’s first innings, but their second!

So for some players it may be disconcerting that their coach had the yips, but I think it’s a really good thing that I know what it feels like. Steff was really encouraging. I pulled it together on the back nine and finished on 81, which was 56th out of 90 pros on the first day. A lad named Mark Pilkington, who I played with, led on level par 72. He has played on the European and Challenge tours for over a decade though, so it was quite cool playing with him.

They say in golf focus on the present. 13 years ago I played in the Aber-Conwy Amateur and faced an absolute demon of a hole. The 16th, at the very course I was facing last week.

A 400-yard par four, I have told people ever since that it is the scariest tee shot in golf. There is out-of-bounds and a road with gorse on the right, and there’s more gorse on the left. And this is the kind of gorse that if you go in there, you aren’t getting out!

I made 11 that day. It gives me nightmares.

I got on that tee last week, the same course, the same hole, and was in turmoil. But there was that fire inside me wanting to prove that I could beat this hole. I managed to calm myself, hit a gorgeous 3-iron down the middle, hit a 52 to ten feet, then holed the putt. It just shows how you can overcome not just 13 holes, but 13 years of Nightmares!

The next day, I decided to work on techniques which I myself had worked on with players. On the short putts I played a game where I didn’t even think about holing it, but tried to get it as close to the lettering inside ‘Conwy Golf Club’. It was almost a game within a game.

So on the short putts I had the lettering technique, and for long putts, I used another tactic which fed off a lovely guy I was playing with called Richard. On the first hole of the second day, I putt, and he goes ‘Great Roll!’. It made me feel really good, and when he did it again on the second hole, I then challenged myself to see how many times he can say that throughout the round. He said that on 16/18 holes, and I haven’t hit such beautifully crafted putts before or since.

The fear of holing it just went away, and everything felt really good on the putting green. I played and putted fantastically. I began with Par, Par, Bogey. The next 12 holes I had 12 consecutive ‘green in regulations’, 12 pars. Fairway, Green, Two putts. I never recall doing such a thing in my entire golfing career to date.

I played really well, 2 over through 15, and reach 16. And what happens? You guessed it; the demons were back. I was petrified of the hole, even after the birdie yesterday.

I tee off, pull it into the dreaded gorse, but Steff was convinced he knew where it was. Obviously I hit a provisional, which lands just short of it after another hook.

I walk up and I think ‘I’m going to find this ball, it’s Esme’s ball’. She loves golf balls, and she had this black and yellow Calloway. Esme used to play with this ball in the bath for around a year, and I promised her I was going to use it and bring it back.

Anyway, I lost it and couldn’t find it. Bad Dad! Luckily she doesn’t know, but more to the point I was happy I got the second one in play. I managed to scrape a seven.

After bogeying 17 and parring the last, I finished with 78, putting me 48th out of 90. Considering that there was 90 pros, I haven’t played for three years, and I played some great golf, a very successful two days.

Next year the Curtis Cup is at Conwy, so that should be a fantastic event. Hopefully Emily Toy, a lady golfer who I coach, will be playing there. A great and challenging golf course which will prove great competition for all involved.

I had a great time, Steff was fantastic, and I definitely do not want to see that hole for another 13 years

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