Celebrating 7 Years at the THSG
4 October 2019 6:02 am
It's tough to know where to start with this blog. Time certainly flies! I think it would be a good chance to commemorate the good work of the THSG and Ross-on-Wye Golf Club in my time here so far by taking a look back over the past seven years.
Tim joined the club in the April of 2012, meaning the club had already started to take shape under his stewardship before I arrived on October 1st, coincidentally seven years ago this week.
I joined the club from Lilybrook GC in Cheltenham, where I got my first job as an assistant pro under a fantastic mentor in Simon Harrison. Simon was a member of a buying group, Foremost, and this guy called Tim Hall has just won Pro of the Year. Obviously I was intrigued, and I realised he was a top dog in the industry and was keen to work with him.
Tim was ahead of his time. His work ethic, drive and activity on social media in creating an experience for customers was innovative and as such, I decided to get in touch with him. To cut a long story short, I managed to, shall I say, convince him that he needed me to be his assistant. A couple of weeks went by, and he gave me the job of Head Assistant Pro at Ross.
To start with, I used to really try to push the retail experience for customers and embrace the shop, which I still do to this day, but Tim was very clear that as his brand, the THSG, began to grow, he would maintain that I needed to grow mine too. Thus the birth of the LPH.
It was a surreal one. The LPH was a brand before it was a product. I branded myself to be this 'putting coach', but didn't know that much about putting! Very early on though, I got involved with the AimPoint group and we're still coaching this today.
Jamie Donaldson was coaching in the UK and the group wanted to develop specialist coaches. I was one of the three-figure number who volunteered, and very fortunately I got the job and it made me a certified instructor.
Immediately that gave me a niche in LPH, and I've moved from a Level 1 coach (where I could only coach in my own facility), to a Level 3 coach where I can coach wherever I want. I've put 600 students through AimPoint in the last four years, and every time I still enjoy it. It gives people confidence and as a coach that's delightful to see.
Back in around 2014, Tim had the vision to build an indoor facility. We had an office attached to the shop and the trolley shed which were both a bit of a mess, and we converted that into a state-of-the-art indoor putting lab and indoor performance lab, which with specialist cameras and equipment became one of the first of it's kind. This allowed us to play courses from all around the world.
The putting lab was built on a 2% slope, complimenting AimPoint well. I then took a plunge with that and bought a SAM Putt Lab for £6,000, certainly out of my budget at the time. But to this day, it's still awesome. I use it on a daily basis, it's smooth, easy to read and allows me to do something that I wouldn't have been able to coach without it. Although it's very technical and is quite scientific, you can break it down very easily and simply to customers.
The journey's been very cool at Ross. From coaching members, non-members, beginners, veterans, experts, it has been just as enjoyable each time. I now coach golfers at quite a high level too, such as Becky Morgan (my first tour player), Emily Toy, and Phil Price, a former Ryder Cup player who beat Phil Mickelson back in 2001, but what I'm most proud of is the next part of the blog which are the stories of members who I helped from their first steps to where they are now.
The two that come to mind immediately are Timmy and Sally Fycun. The school work we do at THSG has gone from strength to strength, and between Tim, myself and James Dobbs and assistants who have come and gone, we have coached in 16 local Primary Schools, 3 Secondary Schools and 2 inclusive schools.
Timmy was one of the first students I coached at Bridstow Primary School. Timmy went from never playing the game, to learning Tri-Golf, enjoying the game and joining our junior section, all the way to where he is now which is playing to a very high standard. To be part of that journey with him is something I am very proud of.
What's also very cool is that his Mum, Sally, didn't play Golf and now has gone from a 36 handicapper all the way down to 10 or 11. She's one of the lowest handicap golfers we've got at the club and she came through our Get into Golf Programme. They're two students that really are close to my heart.
Obviously Chris Stonadge! Again he joined through our youth ranks, unfortunately doesn't play much anymore but fulfilled a dream of playing with both his Dad and Grandad. Barry Smith also needs a quick shoutout, who unfortunately hasn't been very well recently, and is actually back playing Golf now. But when Barry joined the club, he came for his first lesson and his words were "You'll never get me to hit a driver for as long as I've got a hole in my a**".
The biggest thing for Barry wasn't as much his technique, but getting through a psychological barrier and I am proud of how honest I was with him. Barry got himself, with a bit of help, to a level he never thought he would reach. He went from a 27 handicapper to 17 in 2 years, he won clubman of the year, most improved player, and was smashing driver all around the place and it was a great thing to see.
The Ladies are excellent to teach too, and are very influential around the club. At the beginning, some took Putting as a chore rather than a thing to enjoy, but with the likes of Mary Royston who is now one of the best putters in the club everyone can aspire to really improve their game.
I've built so many great relationships up over the years and made so many great friends, which is really rewarding and we've actually had a few trips away too. The Vale of Glamorgan, Redditch, a pub near Stourbridge which has all been really good fun for all of us. I remember Andy Baldwin and I going unbeaten in Pool one year too. Great times.
The THSG Golf Days are one of the biggest days of the year at the club. They're close to Tim's heart and really bring out a different side to the club. I always remember a comment from a member, Bill Day, "We feel like you are family to us". Now, not blowing our own trumpet, but that's what we all really wanted to do, and we create these fond memories which make the club ever more vibrant.
The junior section. Wow, where do I start? When Tim and I joined the junior section barely existed, maybe ten junior members maximum. We do 12 hours of junior coaching a week, and we now have over 140 junior members across seven tiers of junior membership at the club. I'm very proud of our seven tier system, and this enthusiasm that Tim had for what is, to put it bluntly, hard work, was so instrumental in it becoming a success.
What's changed? Well we've both got a bit older, we've matured more into our jobs. Tim got married, and now has Walter, aged two and a half now, with twins as well. I've got engaged to Kathryn, and we of course have young Esme who's been around for 26 amazing months. Her birth is the best thing that's ever happened to me and life has changed so much for the better. Dobbsy better up his gam
Neil is part of our team now and he's fantastic with computers, spreadsheets, and he's a great character too. A real Welshman and he's an addition to be savoured.
We also ran trips to see the Masters and holidays in Penina which, and this was probably too many, we took 32 members along too. God bless his soul, Mike Poole is no longer with us, and I always remember him in Penina. I sort of stitched him up to stand up and sing God Save Our Queen in front of 32 people. He then returned the favour and got me to sing the Welsh anthem too!
I'm very fortunate to work with such a fantastic club, with fantastic members, caterers, greenstaff, committees, and the golf club now is probably in the healthiest place its ever been. People often worry that we might be leaving, but as a team at THSG we are very settled, and feel very fortunate to be at a golf club like this with a growth mindset.
What's been really special over the last seven years has been the memories. I cannot wait to create more at Ross-on-Wye Golf Club.