By Andrew Whiley
A voice from the south
The talent of the NZPGA golf professional is world leading.
Per capita, I believe we have the most successful and talented golf coaches, when you look at the world rankings.
These coaches have developed players to play and win on every major tour. But best of all, they are actively working with the next group of young players coming through, including junior players from the age of five.
Even though some New Zealand golf courses aren’t as difficult as those in many other countries, the accessibility of the game makes our players develop faster. There are few barriers to playing the game here, so everyone has the opportunity to tee it up.
We have lots of golf courses while fees are very reasonable compared to other countries. I also believe that the high quality coaching education through the PGA provides opportunities for coach development and a lot of opportunities to develop players that come from many different moulds. Everyone is taught excellent fundamentals as part of the comprehensive PGA programme.
In 2008, my friend, NZPGA golf professional Andre White, from the Manawatu Golf Club, first took off on a three week trip to work with his student Tim Wilkinson. They had worked together since Tim was 13-years-old and they had created a very strong student/coach relationship.
Today, Andre can spend up to an hour in the office of the Manawatu golf shop watching Tim hit balls on a practice venue at a PGA Tour event, as if he was right there. As Andre says “Facetime is brilliant. I can see, hear and feel like I’m actually there.” He can even engage in some of the conversations with a few of the tour players he knows as they come and talk to Tim while he is practicing.
“I know Tim’s swing inside out and I’ve taught him to understand what he is happening, so I am passively guiding not actively teaching”.
Andre has also picked up an Australian PGA tour pro who is regularly sending footage through to him using Facetime as well.
“I have spent time with him in person, so we have that relationship and we use technology for nearly daily student/teacher work which can continue, even when I am miles away”.
When you consider all of our professional talent, like the Kiwi players that are on the world tours like Ryan Fox and Michael Hendry who are coached by Marcus Wheelhouse (Auckland), or coach John Griffin (Queenstown) often works remotely with Steve Alker along with Paul Parlane (now based in Los Angeles).
There’s also Steve Jessup (Taupo) who coached Danny Lee to a US Amateur win and onto the PGA Tour, and Guy Wilson (North Shore) who guided Lydia Ko to be a world class player and Richard Woodhouse (formerly from Nelson) over in Queensland working with some of the top Australian pro and amateur golfers.
We mustn’t forget Gareth Winslow, head coach of the Shanghai women’s golf team and former coach of China women’s national team, who has had an influential impact on the women’s game in China over his last 13 years of living there. And there are many more NZPGA members living here in NZ and overseas that have had success at all levels of the game — too many for me to mention in this article.
I believe the success our golf coaches is due to their passion for knowledge and the time they spend continually educating themselves for the benefit of your game! I regularly see our PGA members attending seminars and continuing education sessions. Sessions like the recent one hosted by our own PGA at Remuera, where some world class speakers shared their expertise. Then there are the pros like Kerryn Jamieson from the Pakuranga Golf Club who spent time with some of the leading teaching minds on a recent visit to California.
So whether you are taking a lesson from some of the pros I have already mentioned or from pros like Shelley Duncan at the Otago Golf Club, Alan Rose at the Wanaka Golf Club, Jason Tilley in Christchurch, Kevin Smith in Wellington or Andrew Horan in Hamilton, you really are working with some extremely talented teaching professionals that know their stuff and can really help your game.
The one thing I can assure every golfer in New Zealand is that we have many world class golf coaches right here in Aotearoa, so tap into their skills and improve your golf this summer.