THAILAND OPEN – behind the scenes and inside the ropes

The world of tournament golf can seem far removed from the average golfers weekly round. Anyone who has been to watch a tournament at a course they have visited under normal daily life will know that for a week or 10 days it is like the circus is in town, only for it to disappear as quickly as it has arrived.

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I have been fortunate to see behind the scenes in a few larger events and even luckier to have played in dozens of smaller professional tournaments (where the circus is just a smaller one!). But when the Thailand Open came to Thana City last month, I got to see it really close up.

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We knew a few months before it would be coming and this was good PR for us, with the momentum we had with Pro Tour Golf College Thailand we knew we would have a several players in the field and that group would include someone who would be touted as a local favourite. I would also work hard with Thammanoon on this event as the national title is always special and I felt this was a course that could really suit his game. I was yet to know how hard!

Practice rounds and preparations were all but done as the weekend before arrived and the whole club was shut down for the Sunday in preparation. Monday arrived and it was time for practice rounds, where I walked the course with a few guys and we done some last minute preparations to the game plans, worked that really paid of on the par 3’s for some. Having played a few weeks before with Thammanoon he decided just to come for the Pro-Am on Tuesday, all was relaxed and in good spirits.

In those early few days before the crowds come to see the range turns into the manufacturers circus as clubs, shafts, grips, hats, balls and everything else are given out like penny sweets and to my amazement, the players are like little kids in a sweet shop, lapping up what they can. Hundreds of thousands of baht worth of equipment is changing hands freely and why wouldn’t they? Other than surely the definition of the word professional would suggest that every piece of equipment used has been tried tested and modified long before a big event – obviously not! I’m not complaining as I got all my grips changed for free!

So Thursday comes around and I look through the tee times to work out my watching schedule…now that means following my players, not who might be fun to watch. It is a great opportunity for me to see the players in a real time situation and this is when I get to really make observations about their performance. Swings change, body language and attitudes are different and only with this observation can I really know what areas need working on for a player, the range just won’t cut it I’m afraid.
TIP. Next time you have a lesson, think about it, what is the pro making his assessments on, your game in an environment alien to your real golf game.

By mid day I was on the range to warm up Thammanoon and look over Pattalit making his big tournament debut – luckily we had burnt out all the nerves in the 2 days previous. Thammanoon was happy and relaxed, if not a little ahead of schedule. We sat and chatted when he asked me about my schedule for the rest of the day I wondered what was coming. Did I fancy caddying? There’s organisation for you, 1 hour to tee time and no caddy in place, actually secretly I had fancied the job for a week or so – we are in the game.

Before we head off, let me take you round some of the out of bounds areas – the dinning room is full of conversations of what might have been’s and random mobile phone conversations, everything is all polite as greeting are exchanged and we all want to be seen to say hello to the big names, just like any other professional sports restricted area I have been fortunate enough to frequent.

The locker room is the players haven; many just hang out here and are a lot more relaxed chatting with friends; the physio is also available for a rub down. In the tournament office the craziness has died down and they are watching on screens, hopping it doesn’t rain or nothing untoward happens.

Off to the first tee and we are away birdie, birdie – it is going to be fun, we are with another Thai player who I have known for more than 7 years and is a good friend of Thammanoon’s it is relaxed and that is how we wanted it. A run of par’s follow before another birdie at the 7th, then more at 11 and 13, -5 here we go, the short par 5, 14th (we are playing the course the wrong way around – for the tournament) and the cameras arrive, they are too late we have just made a bogey 6 – however as he does he still gives them a roar.

But what about me, that bag is heavy and I am not really dressed for the occasion, in my long trousers and best golf shoes. I soon learn keep the water to a minimum there is a top up every 3 holes and I need to find a double strap for the rest of the week, I’ll brave it out though. Were on the 17th and in just the wrong place a tired swing produces the hook, into trees and the deep rough. We get there and there is no forecaddie. Ever wondered why the pro’s lose so few balls, when they hit in trouble someone is there spotting for them, not on this occasion and it is back to the tee for another go. I do my best to hold my tongue I know I have to keep him calm but why just this hole without a forecaddie?

All done at -2, not happy but I console him that overall was a good performance and if we have more of the same a low number is out there. I want to fix a few things I have seen, but tiredness is winning and more over decides to save energy on day 2, no warm up. Instructions are in place for the focus and off we go. Still no double strap but I am promised one for the weekend. Four birdies in 5 holes towards the end of the front 9 get us going before a very unusual and rare missed short putt derails us on the 9th but we are again having fun. I see my role as keeping him up, we have long decided to play Thammanoon golf, it is somewhat a kin to Bubba golf and you never really know what is coming so keep high for the good stuff. A solid back nine produces 2 more birdies before another bogey on 18 slightly spoils the party. But we are here for the weekend.

Before I can finish, I dash over to the range where Padraig Harrington is giving a clinic. I had tried to email him and Paul McGinley unsuccessfully prior to the event for a chat to see what I could learn from them so I wasn’t going to miss this. I ended up translating and got to ask my questions! It got better as Chris Wood came over for his clinic and another spot of translation lead to more questions – don’t be afraid to ask, but make sure you have something insightful to ask.
The weekend never quite lived up to the expectations, lots of little things meant that a pair of 71’s were all we could muster, some work on the preparation will help but in truth the golfing god’s were against us as putts that normally drop in his world, kept sliding past or liping out, the draw could have been a little kinder as well.

So what did I get from it all? Being inside the ropes was fun, there was a buzz a sense of being a part of the action, don’t get me wrong I would much preferred hitting the ball, but I did have some influence. From a working perspective it was invaluable to get a real feel for Thammanoon’s nature and one that will only benefit us going forward. Anyone out there thinking caddying is a good job – trust me I won’t be swapping my role watching and imparting observations for carrying the bag on a regular basis, it’s a tough crack, those bags are heavy, it’s a long walk and it’s your job to sort out whatever issues there are – you have no one to turn to. That said I would do it again, but only very merited occasions, a course we really need to work on mentally, a new player I need an insight for, or maybe just the Thailand Open next year when the circus comes rolling back into town!

About the author

I am a professional golfer and a Class AA member of the PGA GB & I. I inspire and improve golfers of all levels, currently at Thana City Golf Club, Bangkok and have been in Thailand for seven years. I am passionate about golf and want to bring the game to life making it fun for all including creating dreams for elite performers

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