‘DANNY DIDN’T RE­ALLY MATCH AU­GUSTA CLICHE’

Golf Asia - - GOLFING PROFILE -

Pete Cowen may have his name at­tached to the Academy, but Mike Walker is a big rea­son why Wil­lett and Fitz­patrick call it their sec­ond home. Cowen’s num­ber two is the go-to coach for a large English con­tin­gent on Tour, in­clud­ing Chris Wood, Dave Horsey and Ed­die Pep­perell.

Walker’s work­load means he clocks up plenty of air miles, and was even forced to can­cel his hon­ey­moon to travel to Au­gusta and over­see the prepa­ra­tions of Wil­lett & Co. But had he turned his phone off when they were com­ing down the stretch on Sun­day, Walker con­cedes he would have missed ar­guably the high­point of his coach­ing ca­reer.

“I had to be up at ridicu­lous o-clock on the Mon­day morn­ing so I went to bed when they reached the turn,” he told us. “Spi­eth was out in front at that point and about half an hour later my phone was go­ing ba­nanas. When Danny won, we had a cou­ple of beers to cel­e­brate... it’s still the only flight I’ve ever missed.”

Walker ad­mits it took him a few days to get over the shock, but more so be­cause of how events tran­spired on the back nine. “I’m not say­ing I knew he was go­ing to win,” says Walker, “but it didn’t sur­prise me to see Danny in con­tention on Sun­day. A lot of peo­ple think he came in off the radar, but he was per­form­ing very con­sis­tently and only just missed out in the Race to Dubai.

“His game was in good shape, but in a lot of ways he didn’t re­ally match the clichés of Au­gusta by draw­ing the ball. He didn’t take full ad­van­tage of the par 5s ei­ther, but what sep­a­rates Danny sta­tis­ti­cally is the shots be­tween 150 and 225 yards. He is the elite of the elite and to score well at Au­gusta you need to leave your­self easy putts, which he man­aged to do.” Our ju­niors here get in­spired by Danny, but they see him all the time. They might watch some of the tour pros through the win­dows in the teach­ing bay, but they won’t bother them. They’ve seen them so many times now that the nov­elty has worn off. Danny ac­tu­ally spon­sors our kids’ tour­na­ments. We hold 12 events, in­clud­ing four Ma­jors, as part of the Pete Cowen Tour. They only play nine holes, and then we have the four Ma­jors which are held at the four best cour­ses around here. We’ve had 23 cases of van­dal­ism at the academy in 12 years, and not one has been solved. Not one! A week be­fore Christ­mas, they ripped the shut­ters off the win­dow, put a lump ham­mer through it and took the till and the Christ­mas money for the kids. They ob­vi­ously knew what they were do­ing and had hood­ies on so we couldn’t iden­tify them. We have 24-7 CCTV and we filmed it all. It took three-and-ahalf min­utes in to­tal. It’s come to the point where I can’t claim on in­sur­ance. The ex­cess is £1,000 and that was a £2,000 re­pair job. We can’t claim it be­cause the pre­mi­ums will go ridicu­lously high. We won’t get in­sured if we’re not care­ful. They also came through the roof at the end of 2015 and took all the slates off. They’ve even nicked the range balls! We leave them out at night be­cause we’ve got about a thou­sand me­tres of three-me­tre high fenc­ing. You’d think that would stop them, but they pulled out some of the fenc­ing and took 10,000 balls.

The only rea­son I keep this place open is be­cause of my love of golf. The field next to the driv­ing range on the right is go­ing to be a dump­ing ground for a mil­lion tons of waste over the next five years. At the mo­ment, we are fight­ing to stop it. The pre­vail­ing wind is right-to-left, so you can imag­ine what it would be like ev­ery day. I’m due to buy the free­hold for this place. Even­tu­ally, what we wanted to do was cre­ate a proper academy, and have a gym and ho­tel. There is a golf course at the end which used to be owned by the coun­cil, but is now leased by one guy. Again, he gets so much trou­ble with guys driv­ing on the greens with cars and quad bikes. You won­der why peo­ple ever bother run­ning a

Fire in his belly Danny’s heart was a big part of his Masters win.

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