Pete Cowen on his Major-winning stable, the one thing you can’t teach a tour pro... and how he lost 10,000 range balls
They say a coach is only as good as his players. So when you consider Pete Cowen has guided five different players to Major titles, including two in 2016, it’s little wonder that he’s held in the highest regard on Tour.
The likes of Henrik Stenson, Thomas Bjorn and Darren Clarke have had Cowen on retainer for more than 15 years, and all three have won the Open. At the last count, Cowen estimates his stable of players has more than 200 Tour titles between them. Not a bad return, then, for a man who only gets paid when his players finish inside the top 10.
Cowen’s CV shows he is Britain’s most successful golf coach, and yet he is also one of the most underappreciated. In America he would probably be talked about in the same breath as Butch Harmon. At the very least he’d be inundated with offers to coach at some of the best clubs in the country. As it is, Cowen operates out of his own Academy in Rotherham. The open door policy means it’s not uncommon to see a complete beginner bashing balls next to Danny Willett or Matt Fitzpatrick on the range.
But despite the star power, the Peter Cowen Golf Academy is yet to make a profit, and Cowen has had to rely on his dry Yorkshire humour to make light of more than 23 break-ins in 12 years. He admits his love for the game is the only thing keeping him going, even if it means dipping into his wallet to keep the facility afloat...
I’ve been coaching since I packed up playing on Tour in 1979. I took a club job in 1980 at Dore and Totley for nine years, but everything took off when I went to Lindrick. We were trying to develop kids and Ian Garbutt was the first to make a name for himself when he became the youngest English amateur champion ever. We also had Iain Pyman, who won the British Amateur and was the leading amateur at the Open in 1993 when Norman won at Royal St George’s. I went with him to Augusta in 1994 and I’ve been going ever since.
Once everybody saw how good the youngsters were, things snowballed from there. Lee [Westwood] came along in 1995 and Darren [Clarke] joined, too, and they both established themselves as the best European players in the late ’90s until the mid 2000s. Stenson came along in 2001 and Thomas Bjorn just before him, so we’ve had an awful lot of success with a lot of different players. We’ve had five different Major champions now. Normally you win multiple Majors with one player – like Butch and Tiger – but we’ve achieved success with five different types of players and personalities.
We won two Majors with Graeme [Mcdowell] and Louis [Oosthuizen] in 2010, and we did the same last year with Danny at Augusta and Henrik at Troon. That’s pretty impressive! We also had one, two and three at the Open in 2010 with Louis, Westwood and Henrik. That was the year I won UK Coach of the Year and High Performance Coach of the Year. Monty got the BBC Sports Personality Coach of the Year, but I said to him: ‘You’re not a coach. You’ve never coached anyone in your life’. The BBC just threw a name at the trophy because he captained the Ryder Cup side. But that’s all he was; a captain, not a coach.
There is one thing you can’t teach people, and that is how they cope with stage fright or extreme pressure. That’s either inherently in there, or it’s not. People call it cockiness or arrogance, but you need that to be the best. Danny has always been able to handle pressurising