The Swing

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

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