A National Camp for Golf Australia’s National Squad members (both male and female) and those involved in their rookie professional scheme has been held in recent days at The Woodlands near Houston in Texas.
The concept was first introduced in 2011 to bring together, through the middle of the year, those playing events internationally and more especially those playing the summer amateur events in the US.
Golf Australia pays for accommodation, food and flights for the players to get from wherever they have been playing to Houston but the rewards for Australian golf are potentially significant.
Golf Australia’s High Performance Director Brad James was in attendance along with five of Golf Australia’s National Coaches, support staff and of course the players at the outstanding golfing facilities provided at no cost by The Woodlands.
James, who was originally from Cairns, was on the coaching staff at the University of Minnesota, for 17 years and for several years as head coach and has been the instigator of the scheme and it is something he sees as offering great benefit to Australia’s emerging talent.
“I thought was needed the Camp as we typically have fifteen to twenty players over here in the US each year for a three month period and one of the reasons we were keen to establish this is that I wanted more players to perform at the Western Amateur and the US Amateur which are of course the two big events here each summer.
“Most of our kids weren’t playing in those two events because the season was just two long. Typically they would get here in May and to play all the way through to August was just too long for a range of reasons. So the idea was to provide a base for a few days and to revisit their games and to make it easier for them to stay on and play those two events.
The camp came just before the start of the Western Amateur and after events such as the Southern Amateur and Porter Cup so was ideally placed in terms of being a litmus test as to where players games were at and the chance to have an established base for a few days after being on the road for several weeks.
“This year we will have 17 players at the US Amateur events which is a record and so there was an opportunity to assess player’s games and provide support systems prior to the key events of the Summer.
“The Woodlands is great for us as it is centrally located but we have built a great relationship with Kevin Kirk who is the Director of Golf there and we have 100% trust in Kevin to be able to see our elite players during the summer and for them to use the fantastic facilities available there. So Woodlands is becoming home for a lot of the guys.
“There are six courses on site here which we can have access to and brilliant practice facilities and we do not pay a cent to use those facilities. There is accommodation on site so it is the perfect venue for such a camp really. There are swimming pools, hot baths, cold baths, saunas and fitness centres so it could not be better really.
“We had Steve Elkington who is based here come and visit the camp last week and he was great. He talked about what life was like on Tour, put himself on Trackman and just to give those attending an idea what it was like to be an elite player.
“One of the main benefits is having a home base to enable players to relax and get greater benefit out of practice as a result. And also to take the pulse of the player’s games at a crucial time before two key events.
“We would ideally love to get a win at the Western Amateur of the US Amateur as those are the events that can open up many doors for players when they turn professional.
“Even since last year we are now seeing tangible evidence of the improvement in players preparation for events. They are just so much more professional much of that because of what they gained from last year’s camp and indeed this year.
“Every morning the kids will have a workout session at 7.00am and basically between 8.00am and 6.00pm they sign up for certain aspects whether it be on course playing, Trackman training, putting, short game, strengthening and conditioning or whatever as they know what is working or not for them and which needs further work.
The Camp has come under some criticism for the cost of bringing elite layers together and that it is funded by Golf Australia. There has also been some criticism of making the Camp available to some non Australians. James has his own take on that.
“We were asked last year why are you bringing in a New Zealand player (Ben Campbell) or why are you bringing in a Korean player (Jin Jeong) but you know what my answer is that we are not bringing in nationalities we are bringing in a British Amateur Champion (Jeong) or a top ten world amateur (Campbell). That culture is important for our players to be around.
“I would like to bring leading American players in also as they are the best in the world and we need to learn from them not just as players but as coaches also.”
There is no doubt a cost to Australian golf and indirectly its golfers for the support being provided to so many of the game’s next superstars here in this country. It is hoped that when the time comes for them to reciprocate that support back home as those superstars they remember what has been done for them.