A Little Golf and A Lot Fun

Central Post Office in Madrid

I was lucky to be invited to visit Madrid, Spain by a student of mine, Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño. For those of you who don’t follow the European Tour, Gonzalo is one of the up-and-coming players from Spain, and he is currently ranked #50 in the world. You will be hearing his name soon as he ventures to America to play a few more PGA Tour events in the coming years.

The main reason for the trip was to put on a short game clinic and teach the Spanish PGA members of the Spanish Golf Federation. As a bonus, I was invited to play in the European Tour’s Madrid Masters at Centro Nacional de Golf. I wanted to remember my time spent over there so I tried to keep a brief diary.

Also, I’ve posted more photos in two different Madrid photo albums on my Facebook Page.

Now that I am back, I thought I would share some of my experiences with all of you. It’s not much, but here goes:

Monday 10/5 – I arrived in Madrid, took a shower and taught a 4-hour clinic to some of Gonzalo’s friends. A quick jet lag tip: when you get to your destination, go right to work. Do NOT take a cat nap. I never experienced the symptoms of jet lag all week because I fought the urge to catch a few hours of sleep, and just kept going until bedtime in Madrid.

Tuesday 10/6 – Played a practice round at Centro Nacional de Golf with Gonzalo and a young Spaniard who had attended the University of Arizona to get ready for the tournament. In the afternoon, I spent some time teaching Alex Noren from Sweden. Alex and I have been working together for 4 or 5 years and his career is really taking off. He won the Omega European Masters in September.

Wednesday 10/7 – Pro-Am day arrived, and I was really nervous. So glad that I felt this way today and not on Thursday. I played pretty well and was able work out some of the kinks in my swing that have accumulated over my time spent away from competitive golf. The coolest part of the day was being invited to attend a party at Gonzalo’s house with about 15 of the greatest Spanish players ever.

Tournament action. Note the crowds are pretty good.

Thursday 10/8 – My first day of my first pro tournament in…well, I don’t really remember. I was surprisingly calm,  but unfortunately a “cell phone” rang in the middle of my backswing on the very first tee. Luckily, while I thinned it a little bit, it stayed in the fairway. I struck the ball pretty well all day, but putted poorly. Not too good for a short-game coach, I know. Feel free to use all the “physician heal thyself” jokes you can think of. After the round, I got to hang out a bit with Sergio’s parents, that was a lot of fun but the evening was the highlight of the day. I went to dinner with Gonzalo, Thomas Björn and Luke Donald and had my first ever taste of sushi! And I loved it.

Friday 10/9 – I was much more comfortable playing today, especially after I finally made my first putt of the week longer than four feet. (more jokes now…I’ve got thick skin!) I struck it pretty good for the second day, but could only manage two birdies which was not enough to get me a spot on the weekend. Although I didn’t play well enough to make the cut, I really enjoyed the two days of competition. Since I played early today, I followed Gonzalo around the course in the afternoon.

Saturday 10/10 – My family arrived today! Yeah! My son had Fall Break at school and we thought this would be a great opportunity for some family time and memorable experiences. Since everyone was pretty tired from the travel, we just hung out for the day.

Sunday 10/11 – I took the whole family to the tournament where they got to meet all the famous players I’ve been telling them about. The players were as gracious as you can imagine, and we got a really awesome photo of my family with Sergio Garcia.

Monday through Wednesday 10/12-14 —
I basically spent these three days teaching about 20 Spanish Federation pros and 12 of the best young players in the country while the pros observed. I got to start each morning using the SAM Putt Lab with the professionals. They were amazed at the data and how it could help teach putting. In the photo above, I’m standing behind the student looking at his posture over the ball (while also snapping the photo!).

On Monday, my family went sightseeing in Toledo and all of them, except my son Jake, toured Madrid on Tuesday with Ricardo’s mom. Now would be a great time to say thank you to Ricardo Relinque who is the head of the professional division of the Spanish Golf Federation and another one of my hosts for the week. He has a great organization and I am grateful that he invited me to come and visit.

Back to Jake, on Tuesday he skipped the sightseeing in Madrid and joined me for my clinics. As it turned out, he ended up getting a lesson from the biggest golf legend in Spain, Pepito Gallardo. Pepito has taught almost all of the famous Spanish players – including Seve – at one time or another. His patience and his constant smile made the experience one that my son will never forget.

Thursday 10/15 – Family day. We had a chance to tour the Royal Palace, see the King’s Church and go to the Royal Armory. Armored knights, horses, weapons, etc. It was like a full day in a museum. Another very cool experience.

Friday 10/16 – Time to come home with a suitcase full of new friends and unforgettable memories.