Tenerife: Wrap-up

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Matt Cooper concludes his trip to Tenerife with a round on the Buenavista course alongside one-time pro Graeme Hamlett.

Monday

I concluded my trip to Tenerife with a round on the Buenavista course alongside one-time professional golfer Graeme Hamlett, now at Golf Punk.

The day dawned bright and hot – in fact it was the brightest, hottest and least windy day of the week!

On the front nine, after a slightly ropey drive onto volcanic rock from the first tee, my ball-striking was fine but I struggled with the Bermuda grain on the greens.

Oddly it was not the slow putts into the grain, or the speedy downhill, down-grain putts that I struggled with – it was the contours of the putting surface which I simply couldn’t read.

I don’t think the hired putter helped much but there were no excuses – I didn’t see a line for nine holes.

Those holes are largely played up near the hotel and are surrounded by beautifully manicured flora and fauna, featuring greens that rise above the fairway.

But once you hit the back nine the holes sit in front of you and with the ocean backdrop (and more breeze to keep me cool) I discovered my form.

The highlight was probably the par-five 13th hole where I drilled a drive down the 10th fairway (on purpose) but had a large palm tree in front of me. I nailed my 5-wood but caught the tree flush in the middle and it bounced more or less straight back to my feet.

I shuffled sideways and this time executed the shot perfectly, leaving myself a 25 foot birdie putt. That’s how to hit a green regulation.

We ended the round with a drink on the blustery terrace at the top of the clubhouse, peering out across the course towards the cliff tops that were being battered by waves which were crashing higher than they had all week – it was a glorious scene (and I have a red face to prove it).

Then it was time to catch the shuttle bus to the airport and all the way there, and throughout my passage home, I once more considered the life of a touring professional.

When my Monarch Airlines flight touched down in Birmingham just before midnight I was shattered. But my journey was one of the shorter ones. Plenty of players had longer flights home to other parts of Europe.

And what of those players for whom Europe mainland airports were just a hub to change plane? For them a transatlantic flight remained, before a connection made to another city across the States. Others were heading back to Australia – an even longer haul.

These long journeys are only made at the end of long stretches of the schedule; in between the players move on to the next destination.

Never overlook their stamina in this regard. I end a week on tour knackered and whilst I have less downtime than the players, I am mentally and physically less fatigued.

The ability to cope with a long spell of events might be invaluable very shortly because the LET’s final set of European tournaments will be packed into a nine week slot at the end of the summer.

The Evian Masters and Ricoh Women’s British Open will feature only the top players, but the seven weeks after that will determine the short, medium and long-term fate of most of the tour.

That trip takes in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Finland, Austria, France and Spain. They will be very tired girls when they return to Spain but they will be fighting for their future, as indeed they will be throughout that period.

If you’re around go and watch. It’s great fun, it’s relaxed and they deserve your support.

Sunday

I mentioned earlier this week that I love speculating on the reasons for players winning golf tournaments.

The obvious answer is, of course, that he or she played better than everyone else in the field.

But we’ve all watched events in which that hasn’t been the case and Jack Nicklaus acknowledged that many of his wins came when he wasn’t playing his best golf.

Winners need a bit of luck, they need to be scoring well rather than playing well, most of them also need the finest players in the field to be off form that week, but there is another consideration – something almost intangible needs to be working in their favour.

One example of this is Trish Johnson’s win today in the Tenerife Ladies Open.

She herself knows she was playing well – she finished second last week and said before the round today that “winning is a by-product of scoring well.”

Those words were carefully selected and revealing – she was stressing that her desire and determination was to continue scoring well in order to let the win happen.

She also had some good fortune – on the 16th hole she drove her tee shot out of bounds but watched it bounce twice on the rocky path and, instead of careering into the ocean beyond, it ricocheted back into play.

She also played in the final group with the highest ranked player on the Henderson Money List – Mel Reid – who couldn’t get her putter working and was therefore not a threat on the final day.

But what was the intangible?

We’ll never know for sure, of course, but she lost out last week in Portugal to Karen Lunn, another veteran enjoying a career Indian summer. In fact the two friends were born a mere two weeks apart.

A case of whatever Karen can do, I can do too.

Examples of this sort of thing are common in golf. When Scott Drummond won the PGA Championship in 2004, his best friend in golf Simon Khan went and won the Wales Open the following week.

But there is more to the Trish Johnson story because Karen Lunn’s sister Mardi was carrying Johnson’s bag! So the caddie as well as the player was determined to follow last week’s winner’s lead.

In addition to watching the fight for victory there was another, important, side issue today when the remaining three places available to LET players in this year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open were decided.

The top three finishers who were not already exempt gained a spot in the tour’s biggest event of the year which meant almost the entire field had great motivation for posting a low final round (above and beyond the usual desire to improve the cheque they cashed).

Finland’s Jenni Kuosa made an early bid to go low and pinch a spot but her round of 67 came up short. Instead the surprise package was Caroline Afonso whose 65 leap-frogged lots of the field.

The saddest story was that of Kiran Matharu who started the day in a tie for fifth and played the front nine in one-under par.

A good result for the week and a nice extra prize seemed likely.

Unfortunately she could manage only one par on the back nine and just the two birdies. The many bogies derailed both her morning aspirations.

So the two lucky girls heading to Royal Birkdale will be Sweden’s Nina Reis and France’s Caroline Afonso.

Being around an event on a Sunday is a curious feeling because everyone is flying (or, more correctly, preparing to fly) in different directions.

Those at the top of the field have got the golf firmly in their sights and everything else is secondary.

Which is not to say that everyone else is not concerned

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