Robert Rock: How British events got me started

The Scoop

Our columnist explains how playing British events helped him develop

Like most golf-mad teenagers I would always try and get to as many European Tour events in the UK as possible as well as Open Championships and Ryder Cups.

It is a learning experience like no other and to go on to play on some of these courses as a professional it gave me a real insight into what the game at the highest level is like.

As a fan I would watch any player really and spend loads of time on the practice ground, but if I could follow anyone it would be Seve and Faldo as they were my big heroes growing up.

I’m like any other golf fan in the UK and would love to have more tournaments on home soil. Sadly we no longer have an English Open on the European Tour and with other events having prize funds of one million Euros it is a shame that we can’t find sponsors for that amount as you are guaranteed some great crowds. 

It is no coincidence that the PGA at Wentworth and the Open are my two favourite events on tour as they are the best courses and have the best fans.

I probably preferred the Wentworth of a few years ago more but I am growing to like it more as we go on.

This was where I made my first real breakthrough 10 years ago and I had a putt to share the lead on the Friday, which was something else given that I was still a teaching pro who was mainly playing in the Midland regional events.

It was the biggest thing that I had ever played in at that point and the first time I had ever got any nationwide coverage as it was one of the big weeks for the BBC at the time. 

I remember them asking if I could do an interview with Steve Rider. I was so nervous that I didn’t want to do it but they talked me into doing it and it was great.

A few weeks later I was fourth at the British Masters at the Forest of Arden, where I had watched a lot of golf, and that then really kick-started my career.

Despite it being quite a local event for me I didn’t have that many family and friends watching me as I wasn’t that comfortable with it and just wanted to get on with my job – but all that comes with time and experience.
The English Tour was set up partly because of the need for professionals to play more quality courses – and the fact they felt there was a market for it. There definitely is. Last month we had the start of the new English Tour which I am involved with and I played in the first event at The Belfry. 

The tour was set up partly because of the  need for professionals to play more quality courses – and the fact they felt there was a market for it. There definitely is.

We had 92 players at The Belfry and the course was set up pretty difficult so everyone gained a lot out of it. Ben Russell proved to be a very impressive winner with a score of two under, beating Jamie Howarth by two shots.

The rest of the season now looks great, we have got the final in Dubai and the schedule boasts some of our very best courses. 

This month there are West Lancs, St Annes Old Links, Moortown and St Mellion to tackle with the likes of Alwoodley, Hillside and Ganton to come.

For any up-and-coming pro it should hopefully prove to be an incredible learning ground and something I definitely would have got involved with as a player. 

Last month it was great to see two of our academy players, Kelsey MacDonald and Amy Boulden, taking part on the Ladies’ European Tour in Morocco down the road from where the men’s tournament was.

Kelsey had a brilliant week and was fourth at one point and that has helped her to decide to turn pro as she hadn’t played out of her skin and was comfortable with the new surroundings.

Amy has a few more amateur events she would like to play in but will do likewise later this year and hopefully we can help both of them on how best to get ready for events, help deal with sponsors and invites and get their games in order so they have a plan of attack for the next few years.

For me it is back to Wentworth this month and hopefully some more TV interviews. It would mean I have played well…

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