Dave Alred lifts the lid on his time coaching Luke Donald
In the morning Fourballs of the 2010 Ryder Cup Luke Donald was paired with Padraig Harrington and suffered his only defeat of the Celtic Manor event.
Dave Alred, who famously coached Jonny Wilkinson to become the most successful dead-ball kicker in English rugby history, was working with Donald at the time and could see the pairing wasn’t woking.
“Luke is naturally on the introvert side of the scale so those sorts of people need to be more led. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just the way people are,” Alred explained.
“Golf is very individually lead, it’s not one size fits all. You tailor your methods to coach the person and not the sport.”
Donald was paired with Ian Poulter in the afternoon where he avenged the earlier defeat by Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton with a 2&1 victory.
After continuing to work with Alred, Donald made his way to the top of the world rankings in 2011, winning the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic.
However they parted company the following year after Donald cited an ‘over-analysis’ of his game as a factor behind poor performance in the 2012 Majors.
Donald has now slipped outside the top 40 with the 2012 BMW PGA his last victory of note.
“When we started, he really wanted to look at everything he did and make it better – physically get a bit stronger, get more accurate with the short game and it just went from there,” Alred said.
“We started to create facts and did monthly fact sheets. It was all based around that model of working.
“We had some great success but he then decided he would rather go in a different direction.
If you haven’t got that absolute burn when it is about doing one more then you don’t do it “In hindsight I probably wouldn’t have changed much but, being honest, maybe a bit of it was just a little bit too intense.
“I think he can still go on to achieve great things, win majors and get back to world number one but in the mind, you have to be prepared to accept the ugly areas and put in the work.
“If you haven’t got that absolute burn when it is about doing one more then you don’t do it.
“Once you make that compromise whether it’s doing another 10 putts or another two squats – whatever you set yourself, you have to do it.
“Sometimes there are good reasons for not doing it, there are other things in life other than golf which can deflect you away from that burn.”
The methods applied by Alred were largely about writing down stats from practice and continually trying to improve.
“You’ve got to be very careful in managing it,” Alred added.
“If I say you can improve, for a lot of people that’s an implied criticism and that’s the last thing I’m saying.
“I’m actually saying is you can improve and how exciting would it be if you did it and lets get on the train together.
“The belief that you will get there is absolutely paramount. You can’t say ‘well I’m not sure I can improve on that’.”
Alred is currently working with Harrington, Nick Dougherty and Tom Lewis while continuing to work with a number of rugby players in Australia.
He insists the ‘no limits’ theory he used when working with Wilkinson translates easily into golf.
“There are massive similarities between the two. If you think about goal kicking, it’s a dead ball, it’s all or nothing, you’re on your own, it either goes over the posts or it doesn’t, it can be very lonely.
“That’s why working with the caddy is so important in golf to create the right vibe.
Despite his achievements with Donald and Wilkinson, Alred’s most rewarding experience is at the other end of the spectrum.
“You wouldn’t have heard of Georgina Clegg her unless you’re from New Zealand and live just north of Auckland,” he said.
“I taught her how to play golf in 2002. In fact, I didn’t teach her how to play golf I just enthused about the fact she could hit a ball. She then went to get lessons of her local pro.
“Within three years she became ladies captain of her local golf club. She held that for five years then she retired.
“What’s special about Georgina Clegg? She was 74 when I first taught her.
“When you’re talking about more people playing golf it’s great to work with the youngsters but there are also a lot of people with a lot of time who, if are encouraged in the right way, can make a massive difference to the sport.”