Steve Watton plays so much golf he could give Donald Trump a run for his money.
Prolific is a word that defines the Enville member’s desire to get out in amateur competitions – he’s played more than 800 of them since 2011.
From midweek medals to multi-day scratch tournaments, Watton’s diary is always full as he travels the country following his passion to tee it up.
But social golf is not on the Stourbridge native’s agenda. He loves the cut and thrust of events and the constant test of trying to beat his handicap.
We sat down with Watton, a panellist on NCG’s England top 100 list, to ask…
803 competition rounds in seven years – just how do you do that?
It’s mostly made up of scratch opens, which are 36 holes in a day. I might play two of those a week, on average, from the start of April until the middle of October. That makes up the bulk of the rounds.
I don’t have too many nights away from home and my home club has a midweek medal every Wednesday, which helps.
Believe it or not, I probably only play two or three days a month on a weekend so it’s mostly weekday golf.
I live in Stourbridge, in the West Midlands, so I have a rule for myself which is that I will drive up to two-and-a-half hours, play 36 holes, and then drive home.
I can get to almost anywhere in England and most of Wales, just chopping off the corners. It would be quite difficult to do, if you didn’t live where I live, without having 100 nights away in a hotel a year.
I can’t believe you don’t play that many weekends…
I’ve got three kids, Molly, Maisy, Thomas, and a wife, Rachel, that I have to keep happy as well! She’s very understanding and supports me in my passion.
I’m pretty sure if you took into account holidays, I probably only play a couple of weekend days a month.
How do you balance family life and all this golf?
I would like to think, although my wife may agree to differ a little bit, it’s not my family that suffers because of it but work. I’m fortunate in that regard in that I have worked hard, have an interest in a few different businesses, which allows me quite a lot of time out in the week as I choose.
Do you ever get time to practise?
A little bit. My office is just down the road from where I live, which just happens to be half a mile from Enville and we have fantastic practice facilities there. I do go down and do a bit of chipping and putting but I am not a big practiser of the long game.
I get bored very quickly unless I am working on something specific. I’ll very often leave the range feeling worse than when I got there. Obviously, short game practice is essential for any level of golfer.
What’s the best thing about playing hundreds of rounds a year?
I just love the buzz of having a card in my hand and that little extra adrenaline rush you get. I’m kind of addicted to the competing. If I didn’t play golf I’d probably do something else to satisfy that need.
It’s come to the point now that, on the odd occasion when I do play social golf, I just feel flat and I don’t get the same level of excitement at all.
The norm for me is to have a card in my hand.
How do you cope during the winter when it’s non-qualifiers? Are you searching around looking for winter opens?
Three or four years ago, I suddenly started playing 20, 30 and 40 more rounds a year and that’s basically because I discovered winter qualifying golf.
In the West Midlands, we’ve probably got four or five clubs that do a monthly winter series so, this winter, I am playing every month at Forest of Arden, The Leicestershire, Sutton Coldfield and Brampton Heath. I will get four a month in like that.
The Finch Tour has also started to run qualifying events through the winter.
It takes a certain dedication to try and find qualifiers during the winter months…
It takes a commitment in terms of driving to go anywhere but, as long as its not frosty and it’s not raining, then I’ve come to enjoy winter golf. Before I started this crusade I was probably like a lot of other golfers where I would put my clubs away.
How many balls would you go through in a week, or a season?
God knows. I probably use one a round, unless I lose it, and through the winter I won’t buy any. I’ll just use the ones I’ve got left over from the summer.
How does your season pan out?
The Mid-Am Tour is really what my season is based around. Next year, from the start of April until October, we’ve got a tournament every week. That will either be a 36-hole in one day or 54-holes over two days.
Straight away, there are probably 50 qualifying rounds I can play in.
Form is an important thing when you play as many competitions as you do. How do you stay positive when that run of .1s comes along?
I think I’m different to most golfers. I just don’t think I get ‘golfed out’ in the same way other people do. Obviously, if I’ve driven two-and-a-half hours, played 36 holes, shot two rounds in the 80s and then drove home I’m pretty fed up.
But by the time I’ve woken up the next day, I’m mulling over in my brain what it was – I’ve got a bank of about 500 different swing thoughts – convinced myself I know what it was and then I’ll want to get out again the next day and prove myself right or wrong.
I need a day off physically, sometimes, because my back can’t take it but I don’t ever get completely fed up with it. Even this year, where I think I had nine or 10 rounds in a row where I missed the buffer by one shot, which was utterly depressing, I woke up the next day and wanted to try again.
Just recently, I have discovered my form again.
What’s been the highlight of the last 803 rounds?
When I started my golf crusade, it was to play in Open qualifying, which was at Enville. I missed out but, finally getting down to scratch, I was able to play it at Little Aston. That was my goal from the outset and the most gratifying moment.
I played with Scott Drummond, who won what is now the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth some years back, and that gave me a good sense of achievement.
In golf, as we all know, there’s always the next step or the next shot off the handicap.
By the numbers: Steve Watton
Competitions by year:
2017: 122 (100 away, 22 at home)
2016: 142 (123 away, 19 at home)
2015: 140 (120 away, 20 at home)
2014: 110 (92 away, 18 at home)
2013: 100 (77 away, 23 at home)
2012: 98 (56 away, 42 at home)
2011: 91 (61 away, 30 at home)
Total: 803 (629 away, 174 at home)