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Robert Coles

‘The last team I played on would have been England Youths with Lee Westwood’

Robert Coles was one of the 10 heroes who helped retain the PGA Cup at Foxhills. He spoke to Mark Townsend about the record-breaking victory
 

Historically Great Britain & Ireland have been the whipping boys in the PGA Cup as the bigger and better American club pros would routinely give us a bit of a going over.

It’s no great surprise given the pool of players that each team has to pick from. As the GB&I skipper told us in the preview ‘we start with 460 players at regionals, they start off at 4,000’.

The last time GB&I won back-to-back matches it was 1984, since then we have only come out on top twice which included two years ago at CordeValle. There Niall Kearney, in the last singles out on Sunday, got up and down from behind the 18th green to edge the visitors over the line. Never before, the matches began in 1973, had the Americans lost at home.

Now we have won two on the trot again thanks to an incredible effort in the singles last weekend. On Saturday night the visitors had just won three of the four foursomes to get back within a point, the following day they won just one of the 10 singles – GB&I ran out 16-10 winners.

At the heart of the home effort was Robert Coles. The 45-year-old, from Maylands Golf & Country Club in Essex, knew he would be playing in the PGA Cup last October. The European Tour veteran finished second behind Matthew Cort at the PGA Play-Offs at Saunton, and ahead of Greig Hutcheon of Scotland, as the three of them booked their places in Albert MacKenzie’s side for Foxhills.

Coles wouldn’t say as much, he’s far too modest and self-deprecating, but his efforts in Surrey were pretty heroic. After a disappointing start he then won his next four matches, being one of three players to feature in all five. On the Saturday morning he made eight birdies with his own ball and played a total of 86 holes, all of which is even more impressive given he is a Type 1 diabetic.

 

“I have had all year to prepare for the PGA Cup, it was a long wait and it has been on my mind all year. I don’t know if it has helped or hindered me. I have played a few Tour events and am in the British Masters next week but my focus has been on the regions. I love the European Tour but things have moved on and I’m happy where I am.

I then lost my first match and I was pretty uptight on Friday lunchtime. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye as I hadn’t played as well as I should have. I then played in the foursomes with Andy Raitt and I hit it in the ditch at the 1st and he was like ‘don’t worry, it will be fine’.

He was fantastic all week, he flushed it in our games. More importantly his demeanour was so relaxed, it really helped me to come down and enjoy it more than I was. That first afternoon really got me going.

Andrew Raitt

“I’ve got Type 1 diabetes which means I am insulin dependent. It is the type where it is more genetic and you can’t do anything about it. On the Friday, and it was no excuse for how I played, I had a really bad morning which was probably with all the adrenaline and nerves.

That releases the sugar from your muscles and I couldn’t get it down. I couldn’t inject on the course as you can then plummet and you’ll then be sweating and shaking so you won’t be able to play.

I had seen a nutrionist Chris Walton before the tournament as I knew the week would be stressful and he gave me this protein powder which had no carbohydrate in it and it gives you your energy back without changing your blood sugar. My mate Darren Parker, who is the head pro at Maylands and a fellow diabteic, suggested that I drink it and I felt pretty good after that.

 

“Generally I have a pump which goes into my stomach 24-7 so I don’t have to inject. I’m like millions of others who do the same, it’s nothing amazing. I have been a diabetic for 19 years, I got it when I was 26. I played two years on the European Tour without it and the third year was then very different. I had no energy, I lost a lot of weight and it was Darren, who was with me at Foxhills, who checked my blood and told me to do something about it.

 

“Andy and I won our foursomes on the Saturday afternoon, I wasn’t that aware that we were down in the other matches and would be the only winners. It was just as well that we didn’t know. It was hard enough as it was without that pressure.

I did an interview with American radio and they kept saying how we played more foursomes over here, I genuinely can’t even remember playing it!

The last team I played on would have been England Youths in 1993 with Lee Westwood, Richard Bland, David Lynn and Stuart Cage. I’ve got a photo of us somewhere, I was a bit lucky to get in it really.

PGA Cup team

“If you mess up for yourself then you just beat yourself up, which is one of my favourite tricks, but doing it in a team with your good friends is horrible.

I made Sunday a lot harder for myself, I expected myself to win and I had to grind it out. I’m so proud of how we all did it, there wasn’t anyone who wasn’t part of that team, as well as Albert and his assistants Cameron Clark and Martyn Thompson.

There was such a lot of experience in that team room. Our message, and it wasn’t overly technical, was to keep moving in the right direction. We all pushed on together, if one of us gave up we wouldn’t do it. So if you were getting beat, and you win one hole, that will have a positive effect on the rest of the team.

It wouldn’t matter if you didn’t score a point, you would still be a part of it all, and that’s what got us through it. It was brilliant that we all contributed a point.

We had a get-together in July and that really helped to carry us through it. Albert was phenomenal, the three of them were. I knew seven of the team really well from playing a lot together but I didn’t know the two Chris’, Currie and McDonnell, before. They made sure we all played together in the get-together and got to know each other really well.

 

“I absolutely loved it. The Americans were first class, they were brilliant. On Sunday night they joined us and they were brilliant to play with, the matches were played in a great spirit.

It’s so strange that the 13 of us might never be together again, it’s quite sad really. It will have been the same for the boys two years ago. I can’t imagine what the Ryder Cup boys must think, they must smile at each other every week. We won’t see each other that often which will make it more special when we do. We will always have that common bond, there are people on that team that I’ve known for a long time but I got to know them in a very different way.”

 

 

Mark Townsend

Been watching and playing golf since the early 80s and generally still stuck in this period. Huge fan of all things Robert Rock, less so white belts. Handicap of 8, fragile mind and short game

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