Sunday 25 February 2018

Removing fear to rebuild a career

Henrik Stenson has benefited from the coaching prowess of Pete Cowan. Picture Credit: REUTERS
Henrik Stenson has benefited from the coaching prowess of Pete Cowan. Picture Credit: REUTERS

Joe Molloy

Sometimes the answer is simple. "Repetition. If you want a big bicep, what do you do?" So said Pete Cowen on Monday night's show.

Cowen is one of the world's great golf coaches. He's worked with Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Louis Oosthuizen and Padraig Harrington, among others. This year, two of his disciples, Danny Willett and Henrik Stenson, have won Majors.

Perhaps Stenson's win thrilled him the most. When they first met in 2001, the 25-year-old Swede was in a bad place.

At the European Open, after three wild drives, he apologised to his playing partners and trudged back towards the K Club hotel.

Stenson recalls: "I felt depressed and embarrassed to be seen on the course. I was scared to hit the ball."

The call was put out to Cowen, who recalled of their first session: "Henrik was a mess. He'd lost it totally. He needed a total rebuild. It was almost the yips with every club."

The rebuild took close to three years. It was slow. The coach had his player hit balls blindfolded.

"He lost the fear then," said Cowen. Did Stenson ever become frustrated with the process and look at other coaches?

"No," said Cowen, "He's stayed through thick and thin, so I've stayed with him through thick and thin, and remember, I only get paid when the players play well. If they don't win a penny that week, I don't get paid."

Further difficult times followed. Stenson lost $5m in the Allen Stanford Ponzi scheme.

His game suffered. There was a new pressure. After a tricky 2012, he re-emerged in 2013 to blitz both the European and PGA tours, bagging $20m in the process. All that was missing for the pair was a Major.

"You worry," said Cowen, 'is this going to pass him by?" After 15 years in the making, thankfully it hasn't.

Irish Independent

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