The year was 1993. I was coaching Roger Chapman at the Benson & Hedges International Open at St. Mellion golf and country club, a Nicklaus designed course and not for the fainthearted. The sponsor supplied the players with accommodation, of which there were about 20 lodges on the grounds of the property. You had to have passes to get in and out. I was staying with Roger in one of the lodges. In the middle of the lodges was a small club house for the players to relax. They would serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each night all the players would gather for a bite to eat.
I was standing in the queue with the first Mrs Wingrove, I was looking down towards the floor and I notice a pair of shiny black leather shoes, slate grey slacks with creases that you could cut your hands on, a navy blue shirt and a double ply matching cashmere Boss sweater, wearing an incredible aftershave that I have never smelt before or since. Not that I was standing too close but he turned around and noticed my wife and I standing behind him and with his beautiful Spanish accent he said "good evening", my return was "good evening", but before I could say his name he took my wifes hand, raised it to his lips, looked her in the eyes and said
Oh My Goodness... It was a good job I was standing by her side because I swear her knees went. We had a short conversation, he got his food and sat with Jose Maria Olazabal. My Mrs looked at me and I'm sure she was thinking, 'I wish I could have a pass for the evening', and to be fair I couldn't blame her. He was the most remarkable Man, kind eyes, great smile. He was golf's Elvis Presley, the Presley in the 60s! Men wanted to be like him, ladies wanted to be with him. He was a golfing artist with the most beautiful swing, when he was in full flow he was unbeatable.
But he had a massive problem, his back, it used to get so bad at times he couldn't move. If you have been lucky enough to never have one you are blessed and cannot possibly relate to what it's like, not just going about your daily business but to play golf, well it's near on impossible.
Our lodge was next to Seve's. At about 05.45am, I woke, walked into the living room. I looked across the lawn and I saw Seve stretching, moving all over the place, standing, bending, and rolling like a ball across the floor. Roger came into the kitchen about 07.30am. I said
"Rog have you seen this"...
Seve was still stretching.
"O mate, he will be there for hours yet, his back goes out more than he does"! Said a sympathetic Chapman.
Poor Seve tried to play in the pro-am that year but couldn't do it.
Roger shot 70-72 on the first two days and on the Friday evening, Saturday morning we found something on the greens. Roger went out there and holed everything and shot a course record equalling 65, incredible. And a proud moment for me was in the massive press tent, Saturday evening after the 3rd round when Roger said to the waiting press:
"that man at the back is Dean Wingrove, he is helping me this week"...
They all looked round, I should have practiced my wave because all I could do was lift my hand up close to my chest with a few quick wrist hinges, it didn't look good, But I was immensely proud just the same.
Roger managed a top ten finish that week around a really difficult course, windy and over 7,000 yards long. Even Ernie Els shot an 82 on day one. Roger once said to me...
"I think my game might be suited on the Champions Tour in the U.S".
He went out there and won their U.S Open and the PGA Championship, two majors in the same year. It meant so much to Roger and his family. I got a text from him saying:
"There is a part of you in those two wins Deano".
I must admit I did tear up a bit reading that one.
I was lucky enough to spend some time with the great man and I have to say he was truly lovely, he had time for everyone and seeing he was one of the greatest players of all time, it's testament to him seeing he was pulled left right and centre on a weekly basis.
I can remember one time working with Rog on the practice ground at Gleneagles, it was pouring down with rain, there was only a few of us there. Seve walked over, stood and watched Roger hit some balls, he said:
"Hey Roger you are swinging the club so well, it's a beautiful golf swing, good luck this week"
I could see Roger chest puff out a bit! And before he walked off he said to me "here" and throw me his waterproof hat... "you need it" smiled and walked away, so there was one man with a slightly bigger chest and the other like a silly school boy glowing in the rain.
Before health and safety came to town, if you went to a golf event and watched the Professional's warm up on the practice ground. It's hard to believe now, but back then the caddies would be standing out there watching their masters hitting balls at them. So if you had 20 players hitting balls you would have 20 caddies out there. Some of them would have a baseball glove, that's if they have not gambled it away on a bet down the local pub the night before. Funny that caddies used to have a founded reputation for drinking and gambling, turning up late or not at all. Now they travel in private jets, earning over a million dollars a year.
Apologies, I digress.
So what would happen, the player would stand there with his clubs and the caddie would walk out to about 60 yards away, then the pro would start hitting balls, close enough and good enough that the caddie would catch the ball on the fly, clean it with a towel that was in his other hand and drop it in to the practice bag. After about 15 balls without looking or saying anything, the player would tap the dirt off his sand wedge, stand the club by the side of his bag then take out a 9 iron, by this time the caddie would move back to the correct distance and once again catch more than half of them on the fly, some might bounce half a yard short or to the side but most of the time, full pitch straight into the baseball glove.
In those days the crowds could stand on the practice ground really close to their heroes. Seve was hitting the ball beautifully, he was hitting a 7 Iron, smooth as silk, hands hanging low, and chin up, wonderful follow-through, just the right amount of turf. The caddie was catching every single one. The only time his caddie would move was when he heard a shout of fore from another player. One of the punters was brave enough to say:
"Seve, what are you hitting?"
"A 7 iron", he said without being concerned by someone intruding in his practice.
"How far do you hit your 7 Iron"?
"I like to hit it about 160"
"O, no different to me then" came the reply.
Seve just smiled, that lovely smile, addressed the ball and swung the club exactly the same, the ball shot off the club face and climbed in the air and went up and up and continued up, the caddie watched the ball go straight over his head as if his head was on a hinge and it landed about 30 yards past him. With that the caddie looked at Seve with a face like thunder, lifting both arms to the sky in protest. Seve said in his Spanish accent:
"he really hates it when I do that"..
"Always play within yourself" said the great man.
Some free advice from the golfing god and the man smiled with complete respect confirming that the only thing this gentlemen could do the same as Seve is buy the same clothes..
Thank you Seve, I miss you.
A wonderful evening was had by all last Friday, and our President's Cocktail Party was a lovely affair.
David Edmonds & Caroline Nettel was wonderful hosts.
Black Friday every day during December at WPGC Pro shop.
Yes to help get you in the festive spirit, we are holding a massive stock discount on all yellow ticket stock.
We have huge reductions on shoes, bags, clubs and clothing so why not coming in and grab yourself a Christmas bargain.
We look forward to seeing you.