One of the greatest assets Surrey County Golf has is the willingness to discuss change and the flexibility to do so. The good news about this is that the benefit of this is to the players within the County.
Just over 3 years ago the management team working with the U12's-U14's approached Mr McNeill with an idea to have something a little more than the February half term 2 day league training at a location in Surrey and take this abroad for 4 days, including 3 rounds of golf and coaching. Trying to do the previous arrangement year on year always presented a gamble over weather conditions and in turn how much the players could benefit from it. Thankfully the answer was 'Yes', giving more time for the players to be coached, play, interact and the coaches to see them on and off the course, creating a great team environment.
This year was the 3rd year and once again a stay at Mar Menor. We met at the airport around 4.30am, waved goodbye to parents and were underway. On arrival it is a quick unpack, change in to golf gear and meet up for first lunch and a chat, followed by round 1 at Mar Menor. There is a competitive edge introduced by the 3 villas that the boys are divided in to competing against each other.
The teams were:
Villa 1) Buster O'Callaghan, David Razinskas, Monty Holcombe & Stirling Halai Carter
Villa 2) Aidan Millham, Kris Kim, Leo Vorobyev & Daniel Prince
Villa 3) Hashim Banday, Ugo Nguyen, Max Saunders & Oscar Lent
Oscar & Aidan were already in Spain, Aidan joined up with his team at lunch but unfortunately Oscar was not due until 4.30, so Sam Truman stepped in for Oscar.
The 1st day was 4 ball better ball, with golf strategy and course management questions thrown in by Ben Clayton.
Villa 2 came out on top after day 1 with the notable scalp of Truman & Banday being taken by Vorobyev & Prince 6&5
Prior to the trip the boys select evening meals from a local restaurant attached to the resort, so following quick showers and a change we met for our dinner, some bragging and teasing followed by the boys playing pool, darts and still burning off reserves off energy.
Day 2 saw the first change to the normal trip by the teams and coaching staff being transported to El Valle golf club. The course is slightly more in land and cut out of the rocks, offering a different and slightly tougher challenge to Mar Menor but some really good holes. It also provided us with clear blue skies and a lovely warm sunny day.
The full days begin with coaching and day two focused on green reading and pace with some long game to round the session off. Notes are taken, questions are asked and tests are undertaken. A lot of fun and head scratching was had trying to roll the ball into that little hole at different paces.
The group once again stopped for lunch and liquids before team announcements were made for the round.
The second days competition was triple match play in seeded order. Triple match play enable coaches Ben & Sam to play 9 holes with each group and mirrors the format for the league matches the boys will play.
El Valle has plenty of slopes, lots of bunkers and false fronts everywhere but this did not stop a birdie fest and they were flying in everywhere. We had short hole outs through great iron play, long hole outs that Jordan Spieth would be proud off and chip in's from off the green. After 6 holes one of the boys had recorded 4 putts in total!!!! and on one of the holes every player in a group recorded a birdie, each from 3 different sides of the hole. The boys gave great feedback on the course which featured elevated tees, caves and plenty of water.
On completion of the round the local supermarket was raided for drinks, ice lollies and snacks and we boarded the coach to shower, change at our villas and meet again for dinner.
Day 3 again saw another change with the coach transporting everyone to Condado de Alhama. This is the Jack Nicklaus signature course within this group and provides great practice facilities utilised by the Scandinavian national teams year on year. Once again the intensity was raised with this being the hardest of the 3 courses. In addition to the course presenting it's own challenge, temperatures had risen further, every cloud had disappeared and the wind had picked up.
The practice facilities for coaching offered up a full range of activities including Trackman skills tests, pitching and chipping challenges, putting challenges and bunker play. The boys were shown each test and the skills challenges were underway. On completion of testing and collection of scores, the boys competed as a group in a final tough chipping competition.
As on the previous days the group all sat for lunch and refreshments before beginning the final round of triple match play. Ben & Sam once again were able to play along side the boys, ask questions and provide invaluable guidance and information. The course provided a stern but fair test with again numerous well positioned bunkering, false fronts, slope on the fairways and the trickiest greens of the trip.
By around the time the groups were on the 9-11th holes temperatures had peaked and a supermarket run in the buggy was undertaken to restock water and refreshments. Towels were wetted, sun tan cream was reapplied and everyone continued onwards.
Rounds were completed by each group, some really tight matches had been won and lost on the 18th, refreshments were taken on before boarding the coach to total up scores which were to be announced at our final dinner.
The usual routine was undertaken, showers a quick change and a slow walk (slow because the boys have a amazing ability to find a distraction or turn something in to a sport) to meet for dinner. After sitting and prior to starters the announcements were given with Villa 2 (Aidan Millham, Kris Kim, Leo Vorobyev & Daniel Prince) running out winners. Food was taken on board and the final night of pool, darts and any other sport they can find or make up were once again underway before retiring to each villa for the final nights sleep.
Day 4, demonstrates that they do run out of energy, trying to wake the boys on the morning to jump on the coach for 8am possibly presents the toughest challenge of the trip. Luckily this was achieved and the group flew home to be met by parents at the airport. The benefits of this trip have been previously listed but cannot be understated from all sides.
U12 - U14 Manager