Broadhurst on upswing

Golf: Peter Corrigan talks to a golfer whose new action can fulfil his promise
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The Independent Online
INDIGNANT inhabitants of the comfort zone that Nick Faldo has identified as a source of danger to the European Tour will have an extra reason to stir themselves into urgent action in the Volvo PGA Championships which will gather the full might of the Tour at Wentworth this week.

Faldo himself will be among them for the first time this year and will speak to officials about the future shape of a Tour he has temporarily forsaken to play in the United States. His concerns follow those expressed by Seve Ballesteros at St Mellion last weekend. But although Seve called for promotion and relegation of lower-order players he did not question the mot- ivation of those who, Faldo alleges, are content to saunter comfortably through the less pressurised regions of the money list.

Undoubtedly, there is a lack of younger talent pressing to replace the established stars like Faldo, Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam who have dominated European golf, and much of the world, for the past 15 years. Only Jose Maria Olazabal at 29 and Colin Montgomerie at 31 have broken through into stardom during the past two years and, even then, Montgomerie has yet to win a major championship. Behind them stretch a distressingly long line of players who brimmed with brilliance in their younger days but have struggled to sustain their promise.

Yet, although these players occupy a clearly defined zone, it is not so easy to judge how comfortable it is. Neither will it be easy for enough of them to emerge from this limbo to satisfy Faldo's call for half a dozen to take the breakthrough step that will launch them as superstars. He said: "It is too easy for a guy to make a nice living and say, 'I don't want to be superstar. I can enjoy myself, pay the mortgage and put the kids through good schools.' "

Those words would have carried a mocking echo through the large home in the Midlands that Paul Broadhurst and his wife Lorraine bought in 1993 and which now also houses their six-month-old twins Alex and Sophie. Broadhurst, one of the most talented and temperamentally sound of our prospects in the first three years of the nineties, suffered a 1994 season that was more twilight zone than comfort zone.

"All of a sudden, I was asking myself if I could afford to live in such a big house. I'm still asking," said the 29-year-old Broadhurst who has recently fought his way back to within touching distance of his previous form but is aware that another year like last year could be his last on the Tour.

"I finished 131st in the Order of Merit last year and was playing so badly I considered throwing in the towel. The arrival of the twins put added pressure on me to carry on but if I finish in a similar position this year I will lose my card and it wouldn't be easy to get it back. I'd be looking for a job."

Since the jobs he had when he was financing a successful amateur career included gardening and van-driving, Broadhurst has all the motivation he needs to pull his game together this year. But is motivation the reason why so many players of his generation are falling short of the futures that were predicted for them?

"I don't think it is a matter of not trying, more likely it is trying too hard that's the problem," he said at the Midlands PGA tournament that he squeezed in on Monday and Tuesday before flying to the Madrid Open. "What happened to me is typical. Everything was going well and suddenly I hit a bad patch and instead of being patient I went in search of a quick answer. Then your swing tends to go from bad to worse and in the pressures we play under it can take a long, long time to get it back."

Broadhurst's battle depends on how long he can prolong the revitalised form he has shown over the past month, particularly at St Mellion last weekend where he finished in joint sixth place after three sub-par rounds that brought reassuring memories of what a good shot feels like.

"Considering that six weeks ago I wasn't capable of getting the ball around St Mellion at all, this was very encouraging," said the player who is accepted as one of the most genuine and unassuming on the Tour. Being as nice as he is, however, is regarded by some as a heavy burden to carry in the grim scramble to be the next Faldo figure.

But the determination that fashioned a career from the infertile surroundings of Birmingham's municipal courses does not allow anyone to brand him as a lightweight. In no form of golf does his sense of purpose feel firmer than in team golf and it is no comfort to Europe that he has only the slimmest chance of qualifying for the Ryder Cup team for September's visit to the US. He was in the last European Ryder Cup team to cross the Atlantic and, although he had never been to the States before, was one of our few heroes at Kiawah Island. He had turned pro only two years previously at the age of 23 and within two months of his first season he had won the Cannes Open. He went on to be voted Rookie of the Year and the following year he won the Motorola Classic and scored a 63 in The Open at St Andrews, only the fourth ever to do so.

His baptism in the 1991 Ryder Cup brought instant pressure. He wasn't chosen until the afternoon fourballs on the second day, by which time Europe were getting well beaten, and he was paired with Woosnam who had dolefully partnered Faldo to two defeats. They scored a 2 and 1 victory over Paul Azinger and Hale Irwin to start the European comeback. In the singles Broadhurst beat Mark O'Meara 3-1 to join Ballesteros as the only unbeaten European. Broadhurst finished 15th in the Order of Merit that year, winning pounds 280,000 and collecting from Jack Nicklaus the opinion that he was one of the finest short-game players that awesome gentleman had seen. He was proud but not affected by it and turned up as usual at his local club Atherstone hoping to get a game as a subsitute in the winter league, as he still does.

Although 1992 was better than average, 1993 brought victory in the Benson and Hedges at St Mellion, 19th place in the Order of Merit and enough money to buy his big house. Thereupon, he dropped 112 places in 1994. No golfer has fallen that fast without a parachute and although he did miss two months because of a virus it was the bedevilment of his swing that caused it.

This year he turned back to his roots and his old coach Frank Miller and they tried to eradicate his natural draw that was being too easily transformed into a hook or a block. He now hits the ball straighter with perhaps a little fade and it seems to be getting him into the right positions for his irons to start working.

"It suddenly seemed to get better in the second round at Cannes. Forgive my language, but I was absolutely shat on by luck and I missed the cut but Peter Baker said he hadn't seen me hit the ball as well for a long time," said Broadhurst, who has shared his ups and down with his fellow Midlander Baker, who is another of our unfulfilled promises. "We seem have our doldrums at different times and we try to help each out of them."

Some might find the doldrums a comfort zone. Paul Broadhurst certainly isn't one of them.