Golf: Artists, airheads and new arrivals prepare for life on tour

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The Independent Online
Earning a card to play on the European Tour is a dream come true. The recruits cannot wait for the season to start, but as Andy Farrell, in San Roque, Spain, discovers, not all of them are experiencing the magic for the first time.

Apollo was always an appropriate sponsor for the European Tour's Training School, an event bringing together graduates from the Challenge Tour and the Qualifying School prior to what is meant to be the lift-off of their golfing careers.

Although MacGregor have now taken over the backing for the week at San Roque, where the European and American teams stayed for last September's Ryder Cup, the idea remains the same. Coaches, psychologists, physiologists and nutritionists are all here to offer their expertise to 21 new recruits from seven countries to the European circuit.

Each player has realised a common goal in earning his tour card. Many are wet behind the ears. "I'm looking forward to putting on good greens," one said. "Don't bank on it," came the cynical reply. None are more grateful, however, than those who have loved and lost their cards in the past.

John Hawksworth appeared in the same Walker Cup team in 1985 as Colin Montgomerie, Peter Baker and David Gilford. In his two head-to-head meetings with Montgomerie, Hawksworth won each time. Last Sunday night, while Monty was picking up $1m in Arizona, the 36-year-old Midlander was "picking up a cup of tea while watching him on the TV".

"Colin was not the main man," Hawksworth said of their amateur days. "His attitude has changed drastically."

Hawksworth's has had to change, too. Last November's Qualifying School was his 10th attempt to gain a card and only the second time he has been successful. Having first arrived on tour in 1990, he lost his card three years later. Last season "was a nightmare". He made only pounds 546.98 from 10 Challenge Tour events, and was then reduced to playing the odd regional PGA event and money matches, some for sums in excess of four figures.

"I had a sticky time when I was married," he said. "I wasn't happy. The worst I ever felt was when I failed to pre-qualify for the Open last summer. I didn't know if I could carry on."

Meeting Kamini Aga changed everything. "She is a dressage trainer, one of the top people in her field. She understands how tough it is to compete and how to prepare for tournaments. She came to the Qualifying School and I could spend the time, when I was not playing, with her - rather than hitting hundreds of balls on the range for the rest of the day."

Johan Rystrom's renaissance came from art. A friend of Jesper Parnevik, who helps design the Swedish Ryder Cup player's clothing, Rystrom quit the tour after having three second places in 1992 and '93. "I was tired of golf and all the travelling," he said. The son of an architect, Rystrom tried drawing, unsuccessfully. "I am no good at Pictionary."

Instead, he turned to producing collages. For Parnevik's wedding, Rystrom made one with two champagne glasses and four glass strawberries glued on to a mounting. He was going to add some corks from the champagne bottles at the wedding, but "Jesper is so weird there was only beer and cider".

His favourite features a baseball bat and glove from the 1940s. One day he was offered pounds 50 for one of his efforts and more orders followed. He put the price up to pounds 300, but people were not deterred. Now he has 18 orders outstanding. "When I started, it was a relief to go into a darkened room and do something for yourself. It really helped me."

As for his work with the Lindburg clothing firm, his job is actually to rein in the wilder ideas of the designer. "If you don't hold him back, it would look seriously weird. He wanted Jesper to wear inch-high platform heels."

At the MacGregor Challenge, a one-round event at Valderrama won by the Spaniard Ivo Giner with a 71, Hawksworth won pounds 300 for fourth place and Rystrom shot 78. "I hit the ball well and putted great," the Swede said, "but my aiming was terrible."

David Lynn, whose hobby was once listed as clubbing, but not of the golfing variety, had played the Ryder Cup venue before with the England amateur team.

"I told my playing partners on the 17th tee that it was an easy hole, and that the pitch to the green was easy," he admitted. Inevitably, he took a nine on the spectacular par five, finding the water with his three- wood second shot, and then seeing his fourth, a wedge shot, spin off the green back into the pond.

The hole, controversially redesigned by Seve Ballesteros and the scene of so much drama in the Ryder Cup, is to be modified again by the owner of Valderrama, Jimmy Patino. Out go the mounds and the rough and in come some trees to narrow the driving area.

Patino will also move the tee forward so it plays as a 475-yard par four. "Everyone who plays Valderrama will remember the 17th hole," Ballesteros, the Ryder Cup captain, once said. Not any more.

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