Keith Elliott at Large: Walton wakes up after a round with Ireland's zombie expert: 'I was at a very low ebb for a variety of reasons. Paul brought me back to reality. He has been magical. Now I am very close to winning again'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
PHILIP WALTON, plying his trade as a professional golfer around Europe, is learning to play the game from a man who does not know a wood from the trees. And the gentle-mannered Walton, once tipped to be one of the great Irish golfers, is convinced that this unlikely teacher has given him back the drive he thought was lost for ever.

Not so long ago, Walton was one of the bright, young players of European golf. But this season the Dublin professional has won a mere pounds 18,000 and is rated 130th in the European Tour Order of Merit. In a desperate bid to regain the form that saw him win the French Open and the Dunhill Cup in 1990, he went to see a psychologist.

Trick cyclists are nothing new in sports motivation, but Paul Goldin is a very special kind of shrink. He is best known for deprogramming the zombied followers of the Moonies and the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh cults. Although he now lives in Eire, he was consulted by the FBI on how to handle the Waco siege. (He told them to walk away.)

Goldin, whose brother is the film producer, Jack Gold, is probably a bigger star in Ireland than Walton himself. He is a regular figure on television and radio and his roadshow, The Amazing World of Paul Goldin, draws capacity audiences (which may be something to do with watching people who have not been hypnotised hop around the stage thinking their backsides are on fire).

Other behavioural psychologists might feel his mind games cheapen their mystical calling, but it could just be professional jealousy. For Goldin, whose intense eyes are the only clue to his calling, has been spectacularly successful. He is even No 2 in the Irish video charts, behind Peter Pan, with his Lose Weight - Guaranteed] programme for fatties.

On a more serious side, he runs a clinic in Dublin treating a wide range of GP-referred disorders, including smoking, phobias and stress-related problems. And that is where Walton came in. As an amateur his swing was reckoned to be one of the best in the game and he looked set to become a household name, but then it all went wrong.

'When he came to see me, he had totally lost confidence. He was going down and down,' Goldin recalled.

'I was at a very low ebb for a variety of reasons,' Walton said. 'Paul brought me back to reality. He has been magical. Now I am very close to winning again.' Walton thinks his improvement has come too late this year, but he expects to make an impact next season. Last week, he started the Irish Open with a five-under-par round, only to contract food poisoning.

Walton, who still sees Goldin regularly, finds it hard to put into words exactly what has happened, but Goldin says there is nothing mystical about it. 'Mind and body concentration is an accepted fact. It is merely mind reinforcement. Psychologically your body responds to the way you think. It doesn't matter whether I play golf. This is about the power of the mind and it could work just as well for wrestling or darts.'

Psychological mumbo-jumbo? Walton does not think so. And Goldin is so convinced about his theories that he has produced an audio tape that he claims can be used by any golfer, pro or 24-handicap, to play better. 'I have given it to several of my patients and they all say that it has improved their game,' he said.

Hmm. Those who have invested hundreds of pounds for a golf pro's advice and afterwards feel that they are playing worse than ever will probably be sceptical of such claims. Goldin added: 'This unlocks your golf potential, but there's nothing revolutionary about it . . . It is based on neurolinguistics, which works on the activation of harmonics and brainwave patterns. It's nothing to do with hypnosis and putting yourself in a trance-like state. You know exactly what is going on.

'Desire and muscle are not enough for consistent performance. I can't make everyone a professional golfer, but I can make people play to their potential. This will make your game improve beyond belief, whether you believe it or not.'

The bad news for those who want to steal a march on their golfing partners is that Goldin is still hawking the tape around production companies, so it is not commercially available. And what would happen if eveyone bought the tape? You would never be able to beat a better player with lines like: 'A lot of people drive into those trees on this hole, but with your hook, you'll probably be all right.'