The man who really invented the Faldo swing

Tim Glover reports from golf's European Tour finishing school at San Roque, Spain, where a coach with a famous former pupil is a key figure
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The Independent Online
When Nick Faldo introduced Chris Arnold to David Leadbetter, it was not quite on the scale of "Doctor Livingstone, I presume" but, in golfing terms, it was close. "Thank you very much," Leadbetter said to Arnold,"for a job well done." It made Arno ld's day.

They met at the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth in 1990 and what Leadbetter was aware of (and very few others), is that Arnold gave Faldo the Faldo swing. Rewind to 1972 and a summer's day in Hertfordshire. The young Faldo, barely out of shorts, has been smitten, in his living room, by the television image of Jack Nicklaus playing the Masters at Augusta National. Faldo, a swimmer, a cyclist, a runner - anything but team sports in which others could mess up - decided there and then that golf would behis game, and he dragged his parents along to his local club in Welwyn Garden City. This is where Chris Arnold became one of the first people to relieve Faldo of money.

Arnold, a gangly teenager and assistant professional at Welwyn, booked Faldo for six lessons. "It was 10 bob a lesson," Arnold recalls. "He didn't have any clubs and I recommended that he bought a half set for 35 quid just in case he didn't want to carryon." Carry on? They couldn't get Faldo off the course.

"I knew immediately that I was going to hear from him again," Arnold said. "You meet thousands of people and you remember two or three. I remember meeting Nick Faldo like it was yesterday. For a start he was a very unusual pupil. Most people are desperate to hit a golf ball. That's the first and only thing they want to do. I wanted to get him swinging through an imaginary ball and he was very keen to learn and understand. When you speak to a lot of novices you ask them if they've understood what you've said. The vast majority say yes, and when you look at them you know damn well they haven't got a clue. Faldo was very serious and everything was taken on board. We went our separate ways. He went into superstardom and I went into obscurity. I'm just waiting for the day when Nick is on This is Your Life and I appear from behind the screen."

Arnold is being unduly modest. He is a key figure here in Apollo Week, the European Tour's finishing school for a selected group of young professionals who may seem obscure to you now but are referred to by John Jacobs as "future millionaires." Jacobs, the founding father of the European Tour, a former Ryder Cup captain and one of the most respected teachers in the game - this is the man who sorted out Jose-Maria Olazabal's swing and helped him to win the Masters last year - has been giving the benefitof about 60 years' experience to the class of '95.

Also on the teaching panel are Tommy Horton, Denis Pugh (formerly one of Leadbetter's chief assistants), Ted Pollard, a fitness instructor, Alan Fine, a sports psychologist, Guy Delacave, the Tour's physiotherapist, and Steve Gregg, an expert on nutrition. Therefore the players here, most of whom have come from the Qualifying School, have been receiving advice and tuition covering just about everything from the head to the foot. There is even a mock interview with the Fourth Estate (say nothing except "Where's the cheque?") and representatives from Mark McCormack's International Management Group tell them to beware of agents bearing gifts - unless, of course, that agent happened to be from IMG.

This is the seventh class in a unique concept which is sponsored by Apollo, a company based in Birmingham that sells about 10 million golf shafts a year. They also make javelins, which explains the presence here of Steve Backley and Mick Hill. They reck o n there is some correlation between throwing a javelin and hitting a golf ball. The joke is that if you are not shafted by Apollo, IMG will happily assume the role.

Anyway, Chris Arnold is the sales manager and he has a couple of newspapers to thank for that. Arnold, who was born in Wakefield and educated at the George Stephenson GS in Newcastle, was living in Windsor, Berkshire five years ago and his dream was to establish an indoor teaching school in the Midlands (he was once a professional at Blackwell in Birmingham). Every Thursday Arnold took a train to Euston where he knew he could buy a Birmingham Post which contained, that day, a commercial property guide. An advertisement in the paper from Apollo caught his eye.

At about the same time Faldo won the Masters in Augusta. The Daily Telegraph reported that Faldo had received his first lesson from one Ian Connelly at Welwyn and Arnold pointed out to them that this was incorrect. The day he went for an interview with Apollo was the day the Telegraph published a retraction; Arnold's interviewer read it and was already on first-name terms with the man who taught Nick Faldo how to play golf. Hence Arnold's presence at Apollo 7.

San Roque, a £45m hotel and golf complex a half-hour's drive from Gibraltar and five minutes from Valderrama, where this year's Ryder Cup will be played, is favoured because of the weather. There has hardly been a cloud in the sky nor a drop of rain for months. Nobody here, bar the local population, is complaining.

When Apollo Week started they struggled to get passengers. Now the class is oversubscribed and recidivists are turned away. Thirty-one players from the top 120 in the European Tour Order of Merit last year had gone through this experience; the 24 playerswho attended Apollo 6 12 months ago won £1.2m between them, an average of £50,000 each. IMG will tell them how to spend it and John Paramor, the Tour's ace man on rules, will relieve them of some of their income in fines for slow play or doing somethingunmentionable in a bunker.

Paramor is no mean player himself, but at Valderrama on Tuesday he took 10 at the 10th. The laughter of Seve Ballesteros, who was famously refused a free drop by Paramor when his ball was stuck behind a cork tree in the denouement of the Volvo Masters atValderrama in November, was heard throughout Spain.