PGA of Great Britain & Ireland Professional, Phil Allen, and European Tour Member and the Netherland’s Olympic Qualifier, Joost Luiten, have been working together for over 16 years and have developed a working relationship that brings both the seriousness of competitive play and technical knowledge together with fun and friendship to build a successful team.
Here Joost and Phil talk more about how their relationship developed, how they work together on a day-to-day basis, as well as more about how they both feel about Olympic Golf and its potential impact on the sport.
PGA PROFESSIONAL COACH: PHIL ALLEN
Explain a bit about how you began working with your athlete and when that was.
PA: I started working with Joost 16 years ago – his father asked me if I could have a look and we started talking about him as a golfer. I saw him once and we looked at the mechanics and I said if you want to become European Tour [level] then certain things need to happen.
He was actually hypermobile so I worked together with a physical coach to tighten him up and make it easier to produce a golf swing.
What are the key things you are going to work on to prepare your athlete for the Olympic Games?
PA: For the Olympics then we’re going to look at base level fundamentals for putting and the short game – the weaker areas of the game. We’ll make sure balance is correct, eye-line is correct, especially for the putting scenario to keep a consistent strike on the ball. For the short game then understanding the arc of the golf club, the strike on the ball and the reaction around that.
We’ll treat the Olympics the same as a Major and I think it is very important we look at it as a major event because it’s something big in the golf world and the first time, and I want to [make sure] we get our chances to get a medal.
What advice will you be giving them about competing on a wider global stage than perhaps ever before with an approximate 3.6billion viewers across the world?
PA: There are globally a lot more people watching the Olympics than a standard tour event or major, but at the end of the day it is a camera that is going to be behind Joost. It’s the guys out there that are giving the cheers and the screaming and shouting, that’s what gives a golfer the goosebumps, especially in a tournament on the final day coming down the last stretch if you’re leading.
But if Joost stays Joost and stays in his moment then I don’t really see that being a big difference – at the end of the day it’s still a golf event that we train and train and train for…to get to this moment. I’m quite confident that if he can keep passive within himself then it’s just going to be the same as if we [would] win a major; it’s going to be great.
How will you stay in touch with your athlete during the Olympic Games?
PA: I’ll be present at the Olympics, I’ll be in the village together with the other coaches of Team NL and with Joost, and so we’ll be pretty much the same as every event. We’ll be looking at what’s happening in the other events to see how they prepare – it’s not just using this as an event but I want to see why/how certain sportspeople warm up and prepare and maybe adopt that into our future training and preparations for events.
Being present there is a key as well because we’ll be doing something for the first time together, especially after 16 years of working together.
What does it mean to you to be working with a potential Olympic qualifier?
PA: It has got to be the biggest kick there is – I’ve already had in Holland a coaching dinner where I met other coaches and asked so many questions out of curiosity about what they do in their sports. You still can’t think it’s a reality…you won’t realise it until you’re there and you could say it’s like a dream until it happens.
What do you think the impact of Olympic Golf will be?
PA: Because it’s going on unpaid television then we’re going to hit more viewers – for myself then it’s getting the sport out there more.
We’ve got to look at Rio as a first and if it continues it will be great, but we’ve got to get the sport growing again. We’ve got a lot of golf pros out there and not enough golfers so I really hope we can get a positive out of it…if the globe works together to promote our sport then everyone wins.
OLYMPIC ATHLETE: JOOST LUITEN
What does the prospect of being able to represent your country and make history at the Olympic Games mean to you?
JL: For me it’s an honour to be the first Dutch golfer going to the Olympics…hopefully we can have a good week there and try and get a medal. I think it would be great for golf in Holland and great for the general sport.
For me personally as well it’s something you dream of – as a kid when you’re watching the Olympics you want to compete yourself. We could never compete in the Olympics because golf wasn’t an [Olympic] sport but now golf is in there so I’m really looking forward to going there, trying to get a medal and do something good for the sport.
What makes your relationship with your coach a success and a benefit to your game?
JL: I think we became friends over the years that we worked together. When I started working with him I had this click together and we have a lot of fun together. I think that’s the key, you need to have fun together. You can be very serious but you can also be two little kids fooling around on the putting or chipping green. That’s what I really like about Phil you know; you can always have a good laugh with him.
How important have they been in your existing/current development as an athlete?
JL: Very important, when I was 16 I came to Phil and I was a good golfer but I wasn’t very good technically, I was all about feel. Phil really started to work on the technical side, getting the positions right in the golf swing and really preparing myself for playing European Tour golf.
I don’t think I would be here if I hadn’t have met Phil back in the day because he really made sure that my game went forward and I prepared myself for professional golf. Before that time I was a good player but I was nowhere close to making it as a professional. That’s still what we do – work on the technical things, the positions in the golf swing and a lot of the stuff that we worked on then is still the stuff we work on now.
How are they going to help you prepare for the Olympics?
JL: I would say it’s business as usual. Yeah of course it’s a bit different because there is more stuff going on around the Olympics but the preparation for the golf will be the same. We will work on the same things, do the same things on the practice days – because it’s the Olympics you don’t change it, if you can change for the Olympics then you can change for every week. We’ll do the preparation and be ready for Thursday.
What are you most looking forward to about potentially competing in the Olympics?
JL: I’m most looking forward to seeing the whole thing around the golf. The golf is the golf – 72-hole strokeplay – but I am very curious to see the other sports, the Olympic Village, just everything around it. I want to really take in those experiences like the opening ceremony – that’s something very new for us and something I really want to enjoy and see.
What impact do you think golf being in the 2016 Olympics will have on the sport?
JL: I think it’s massive for golf to be an Olympic sport because a lot of people will watch the golf that have never watched golf in the lives, so I think it could let them pick up the game as well.
For Holland, I think it’s a big thing because it’s not a very famous or known sport by the people [there] and hopefully by me being in the Olympics then they will see what it is and hopefully start following it and enjoying it – that’s the most important thing in Holland is getting the young kids into golf and hopefully the Olympics will help big time with that.
What does it mean to you that your coach is a PGA Professional?
JL: I think it’s important that Phil is a PGA Professional because it’s by far the best education for a teaching Pro and you learn a lot more than just a golf swing – you learn about the body as well, the muscles you use and that’s a big thing as well when we’re out on the driving range – you want to know what you’re using…and Phil knows about that stuff as well and that’s because he’s a PGA Professional.
The PGAs of Europe Olympic PGA Professional Coach Hub is a first-of-its-kind Olympics page (http://eur.pe/OlympicPGAPros) that aims to and celebrate coaching and shine a light on the PGA Professionals from around the world that are supporting, or have supported, the 120 male and female potential qualifiers for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games
Each Player-PGA Professional section contains details about their relationship, key links to find out more about both the potential Olympic qualifier and their associated PGA Professional, along with interviews and features with many of them.