Madeleine Winnett: Woburn was a revelation
I just want to put your minds at rest – I won’t be rushing to sign up to become a contestant on Channel 4’s latest show, ‘Naked Attraction’. I know a couple of years ago I spent much of the summer cavorting around the course wearing nothing more than a pair of golf shoes and a smile, but in the words of the late Kenny Everett, it was “all in the best possible taste!”
My Pink Ribbon golfing calendar ultimately raised thousands of pounds, but protecting the modesty of both my models and myself was a fine art. With towel in place until the subject had manoeuvred into position behind the props, it would only be discarded when I was sure that nothing that shouldn’t be seen, wouldn’t be seen!
However, the world has definitely gone mad if naked dating shows on TV are seen as the way forward. Give me golf to watch any day – especially if it is as good as the respective British Opens this year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such phenomenal golf as the final round shootout between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson, but I also found the Ariya Jutanugarn and Mirim Lee battle fascinating.
When I went to Woburn to watch the last two days unfurl, I initially headed straight to the practice ground. And it was certainly time well spent. Many people seem to see the proliferation of Asian players doing so well in recent years as a negative thing, but I am now a convert.
Whenever Alison Nicholas and I go to clubs giving talks about her book ‘Walking Tall’, the sessions fi nish with a Q&A. Almost invariably, someone asks about the Asian players and why they are becoming so dominant. It is no secret that their work ethic is second to none, but they are also technically superb.
I spent ages watching Ha Na Jang, and I was mesmerised. I cannot recommend highly enough the value of spending some time at the range. Yes, it’s exciting watching the actual play on the course, but you see two players hit one shot each, and then wait 15 minutes to see another. At the range, they hit shot after shot, going through the full spectrum from pitching to driving.
I now have close-up video footage of Karrie Webb, Lexi Thompson and Stacey Lewis on my phone. But my prize videos are of Mirim Lee, Ariya Jutanugarn and Ha Na Jang. Other people stood and admired how far they hit the ball, but that didn’t interest me. It was the quality of strike and, above all, their movement.
Undoubtedly, I would immediately have to re-admit myself for shoulder surgery if I even attempted Ha Na’s stretching routine. She must be a contortionist to be able to bend so far sideways, but her movement through the ball was something I could relate to.
Without boring you with technicalities, I have been working on various aspects of my swing this season, and I wanted to see how the pros moved in those specific areas. Oh my word!
I thought I was doing a pretty good job of increasing the speed of my hip rotation, but their rotational speed made me realise I have been deluding myself in a world of slow motion. Their clearance is just incredible, as is the stability in their backswing, where I had started to develop a slight sway. Not any more.
Mind you, one reason for their stability is the strength in their legs. Charmingly, my brother used to call me ‘thunder thighs’, but my legs are more akin to the size of a sparrow’s than to today’s golfers.
I had also been pleased with the extent of my turn until I saw how much more I still had to go. To see everything brought to life so vividly in front of me was a complete revelation. It was the best lesson reinforcer I could have had, and now it’s preserved on my phone as a permanent reminder.
Another surprise was the propensity of players listening to music while they warmed up. I wear my headphones while skiing, and that definitely influences how I turn according to whether a track is fast or slow, so I didn’t think that would be particularly conducive to a consistent rhythm in my golf swing.
However, when I shared a buggy from the range with Lexi Thompson – I say shared, but technically I hijacked it en route to my enormous lunch – I took the opportunity of asking what she was listening to, to see if it would give me an edge. “Hip hop and country” was the reply, ensuring that neither of those genres will be added to my playlist!
When I finally took to the stands to watch my role models in action, I immediately blotted my copybook by shooting the people in front of me as the top of my lemonade bottle flew off like a champagne cork. Fortunately, Mo Martin
had just putted out.
Now that I have returned, my overriding feeling is that the Asian players are a huge asset to the game. They are respectful, humorous and know how to look as though they are enjoying themselves – unlike some of their European and American counterparts who are misery personified.
But above all, the Asian girls have improved my game enormously. Next morning I reviewed my video phone footage just before teeing off, and promptly shot a nett 69 en route to winning the County Silver Division Meeting.
Ariya’s not the only one still smiling about her time at Woburn!