Golf: Oldcorn has wise words for rookies in pro ranks

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CAPITAL star Andrew Oldcorn reckons modern-day amateur golfers are too “cosseted” and says their cards are literally marked when they join the paid ranks. The Kings Acre player enjoyed a stellar amateur career, winning the Scottish Youths in 1979, English Amateur in 1982 and playing in the Walker Cup in 1983.

It meant he felt ready when he decided to turn professional in the mid-1980s and then went on to win three times on the European Tour, including the flagship PGA Championship at Wentworth.

These days Oldcorn is playing on the European Senior Tour, finishing a splendid third on this season’s Order of Merit helped by a win in the over-50s PGA Championship at Slaley Hall. But the Edinburgh-based star has his finger on the pulse when it comes to anything to do with golf and he believes the amateurs today probably get too much of a helping hand at times. “The one thing I think does help but doesn’t help is that they are cosseted,” he said. “It seems to me that they are pushed into an area where they can’t stand on their own two feet.

“When you get out on any circuit in the world, you have to be able to do that because all the guy you are playing with is doing out there is marking your card. He doesn’t care how you play and one of the quickest lessons I learnt was playing with Ian Woosnam in my first year on Tour in the Sanyo Open in Barcelona.

“He could tell I was quite nervous about playing with him. When we got in he said it was the first time he’d met me and was aware of my reputation as an amateur. But he then said that reputation now meant nothing to either me or the other people I was playing against as a professional. He said, ‘all I’m doing is putting scores on your card’ and I’ve never forgotten that. I’ve seen other people pass on that advice since then and I’ve done it myself occasionally with some players. I go back to what he – a major champion – told me all those years ago.”

As Oldcorn enjoys the latest chapter in his excellent career, the 51-year-old admitted that he himself wouldn’t want to be starting out again on the main Tour. He’s watched a player like Lloyd Saltman, left, someone with a sparkling amateur record, struggle to make his mark in the paid ranks and believes part of the reason is that the circuit is so competitive these days.

“My heart goes out to these young guys as it’s so much harder to establish yourself as a player on the main Tour for a variety of reasons,” he added. “The main difference when I started 25 years ago to now is that the calibre of competition is much stronger worldwide.

“When I started the Tour in ’84, the percentage of GB&I players was something like 65 per cent. I think it’s down to 25-30 per cent. First it’s trying to get a foothold, then in football parlance it’s about trying to stay in the league and then trying to improve the next year.

“It’s hard and if I was to give any one of them one bit of advice it is be true to yourself and don’t try and do something that you don’t feel comfortable with because someone has told you to do it. Towards the end of my main Tour career I saw players come on of equal talent to those I’d seen 20 years before and they make the same mistakes as guys did when I was younger.

“It’s almost like a minefield. You’ve got to take the right advice but have to take on board what is good for you and try and move forward yourself.

“I think it’s desperately unfortunate for Lloyd that he’s got on there and is now finding himself having to take a step back again (after losing his Tour card).

“Hopefully Lloyd will get back on again – I’m sure he will. He certainly has the ability but there’s so much more involved than just hitting golf balls.”

Oldcorn’s excellent 2011 season means he has three Senior majors to look forward to next year, including the British Open at Turnberry in July.

But his top target will be trying to claim the European No. 1 spot, having had that in his sights for most of this season until he started to have problems with his vision in the middle of the year and subsequently needed a cataract operation.

“I had a really good chance of winning the Order of Merit but third in the end is something I’d have taken at the start – it was still a great season overall,” he reflected. “My natural progression now is to work hard and get to that top position. It’s about working hard on my game and also having a decent run of luck in terms of injuries. There’s no denying that’s a big factor on the Senior Tour.”