‘Bouncebackability’ is a priceless commodity in the world of sport.
For Jake Bolton, one week in August proved beyond doubt that he has that valuable skill in his locker.
The talented Wiltshire golfer has just finished a week’s coaching at the National Golf Centre at Woodhall Spa where the cream of the English men’s amateur game gathered to plan and prepare for the 2020 season.
Bolton hopes to make the team in 2020, but in order to do so a player must demonstrate guts as well as talent.
In the case of the 21-year-old, he now knows that he not only has the technical ability to succeed, but the psychological strength to cope with the rollercoaster ride of top-level sport.
In August, Bolton fielded a tough phone call from England Golf’s head of performance Nigel Edwards telling him that he had not made the cut for the Home Internationals.
It was a painful blow, but it was not a knockout punch.
Bolton picked himself off the canvas and a week later pitched up in St Andrews to play in the Scottish Amateur Stroke Play Championship – and duly came from behind to win with a final hole birdie.
From adversity came triumph and that week has helped Bolton learn an awful lot about himself.
“It’s been great being with the squad again,” admitted Bolton in between sessions on the range, the gym and the course with his England colleagues.
“It’s been a productive week and tiring – but that’s always a good thing. That shows it’s been intense.
“It comes at the end of a year that has its fair share of ups and downs but one that I’m sure will stand me in good stead.
“100% winning the Scottish Stroke Play was the highlight of my season.
“I had a call from Nigel the week before saying that I wouldn’t be part of the Home International squad which was really disappointing.
“I had to pick my chin up and keep going so to win the Scottish the very next week was a big thing for me.
“Nigel actually mentioned it during this get-together which was a nice touch.
“I walked off after the third round in Scotland not knowing what was happening as I hadn’t played that badly yet shot five over par.
“I had a couple of mudballs, two flyers. I wasn’t angry but just frustrated and had lots of mixed emotions.
“I went to the putting green, tried to re-group and got myself together to shoot seven under and win.
“I birdied the 18th to win by a shot. My dad claims he inspired me.
“He told me that our flight was leaving at 9.25 that night and if it went to a play-off we’d miss the plane!”
With five minutes to spare, the duo made check-in although such was the high of winning that they might not have needed the plane to fly home.
It may have been the Duke’s course rather than the Old Course, but victory at the Home of Golf was still sweet.
Ryder Cup stars Paul McGinley, Stephen Gallacher and Andy Sullivan are all previous winners of the trophy. So too another of England Golf’s graduates, Tommy Fleetwood.
“To see the other names on it made me go ‘wow’” added Bolton a member at Ogbourne Downs GC since the age of 10.
“To have my name underneath Tommy’s gives me great confidence going into 2020.
“I proved to myself that I can be a winner and that’s a huge psychological boost.
“The barrier to clear just appeared to get a little bit bigger with every tournament that passed me by.
“I won the English amateur stroke play but lost in the last 32 of the match play.
“In the Dutch Junior Open I played well and finished sixth.
“I played an event in Florida in April and led going into the final round. I shot level par and lost by one.
“Then the week before that I played in the Hampshire Salver and got beaten on the countback!”
Last week Bolton made use of the five-star facilities at Woodhall Spa. Short game coach Graham Walker is someone he’s particularly happy to lean on.
“I want to use the England sessions as a baseline for working on things into the New Year,” added Bolton.
“Stats say you should hit 85% of greens from 150 yards – but there’s no use hitting it to 50 feet as you won’t make a lot of birdies.
“Graham has been unbelievable with me.
“You don’t realise the improvements until you look at stats for a season.
“From when I first started working with Graham last year my short game stats have improved by 10%.
“If I can improve another 10% then I’ll be right up there. I’ve always been a good putter, so if I can knock the ball closer to the flag I should see better scores.”
**Jake was part of a 15-man preliminary squad which met at the National Golf Centre last week . They will meet regularly over the next few months at Woodhall Spa and at a warm-weather training camp at Quinta Do Lago in Portugal to prepare for the 2020 season.**