Dougherty hails trio at England Golf Performance Awards

NICK DOUGHERTY has praised the outstanding contributions made to England Golf by the award winners at the 2019 Performance Conference.

Dougherty – who went on to become a three-times winner on the European Tour and is now lead presenter on Sky Sports Golf – excelled as an England amateur international after making his debut as a 15-year-old in 1997.

Returning to Woodhall Spa for the first time since his amateur days, Dougherty insisted it was a privilege to present awards to three stalwarts who have devoted their time and expertise to either develop the next generation of golfers or lead senior teams to success at international level.

Yorkshireman Graham Walker has been named as 2019 coach of the year.

Walker is recognised as a leading expert in short-game teaching and over the years has worked with European Tour winners such as Danny Willett, Paul Waring, David Horsey as well as Ladies’ European Tour winner Holly Clyburn.

Currently, Walker coaches world number 10 Tommy Fleetwood and passes on his knowledge to all the England Golf performance squads.

Walker has been on the staff at England Golf since 2011 and his coaching continues to be of huge benefit to aspiring players looking to fulfil their potential.

England Senior Women’s manager Debbie Richards – who unfortunately could not be present on the night – was recognised as volunteer of the year for 2019.

Richards – a former senior international and Surrey county player – enjoyed three seasons in the role as senior women’s manager and led the team to European Senior Ladies’ gold in 2019 before announcing her retirement earlier this year.

The final award winner was Cheshire’s Roy Smethurst – a legend of the amateur game in England.

Smethurst’s contribution to senior golf over the decades has been nothing short of astonishing.

Among his many honours as a player, Smethurst claimed four English Senior Amateur titles as well as a European Senior Amateur crown.

The former Cheshire and Nottinghamshire county player has continued to enjoy success as a team manager leading the England Men’s Senior squad to three Home International titles in the last four seasons.

The 2019 campaign also saw Smethurst lead England to the gold medal at the European Senior Men’s Team Championships.

The ovation Smethurst received on the night was testimony to the high esteem in which he is held by his colleagues.

Dougherty paid tribute to all the winners saying: “The success enjoyed by all the England performance squads over recent times wouldn’t be possible without the excellence in coaching and management that all the teams receive.

“I know from my time representing England at amateur level just how crucial it was to have a good grounding in the game before making the move to the professional ranks.

“I made my debut for England aged 15 and my heart was bursting through my shirt.

“It remains a huge honour to represent England – something which you don’t really have the chance to do when moving into the professional ranks.

“You only have to look at the numbers of English players currently making their way in both the men’s and ladies’ games to see that the work being done at grassroots levels and then with the performance teams as they move through the age groups is bearing fruit.”

The 2019 performance conference was held under the banner ‘2020 Vision’ as England Golf strives to make improvements for the new season.

Coaches and managers from all the regions gathered to listen to seminars on varied topics such as health and nutrition in golf, the World Handicap System and governance as well as enjoying practical coaching and strength and conditioning demonstrations.

Photograph credit: Vicki Head