A PGA Professional who went to China on what he envisaged was just a working holiday is still there more than a decade later having built a glowing reputation.
Shanghai-based Scot Michael Dickie is coach to the country’s national teams and also has his own academy which is now operating from two prime locations.
The 36 year old, who has a consultant coaching role to both China’s amateur and professional teams, is in pole position to lead them to the Olympics in Rio next year given that he has coached two of the four players currently in contention – Li Hao Tong and Lin Xi Yu.
He recently enjoyed success guiding Jin Cheng to victory in the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship at Clearwater Bay in Hong Kong – a victory which earned him entry into next year’s Masters.
A busy year was capped by the opening of his second academy at Qi Zhong Golf Club in Shanghai – host to the Buick Ladies Open on the European Tour.
Life in China is a long way from Lochmaben in Dumfries and Galloway where Dickie hails from and Surrey’s Burhill Golf Club where he did his PGA training but a career overseas was always on his radar.
“The opportunity came up and I went for it,” he recalls. “I remember thinking I will go for a working holiday and see how it goes but after a week I saw there was a really exciting opportunity and that you can achieve a lot if you worked hard, learned the language and built up a reputation and name.
“A lot of people come and go and want it all to happen very quickly but stability is important. You need to be stable in one place and build up your name which is what I’ve done here.”
Five years at the Shanghai David Leadbetter academy where two of his students, including future China No.1 Li Hao Tong, got him into the national team and enhanced his reputation.
Along the way he’s been impressed by the Chinese attitude to golf.
“They are very disciplined and are hard workers but they get that from a school system where growing up they need to get 80 per cent plus just to pass. When you grow up with that kind of attitude you always push yourself to do your best.”
His post with the national team sees him fulfil a mentor type role helping nurture talented young players on the tournament circuits around the world.
“In addition to the technical elements, I also work a lot on the mental and tactical side with the players helping them to perform to their best,” he explains.
Dickie has two other PGA pros, Andy Griffiths and Lee Elliott working alongside him and eight coaches in total at his academies – named the Michael International Golf Academy.
As he reflects on a successful foray in the Far East, Dickie admits that it was a struggle early on and took a couple of years to adapt to the culture.
“I gave up a good clientele at Burhill where I did my training and the first two or three years were really tough.
“I didn’t have a lot of students and couldn’t speak the language. I had to speak to many people, go to networking events, get around and try and meet people and be quite resourceful to build up the business.
“It was quite tiring, teaching in the day and then at night-time attending networking events to find students. I’m fluent now though and have put a lot of effort into learning the language, now I very rarely get my iphone dictionary out.”
Testament to Dickie’s language skills has been his recruitment by LETV and Sina Media channels to commentate, in Chinese, on the recent WGC HSBC Champions and also the BMW Masters both events held in Shanghai as part of the final series on the race to Dubai.