Danny Willett’s Masters’ triumph was a special moment for three PGA Professionals who have each played a part in coaching the Yorkshire ace to global success.
Current coach Mike Walker, former long term mentor Graham Walker and Peter Ball, who first introduced Willett to golf, have all been toasting the Sheffield born star’s success.
Willett’s rise to the top of the golfing world has been accompanied by first class coaching all the way – from his first experiences during sessions as a 12 year old with Ball at a council run municipal in Sheffield.
“From a municipal to the Masters! He is an inspiration and shows all the kids in Sheffield what can be achieved if you put your mind to something. He is a great example and if it gets kids out playing, that’s all that matters,” said Ball who is a PGA Advanced Fellow Professional.
“Danny always had a great determination and work ethic and his ability to stay calm under severe pressure over those closing holes was just incredible.”
Ball has coached thousands of kids over the years and the philosophy that inspired Willett is still the one he employs today at Balborough Links and the Moor View Golf Range in Sheffield where he coaches.
“Kids come along, have fun and play a lot of golf. If there is a secret, that’s it. It made me laugh when one of the commentators said Danny might be put off by the noise at Augusta – the racket we used to make on the course, he’s used to anything. That wouldn’t have put him off.”
One staple of Ball’s coaching sessions is that the loser always has to make a cup of tea. That was the gist of Ball’s congratulatory text message to Willett after his Masters victory.
“The last time we played he hit one in the rough so as far as I’m concerned he lost so he still owes me a cup of tea – but as he’s won the Masters I might let him off!” added Ball.
His delight was matched by Mike Walker even though he missed an early morning flight to the Spanish Open having slept through an alarm call having stayed up late to watch his charge claim the green jacket after capitalising on defending champion Jordan Spieth’s quadruple bogey at 12.
“After Jordan Spieth birdied nine I went to bed because I had a 4.30am alarm call,” said Walker, “But my phone started to go nuts, with loads of texts saying you’ve got to watch this. I’m absolutely over the moon, I don’t want to sound surprised because I never doubted his capability to do it but it’s still a surprise that he’s actually won a major championship. I’m really happy for him.
“Mentally he is very strong. It is one of those things where people get into these situations and either see it as a threat or an opportunity. When he is in this situation he enjoys it.”
Walker, who is part of PGA Master Professional Pete Cowen’s team, has been coaching Willett for three years, having taken over from his previous long term mentor, and award winning coach Graham Walker who runs Walker’s Golf Academy at Oaks Golf Club in York.
England coach Graham worked with 28 year old Willett for a decade from 2003 and gave an insight into the mind-set that has driven his former protégé to the very highest level.
“When he was the No. 1 amateur in the world we sat down. I got a piece of paper and gave him a sheet and said let’s write down what we want to improve,” he said.
“I counted eight things and thought he’s going to think he can’t play and he’s number one in the world. He got his sheet of paper and had 13 things he wanted to work on to become the best in the world as a professional.
“I’m massively proud of it all, what he has achieved and what we achieved together. It’s massive for both us. We still have a great relationship and I look forward to seeing back at The Oaks. After all we’re just two Yorkshire fellas trying to give it our best.”