Meeting David Leadbetter and saying goodbye!

Golfmagic competition winner Andrew Picken gives us his take on La Manga Club and its new Leadbetter Academy

andrew picken's picture
Tue, 7 Oct 2014

Finally, the moment had come. It was the big day for the formal opening of the new David Leadbetter Academy around noon and I would be meeting the great man in person.

We had lunch with P Y Gerbau, Chief Executive of La Manga. He is the man who was brought in to sort out the issues on the Millennium Dome. He is a very interesting individual and was great company. After the formal opening ceremony we got the chance to meet David Leadbetter face-to-face.

Mr Leadbetter had an incredible aura about him. He is 62 years young and is clearly still very fit. He had forearms that were muscled and heavily veined. He illustrated a balanced grip by holding a club between his thumb and forefingers and made swings into perfect plane using only these two fingers such was the balance of his swing and its tempo... I still can’t do this without the club flying off into space!

He also had a cracking sense of humour, and within seconds completely owned the classroom where I and six others spent the next three hours. He had reviewed all our video footage to make an assessment of needs and then went through every element one to one in front of the class. We were advised to alter our grips as the clubs were too far into the palm, not the fingers of the left hand.

Mr Leadbetter had an enthusiasm for his art that was infectious. I later found out he had his first lesson at 8 o'clock and finally sat down around 12 hours later. He has a tremendous passion for the game and had time for everyone, whether that was us competition winners, the media, or youngsters and guests.

After a few pictures with the great man, I asked him if he would mind signing a cap I had brought with me. Immediately this was done and I noticed that he thanked me for asking him to provide it. He clearly has no ego issues.

Throughout the interaction I was desperate to remember everything he was saying and made a point to summarise it all in my head for later note taking. It was only later I realised that the other staff had video recorded the interaction and I hadn’t even noticed the camera.

This kind of foresight and attention to detail is what makes this facility into a world leader. It was a privilege and an honour to be part of this process. This day flew by and was an unforgettable golfing experience.

We were then invited to attend the Amapola Restaurant for a gourmet Mediterranean menu. This time I had the prescience of mind to photograph the menu to be able to record exactly what we were offered. This was amazing stuff, eating outdoors overlooking the North Course on a balmy beautiful evening supported by several fine wines.

Despite the heavy night, we all attended the classroom an hour early to ensure we got the best possible use of the rest of the facilities. We all undertook SAM putting analysis and this provided useful insights into stroke issues.

I had deliberately booked as late a return flight as possible and we were able to make enough time for another round of golf before leaving for home. We all started to apply the lessons we had learned and the golf for us all improved dramatically.

All in all, the Academy staff were world class at La Manga. The food and wine offered during my stay was exemplary, too. 

I am an overweight 54-year-old who plays of a handicap of 21 but I have had an experience that many Tour professionals would cherish and desire. I am still pinching myself that I won this competition. It has certainly been the highlight of my golfing life to date. Thank you Golfmagic, La Manga Club and David Leadbetter for an incredible week I will never forget.

I keep asking myself why me? I think it was a strange piece of fate that I submitted my competition entry first. I was on the forum providing an update for an advertisement for a charity event I had helped to organise some days before. This event is dear to my heart as it celebrates the life and golfing achievements of a friend and colleague, John Chapman. He was a scratch golfer and assistant professional before becoming a fantastic police officer. He died from cancer last year, aged 37.

All the proceeds went to the hospice that supported John and his family through his illness. Had I not been involved in this project I would probably have missed the chance to enter the competition.

So where do I go from here? I have been told that I can reverse my handicap. All the components are in place and the staff  have devised a progression plan for me to follow in order to better my golf game. To go from 21 to 12 would be a massive achievement but I will be trying very hard to do exactly that over the next months. I am not sure if this is possible but it will be an accurate measure of the quality of the tuition. I need to establish if I can use this week to make the right changes to my game to alter my handicap in such a dramatic way. Watch this space.

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