After I played on the LPGA Tour, I returned to Sweden and suddenly received requests to talk to and practice with the girls on the national team during their training camps, Nilsson said. I loved it and soon realized I could coach others to go beyond what my generation had. In 1989, they needed a coach for the Swedish girls and womans amateur team, and they asked me if I would be interested. I was eager for them to learn from my experiences in the United States and on the LPGA Tour.
Thus began her coaching of the Swedish National Team, where she immediately began coaching the then 19-year-old Sorenstam and LPGA Tour player Carin Koch. Fellow Swedes Charlotta Sorenstam, Sophie Gustafson, Catrin Nilsmark and Maria Hjorth joined the team in the following years. By 1996, she was the head coach for all of the teams ' girls, boys, men, women, amateurs and professionals.
When Annika and Carin were on the Swedish National Team, there were very few Swedes who dared to be as good as they could be, Nilsson said. We had a lot of talent, but Swedes are known to be level and not daring. We needed to change the belief structure.
In 1991, Nilsson changed this structure by creating Vision 54 for the Swedish National Team. She had a meeting with Annika Sorenstam, Koch and the rest of the team and challenged them to birdie every hole in one round. She reminded the players that they had birdied every hole on their home course once before and now it was time to combine all 18 birdies. She also started to do a lot more on-course coaching, and even as the players turned professional, they kept receiving education and coaching.
Once one believes in the idea, like Annika does, then it is possible, Nilsson said. It is dream come true to be a coach of a player like her. Annika is always asking questions, and there is a lot of trust between us. When she shot 59, we knew it was one step closer to 54.
Nilsson is also close with Sorenstams swing coach Henri Reis. The duo has worked together in coaching the worlds best golfer.
There has always been a trio, and for many years when Annika first came to college in Arizona and her first years on Tour, Henri wasnt there, Nilsson said. A coach should be needed, not just be there to hang around. She calls me when she needs something, and its nice for her to know that I am here.
In 1998, Nilsson served as captain of the European Solheim Cup Team and in 1999, after 10 years of being the head coach, she left the Swedish National Golf Team to start Coaching for the Future (CFTF) with Lynn Marriott. After attending Arizona State University, Nilsson made Phoenix her home in the United States. So, the Swede made her home once again in ASU country, partnered with Marriott and created CFTF, based at the Legacy Golf Resort, with the goal of globally coaching players and teachers.
Lynn has her students, I have mine, and we do seminars together, Nilsson said. When we started Coaching for the Future, Lynn was the director of education at the Karsten Golf Course, and was teaching many of the Swedes. Thats when we realized we should combine our teaching and philosophies.
Nilsson believes there needs to be more instruction on the course, not just on the driving range, therefore she wanted to teach coaches her philosophies. She wants coaches around the world to think more about their own philosophies, intentions and beliefs and incorporate it into their coaching.
We are motivated and committed to evolve the experience junior golfers have to a higher level, she said. Clearly more education is needed by coaches and teachers, and we need to be innovative with making the game a fun and worthwhile activity for juniors.
Both Nilsson and Marriott are part of developing and conducting training for The First Tees Golf and Life Skills Experience. Nilsson is on the education and research advisory board of the LPGA National Education Program (NEP), a series of education programs combining hands on instruction with research-based theory. Nilsson and Marriott provide their opinions about teaching and help with coaches workshops. They will hold two seminars this year at the McDonalds LPGA Championship Presented by AIG and the U.S. Womens Open, two of the LPGAs four major championships.
In the last 15 months, Nilsson and Marriott have traveled all over the world with CFTF holding workshops and conferences. They have traveled to such countries as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Holland and Norway to conduct seminars, which include indoor and outdoor sessions where the teachers can role play and receive practical feedback about their coaching and teaching. Workshops can last from a half-day to three days depending on the function. CFTF also holds workshops in Phoenix where the company is based. CFTF consists of three primary areas: BESTCOACH, GOLF54 and GLOBALCOACH.
BESTCOACH is a coaching education and certification for golf coaches and teachers. It is based on the idea that each person can be your own best coach. Coaches and teachers are taught in seminars about the core framework of developing a vision and strategy to make the impossible possible.
GOLF54 represents the belief that human beings can score a lot lower in the future than they do today. TheGOLF54 program is based on the Vision54 concept and consists of threedayclinics where players are taught how to integrate the physical, mentaland emotional parts of golf and to practicein the most efficient way possible.
GLOBALCOACH focuses on workshops in the business world, such as Volvo, McDonalds or other sports organizations. GLOBALCOACHs intention is to provide a coaching frameworkfor human beings who want to performbetter and develop their skills. This intention can be in golf, business and life. Nilsson usually spends four or five months every year in Sweden, where she has a residence in Stockholm. She is still involved with Swedish golf and is a sounding board to the current Swedish head coach.
Nilsson is especially proud of her hometown, Malmo, Sweden, which will host the 2003 Solheim Cup at Barseback Golf and Country Club, Sept. 12-14.
I am very excited to have The Solheim Cup in my hometown, Nilsson said. We are conducting a CFTF seminar before the event, co-hosted with the Swedish Golf Federation. It will be a great opportunity for coaches to experience Sweden and CFTF, and it will help promote The Solheim Cup.
After traveling the world teaching and coaching, will the ever-busy Nilsson ever go back to playing?
I love to play, but my first priority is to teach and coach and continue learning new ways that I can help the players reach their 54.
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.
Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions
The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”
For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.
There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.
“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”
But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.
Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”
“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”
Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.
“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”
It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.
Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”
The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”
You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.
How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?
“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.
Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.
The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.
Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.
Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.
“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”
It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.
Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.
The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.
Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week
Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.
That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.
Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.
From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.
Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.
She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.
She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.
“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”
Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.
With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.
The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.
She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.
The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.