22 May 2016
By Andrew Bowen - Head of Technical
Andrew on the Wentworth course
The day before the latest tournament leg of the DP World-sponsored Race to Dubai got underway at Wentworth, London Gateway's Head of Technical, Andrew Bowen, took to the sublime Surrey golf course for a round with celebrities, pro players and sponsors.
Read about him rubbing shoulders with the stars, winning a teddy on the 14th and his fear of accidentally hitting a spectator with a stray shot!
As many of you will be aware the BMW PGA golf championship is currently being played at Wentworth Golf Course in Surrey. This is the flagship tournament in Europe for the golfers that play on the European Golf Tour and is one of the key tournaments in the end of season Race to Dubai event which is sponsored by DP World.
As part of the DP World sponsorship, the company – an enabler of global trade – hosts two groups who play on the Pro Am day at Wentworth, a round of golf played the day before the main event starts which sees sponsors, pros and celebrities complete 18 holes together.
This year it was held on a Wednesday this week. One of the groups was being hosted by a colleague from Dubai who at the last minute had to pull out. I was quietly eating my lunch in the canteen on Tuesday when I received a phone call. The caller said: “How would you like to play a round a golf tomorrow at Wentworth?”
Without thinking I said “yes” and hung up. It was only a few minutes later that I realised I had perhaps not thought this through, and that it may be one of the most stupid decisions I have ever made!
What I hadn’t thought through was playing on the championship course, off the back tees, in a tournament full of celebrities and how embarrassing this could all be. Anyway I had said yes and it was too late to pull out.
It was a very early start on the Wednesday and I had to be at the course by 6am for a quick breakfast, meet up with our guests for the day and then have quick a practice on the range. This was with the professionals, such as Masters Champion and current Race to Dubai leader Dannny Willett and a host of celebrities and sports stars, such as Aussie spin bowler Shane Warne, Manchester United legends Paul Scholes and Peter Schmeichel, One Direction’s Niall Horan and Ireland rugby player Brian O’Driscoll.
Lining up the putt: Andrew sets himself as spectators watch on
It was a shotgun start and we were to begin our round at the 12th hole. The professional playing in our group was Wang Jeung-han from Korea. He is an up and coming 20-year-old superstar who had won the two European Tour events before last week’s Irish open.
We got to the 12th tee and thankfully there were not many people around - it seemed like a normal round of golf. This, however, was soon to change. The first couple of holes went ok and I didn’t make a fool of myself. We then got to the 14th hole and to my surprise and shock, the grandstands were full of people and length of the hole was lined with people. My only thought was: “What if I hit someone?” - the ultimate hacker’s thought!
It was a cancer charity hole, so as a good citizen I gave my donation. What was better was that you won a teddy bear if you landed the ball on the green on your first shot. To my amazement I did hit the green and without hitting anyone! That was about the best part of the hole though, as I did just a gentle putt but it rolled all the way off the green! The greens were like concrete and the pins were in the craziest places.
Grandstand finish: Andrew with pro golfer Wang and his caddy at the 18th
As we continued to play the holes, more and more people arrived with eventually 20,000 spectators at the course. It was initially scary but it actually made my golf better; I ended up having a par or bogey on most holes which for a hacker like me was a pleasant surprise. I put this down to the fear of hitting someone. You had to concentrate very hard.
A highlight of the round was when we got to the 1st hole. As you will see, in the major championships the players get announced, and everyone gives a cheer and clap. There were around 5000 people lining the first hole. The pro and the two guests tee’d off, sending their shots straight down the fairway. The pressure was now on me. Could I make a complete idiot of myself in front of cameras and the people? What if I hit someone!? Anyway I hit off and to my relief, it went down the middle of the fairway. Everyone clapped and cheered. I have no idea why, I’m just a hacker from Essex!
Sadly the round finished four-and-a-half hours later. It was a great day and something I will remember for ever. I only lost one ball and that was into the water on the DP World sponsored 8th hole. It’s a challenging hole!
The pro we played with and our guests were fantastic. The crowd was fantastic and it is an experience I will never forget. If you ever get an opportunity like this, don’t get nervous, just say yes!
Korea's Wang ready to tee-off at the DP World sponsored hole
Follow Andrew on Twitter: @andrewjbowen