'Ultimate range rat' brings the best out of Europe

Lee Westwood of England with his coach Pete Cowen during a practice session at the Worksop Golf Club in England.

Lee Westwood of England with his coach Pete Cowen during a practice session at the Worksop Golf Club in England.

Amid the praise showered on the European Tour last week in Dubai, one man went almost unnoticed, going silent about his business, as he always does.

Yet, he’s played a huge role in Europe’s success this year.

You’ll find coach Pete Cowen on the driving range at most European Tour events. He is the ultimate range rat. Morning to night you’ll find the quiet, affable Yorkshire man watching his players hitting balls.

Just as well for Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen. Westwood has reached world No. 1 under Cowen’s tutelage. McDowell and Oosthuizen entered the major club this year with wins in the U.S. Open and British Open, respectively. It’s debatable whether or not they would have achieved these successes without Cowen’s help.

And that’s only the tip of Cowen’s stable of players. He has 24 players in total, and many can point to almost immediate turnaround from Cowen’s instruction.

Westwood is a long-term project. He hit the skids in 2002 when he sank to 75th on the European Order of Merit. Under Cowen’s teaching, he has not only regained his place at the top of the European tree but has become a contender in majors, too.

Asked recently on BBC Radio 5 Live what he could possibly teach Westwood at this stage in his career, Cowen’s answer revealed an erudite mind.

“The road to success is always under construction,” Cowen replied.

Of course, Westwood and company are the marquee names in Cowen’s portfolio but he seems just as comfortable with players further down the food chain.

Pablo Martin took the European Tour by storm in 2007 when he won the Portuguese Open as an amateur – the first amateur to win on the Euro Tour. Two years later and Martin, a former All-American at Oklahoma State, had lost his way.

Cowen soon got him back to playing the way he did when he dominated college golf.

“He had just got too mechanical with his swing, and he’s not that type,” Cowen said. “He’s more a feel player, so we had to come up with ways to get more feel back in his game.”

Cowen introduced a drill that had Martin throwing a tennis ball to help him feel how he should be releasing the clubhead. The teaching paid off in December last year when Martin won the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.

Cowen’s approach to golf instruction isn’t systematic, unlike other coaches.

“You have to work with the individual, with what works for them,” he said. “Everyone is different. Not everyone is built the same way. They have different idiosyncrasies. You have to adapt to each individual.”

Cowen spent 10 years on the European Tour without much success. The same can’t be said about his time on tour now. He might just be the intangible that has shaped much of Europe’s success on the world stage this year.

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