Now Pete Cowen can die in peace. Or at least, as the 65-year-old golf instructor put it, “retire.”
There is an old saying that no one wins a major alone. Henrik Stenson, the “champion golfer of the year” after his British Open victory Sunday at Royal Troon (Scotland) Golf Club, will be the first to say that he has stood on many shoulders and accepted many helping hands. None, perhaps, more so than from Cowen, Stenson’s longtime coach.
Stenson started working with Cowen in 2001. Cowen has coached several players to major championships, including Louis Oosthuizen and Darren Clarke, who won British Open titles in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Cowen could have coached three Claret Jug winners in a row, but Lee Westwood took three putts on the 72nd green to miss a playoff at Turnberry in 2009.
It already had been a fruitful year for Cowen as Danny Willett, whom Cowen coaches with colleague Mike Walker, slipped into a green jacket in April. Speaking ahead of the U.S. Open at Oakmont in June, Cowen conceded that his only remaining goal was to see Stenson achieve his major moment.
“I love him to death,” Cowen said. “It’s a personal thing with me. I have to get him over the line. I have to do it before I go. I’m trying desperately to get him over the line. I could probably retire then.”
Stenson credits Cowen for helping rebuild his swing when he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Said Thomas Bjorn, another longtime Cowen disciple, of Stenson’s ability to rebound from the lowest of lows: “He’s stuck with it, and that’s what you’ve got to do. He’s a great example to any golfer out there that might not be playing their best. Stick with it, and you can come through on the other side.”
Of their longstanding relationship, Cowen said in a 2015 Golfweek story of Stenson: “I’ve gotten rid of him three times, but he keeps coming back. He’s mad. He’s nuts. But he’s very loyal, and there’s not much loyalty anymore.”
Stenson’s take? “I owe him a lot. He’s put in so much hard work with me over the years. I’m pleased to have him by my side.”
There’s also some upside coming Cowen’s way for getting Stenson over the line. If Cowen does drive off into the sunset, he can do so in style. Stenson had long ago promised to purchase Cowen an Aston-Martin car when he hit major paydirt.
But don’t expect Cowen to call it quits just yet. So what should his new goal be? Maybe Cowen can work his magic and get pupil Westwood across the line next.