LANCASHIRE has a proven track record of producing top amateur golfers.
But there is no sign of the county resting on its laurels with the appointment of its first director of coaching.
The Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs – which oversees the men’s game across the 140 clubs registered in the region – has strengthened its coaching set-up with the announcement of Craig Lea’s new role.
Lea has been head PGA Advanced golf professional/coach at Myerscough College and the University of Central Lancashire in Preston for the last 12 years and is the author of a number of coaching guides, which have been published in 30 countries worldwide.
Phil Harvey, secretary of the Lancashire Golf Union, explained: “Lancashire has been very successful over the past decade at the elite level and our county coaching programmes have expanded greatly in the past five years.
“We feel it’s the right time to bring in a new role as director of coaching to help knit all the elements of our programme together and also to keep us at the leading edge of player performance and continuing to develop winning teams at all age groups.”
Lancashire has an enviable track record having won eight national titles in the past 12 years at seniors, men and boys level while more than 200 players are involved in county coaching programmes, from age 12 up.
Ryder Cup hero Tommy Fleetwood, from Southport – who is hosting the British Masters at Hillside next year – is one of the notable players to have come through the Lancashire ranks.
“The existing county coaches will continue to be involved and will work closely with Craig to build on our existing work and develop a new coaching and mentoring environment which we hope will continue Lancashire’s history of success at the highest levels,” added Harvey.
“Craig will bring drive and attention to finer golfing details to the role, creating an understanding of how a player works in the heat of a battle and how to get the best out of them.”
Reflecting on his body of work so far, Lea, who has seen the Myerscough side finish as national champions in six out of the last nine years, said: “The programme which I have installed has evolved with a huge emphasis surrounding scoring and performance-based coaching to stand up under pressure.
“Obviously I don’t want to give too many secrets away, but basically this revolves around implementing technical improvements into a game-based environment to take into tournament play. Creating players to deal with one shot situations under pressure rather than just focusing on swinging the golf club.
“Everything I work towards in coaching has measurable results for each individual player, which creates a clear action plan of improvement.”
Lea has worked with a number of players who have gone on to join the professional ranks, with Chris Hanson and Tom Murray, who are on the European and Challenge Tour at the moment, coming through the Myerscough coaching programme, as well as Paul Kinnear, a former England amateur international who qualified for The Open Championship in 2015.
UCLAN, too, has enjoyed its share of team success, while former Lancashire county player Louis Tomlinson (Haydock Park) was selected for the 2014 European Palmer Cup to play the USA, with teammates including Jon Rahm and Paul Dunne with Bryson Dechambeau in the opposition ranks.
Louis has since received a full scholarship to Arkansas, USA, and is based in Florida playing the US amateur schedule.
Lea, 37, played junior golf for Blackpool North Shore while playing Lancashire county and national championships, winning the Lancashire Open Amateur before turning professional in 2003 and joining Myerscough College in 2006 to lead their coaching programme.
CAPTION: Craig Lea, left, at work on the practice ground with Paul Kinnear at the 2015 Open Championship