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Old friends team up at new academy

FORMER European Tour star Phil Archer is to team up with long time golfing buddy and Poulton Park pro Freddy Valenti to create a new teaching academy in his hometown of Warrington.

The Players Golf Academy will be based at Poulton Park and will make use of the club’s existing £80,000 short game area and Freddy’s indoor teaching room.

The pair became friends almost 30 years ago as junior golfers at nearby Birchwood when Phil played a lot of golf with Freddy’s older brother Steven.

For Phil, who will also do some coaching from the recently re-located Tour X studio near Wigan, the opening of the academy will signal a new career path having played full-time for the previous 23 years.

“It’s something Freddy and I have spoken about for a couple of years,” said Phil.

The 43-year-old added: “We were quite close to doing something this time last year but I finished third in a European Tour event in Denmark and that put things on the back burner for 12 months.

“This year was the first time I hadn’t enjoyed myself on tour so the timing is good to start doing some coaching while still competing on a regional and national level next season.

“I am still passionate about playing and will compete in some Challenge Tour events but I am really looking forward to being at home more with my wife and two young children. My oldest son Jack had started asking why I’m away so much and I think that struck a chord.”

Phil, who will keep his attachment with Birchwood, was one of the European Tour’s few PGA qualified pros, having served his three-year apprenticeship under Derrick Cooper and the late Paul McEwan at Birchwood in 1990-93.

“I enjoyed the bits of coaching I did back then and have done little bits since with family and friends. I’m now looking forward to getting up to speed with the Flightscope and Trackman technology that I’ll have access to,” said Phil, who pinpointed being part of the winning Seve Trophy team in 2007 and playing in four Majors (two US Opens and two Open Championships) as the highlights of his successful playing career.

Freddy said: “The short game area here at Poulton Park is the only one of its kind in the region so was already a real ‘pull factor’, but for local golfers to now be able to tap into the skill and expertise of a former European Tour pro is priceless.

“He’s spent time in the past getting advice from the likes of Australia’s Brett Rumford, who is known as having probably the best short game in golf. It’s this sort of knowledge that you just won’t find anywhere else in the North West.”

Freddy, 40, is also developing a reputation for his coaching skills and currently boasts up-and-coming stars Haydn McCullen, Oliver Clarke and Jon Beesley among his students.

“I suppose I’m making myself a bit of a short game specialist,” added the Scotsman who employs Lancashire star Sean Blinkhorn and Alex Pritchard at his Poulton Park shop.

The pair will also look to get involved in more corporate events and run VIP golf trips for small groups to Europe.

“We’re hoping to take the first group away in March,” said Manchester United fan Phil. “The trips will involve some coaching as well as competition golf.”

In the meantime the pair will focus their efforts on the new academy.

“We’re both really excited about the venture,” said Phil, who joined Birchwood at the age of eight. “It will be nice to give something back to people from the area where I came through the ranks all those years ago.”

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