Mark Mouland, who next week defends his title at the Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship, has come full circle in his career – if not in geographical terms, then certainly in respect of his golf.
After a career that has spanned the globe, it is apt that he finds himself a teaching pro at Nailcote Hall which is the very course over which he won the coveted short course crown last year.
He beat European Tour pro Lee Slattery into second place after firing a five-under-par total of 103 over two days of “intensely competitive but fun golf”.
With rounds of 53 and 50 – the pros play two loops each day of the nine-hole Cromwell Course – Mouland demonstrated that the short game is paramount. He offers a simple explanation.
“When I was learning the game, I didn’t like hitting longer shots during practice because I never fancied going to pick up all the balls,” he said. “So I spent all my time chipping and putting.
“For me to end up at Nailcote Hall giving short game lessons is ideal. I may have an advantage because every time I give a lesson I get to practise on this course.”
Local knowledge, he admits, also helps. Having succeeded his father Sid as head pro at Nailcote Hall he has garnered an in-depth knowledge of all the subtle variations on the greens.
“There is no doubt about it this is a tough course,” he insists. “But it is fun to play and anyone can enjoy a round here. True, some people –including pros – have dismissed it as a pitch and putt but, once they have played it, they come away with an altogether different impression.
“It isn’t easy, particularly when the wind is up. You have to think your way around this course but that is half the enjoyment of golf.”
Mouland hopes for dry warm weather “with a bit of breeze to make it interesting” next week when the festivities get under way with the first of the Celebrity-Amateur Challenges on Tuesday, culminating in the Grand Finale on Friday.
Sandwiched in between is the professional tournament which sees leading players from the European and challenge Tours as well as regional professionals from throughout the UK, vying for a share of the £25,000 prize fund.
Mouland, now 48, is one of the most widely travelled golfers in the game, having played in close on 1,000 events – possibly a record – and he will recount tales of playing alongside golfing legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and a young amateur kid who went by the unusual name of Tiger Woods.
“I remember the Open at Troon being drawn in the first two rounds with Nicklaus and Larry Mize, who had just beaten Greg Norman at The Masters.
“I get to the first tee and I am shaking in my boots. I’m not religious but I thought ‘Oh please God, just let me make a good contact here!’ I hit it into the semi-rough on the left... ‘thankyou God! I’ll go to church, I promise.’
“I walk off the tee and all I see ahead is a shock of blond hair and I’m thinking to myself how on earth am I going to start a conversation with the greatest golfer who has ever lived?
“He must have read my mind because he turns and says ‘hey Mark did you see that beautiful girl at the tee with the very short skirt and long legs?
“I said I did but I didn’t think he would be looking and, with that, he put his arm round me and said ‘Mark, the day I stop looking at pretty girls, with longs legs and a short skirt is the day I retire!’
“With that I realised he was human and we had a great two days. That’s golf!”
n?The Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship takes place from August 4-7 at Nailcote Hall, Warwickshire. For further information please call Champions (UK) Plc on 0845 331 3031.