South African Brandon Stone had a blistering performance in the Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Club which saw him narrowly miss a 59 for an amazing final round of 60 which clinched the prestigious European Tour title. He carded 8 birdies and an eagle during the final round, on his way to a 4 shot victory over the field.
Behind the scenes, Stone has been visiting PGA of South Africa member and Certified Putting Instructor (CPI) Derek James of Southbroom Golf Club a number of times over the last couple of years, fine tuning his short game and putting.
“With the last coaching session we focused on simply getting back to his natural swing, including his putting where we focused on pace, strike and holding his finish,” said James, who is a short game wizard with around 65% of the lessons he gives being focused on the scoring zone.
“For me, all golfers should learn to putt. The shots that can be gained are greater for putting than driving. If you have 30 putts instead of 37, you have saved 7 shots. With a driver you will never do that.
“I always encourage putting lessons and have helped all levels of golfers with their putting. Many South African based professionals come and see me for full swing and putting, such as Brandon and many others.”
James was one of the first PGA professionals in South Africa to become a CPI.
“The CPI Course is fantastic. It provides structure, simplicity and allows you to understand why something causes something else to happen.
“Before I spent time with Frank and Valerie and started using the CPI Course I would look at putting on its own, without the same knowledge of cause and effect. The CPI teachings made me more aware of that.
“I would say that the CPI has allowed me to become a better coach and a better putter myself. I think that is important. If you personally do something better, you will be able to coach better.”
James is an outstanding player himself, having represented South Africa 5 times (once in the World Amateur Championships) and is a past winner of the South African Strokeplay Championship. He competed on the Sunshine Tour for 14 years, winning 8 times and was runner up to Ernie Els in the 1992 South African Open, and won The Players Championship in Canada when he played on the Canadian Tour from 1993-1995.
He has had exposure to the top playing professionals from whom he has learned secrets of the short game. Gary Player, Mark McNulty and John Bland to name just a few.
James extols the value of learning to use the putter to improving scoring for world class champions like Stone and the everyday club golfer.
“The putter is the club. I would encourage younger pros to learn as much as they can about putting, and the CPI course provides this as well as an understanding of putter technology. Putting should be valued by pros and amateurs alike. It is a skill that everyone can learn.”
Frank Thomas, founder of Frankly Golf, former longtime USGA Technical Director, inventor of the graphite shaft and the person who introduced the Stimpmeter to the game, said
“It is not often that one comes across a professional with such vast experience and talents as Derek James. I can truly say I have never met someone who loves the game so much and wants to teach others to do the same. His recognition of the importance of putting is refreshing and indicative of why he is considered one of the best coaches in South Africa, excelling in the short game. His willingness to learn and his curiosity has made him into the expert he is and we are proud to have him as a member of the CPI family. The fact he has been able to help Brandon Stone develop and fine tune his game to win the Scottish Open is indicative of Derek’s teaching talents.”