A streak of success has one young Northumberland golfer dreaming of a great future.
E very sportsperson has a four-letter word lodged at the back of their mind. They’re either in it or out of it and none of them really knows when their particular status will alter.
Form is a small word but it drips with huge implications in the sporting world – not to mention the effect it has on opponents. You’re either in form or out of form and it depends on a multitude of factors which state you’re in – mental attitude, physical fitness, confidence, or that old-fashioned thing called luck.
Take Newcastle United’s Papiss Cissé as a high-profile example – in the Premier League season just finished, it seemed he hardly had to take a swipe at a football before it flew into the back of the net. Thirteen goals in 14 games is astonishing by any measure.
Having 52,000 fans chanting your name might help the confidence part of the form equation, but for 22-year-old Mathew Webb, being out in a wet and windy Northumberland golf course with only a group of opponents and several seagulls for company comes every bit as close.
Mathew, son of Bedlingtonshire Golf Club pro Marcus Webb, has started the golf season like a train – in the month of May he won four tournaments inside five days and twice finished second a few days later. Consequently, he’s beginning to make a name for himself not only in and around the North East, but nationally as well. And, if the form holds and the concentration isn’t deflected by all the distractions that 22-year-olds have thrown at them, the wins-to-games ratio will soon rival The Toon’s latest number nine sensation.
“I always seem to do well in May,” says Webb, whose initial shyness disguises a firm self-belief. “It’s the start of the golf season and I’m fresh, but I couldn’t really tell you why it is. Enthusiasm maybe. Last year I was very busy and felt I’d played too many tournaments and did an awful lot of travelling. I probably played too much golf and I feel I perform better when I’m fresh.”
Mathew Webb is now a full-time golfer and worked during the winter months with a wine company to earn the money that helps him traipse around the country, gaining experience, getting his face known, and trying to beat the best in the business.
“I’m playing in tournaments most weeks, maybe one through the week nationally and a couple at weekends which are local,” he says. “I sometimes travel with fellow-golfers Phil Ridden and Mark Penny so you’re not alone – and there’s plenty of banter, you’ve got to have a bit of banter.”
Having a golf pro as your father can’t have been easy when all you and your brother want to do is play football – with a little bit of golf thrown in to keep dad off your back. But Webb junior didn’t experience anything of the “pushy parent” – quite the opposite, in fact.
“I played a bit of golf at school and qualified two years in a row for the English Schools Championship. I played in America on a golf scholarship at the Wayland Baptist University in Texas which was a great experience – you didn’t just learn about golf you learnt a lot about life, living by yourself. You focus on your goals.”
Back on this side of the Atlantic, he finished second at the Hacienda de Alamo Futures Tournament in November 2011, playing as an amateur in a professional tournament on Spain’s longest golf course. It obviously gee’ed him up.
Mathew Webb’s recent run of form resulted in him winning the Northumberland North and South County Tournament at Newcastle United Golf Club on May 5, then on May 7 he triumphed in the CIU tournament at Bedlington, murdering the course with a seven-under 66. On May 8 – again at Bedlington – he came first (best gross) in his own club’s monthly medal, and on May 9 he took the Northumberland Durham Alliance Championship, played at Tynemouth, beating PGA professional Stuart Ord (Hobson Golf Club) by one stroke.
On May 13, he came joint second in the Seaton Salver at Seaton Carew, and a week later finished second in the Northumberland Strokeplay Championship at Bellingham – a competition he won in 2011.
So, is there any secret to a run of success, a role model, perhaps whose style can be studied and the good bits absorbed?
“I just wanted to get out and win and take each hole at a time,” he says. “They’re normally 36-hole competitions so if you have a bad hole you just have to forget about it. Then, if you have a good one you have to bring yourself down – a bad hole, bring yourself up.
“Normally before the practice round I’ll look at my weakest areas and what I need for that particular golf course. I’d like to be on a European Tour in two or three years’ time, that’s the stepping stone to competing against the best players in the world. I want to play golf for a living – and if you’ve got the right head on your shoulders and work hard you can do it. Winning gives you confidence. You need to be confident in golf.”
Mathew Webb has the confidence; he works out at the gym, so he’s physically prepared; he is focused and he’s in form. All of that makes “luck”, but there’s another four-letter word that rules his young life.