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The SMART Interview #15 Sam Torrance

  • SamTorrance
  • 18 Aug 2014

Sam Torrance's remarkable golfing career spans 44 tournament wins. He had eight consecutive outings for the European Ryder Cup team, sinking the winning put at the Belfry in 1985 to deny the Americans for the first time in 28 years, and captaining the winning European Ryder Cup team in 2002 to a 3 point victory. So, what does it take to succeed at this level?

At Heathrow Express we like to celebrate doing things that bit smarter. Each month we seek out someone who really exemplifies this approach to work and life and we ask them some questions. This month: golfing legend Sam Torrance OBE.

The next Ryder cup is in Scotland in September and you're a vice captain. Can Europe retain the trophy - again?

Yes, I’m confident that we can. Europe are on a bit of a roll at the moment, having won five of the last seven Ryder Cups but, saying that, you can never under estimate the opposition. We’ve players such as Kaymer, McIlroy, Rose, Stenson and Garcia already locked into our team, and with each of their recent successes, it’s really as strong as it gets.

As a highly successful Ryder cup captain you must have learnt a lot about motivating players. Any tips for getting the best out of a team?

I think it’s important to keep the team members relaxed, but at the same time focussed. It’s a high pressure week, so some relaxation is key. With my team in 2002, I found out exactly what they all enjoyed and made sure it was available to them. For example, if the Spanish like to have olive oil for breakfast, make sure it’s there!

Sir Alex Ferguson is someone you've turned to for advice about managing teams? Was his advice useful?

Yes, it was great to speak to him. He spoke to me about having no superstars in the team and treating each man equally. Egos are to be left at the door! It was valuable advice. 

Success in golf requires immense focus. Do you just click into the zone or are there routines you use and habits you can develop?

Being truly in the zone has only happened to me a handful of times in my career. I wish I knew where the door was!

Sam Torrance, Golfing Legend
Image: Sam Torrance

If you miss a high pressure putt - how do you come back from it?

Everything that happens is gone immediately. You need to get on with your next shot and block out the past. It’s easier said than done, but it’s really what makes the difference.  

How important is technology these days? Have clubs in particular changed much since you started playing?

Personally, I feel that technology is hugely important and clubs have changed enormously during my career. I hit the ball further at 60 years of age than I did when I was 25, and it’s nothing to do with my swing. The manufacturers now offer a custom fit service to anyone buying clubs and this makes such a difference as there is something to suit all handicaps.

You're also a golf course designer. How do you make a course stand out as different?

I think it’s important for them to be a good and fair test of golf. Too many these days seem to be built for the long hitter, which ruins it for 98% of the golfing public.

Do you still travel much? Is there a particular part of the world you love to visit and why?

To say Scotland would be stating the obvious, but I really enjoy Dubai as a destination. The weather there is so consistent and there’s something for all members of the family to do. I’ve also loved visiting Australia as they have unbelievable golf courses on the sand belt area around Melbourne, plus some beautiful beaches, which suits my affinity with the sea. I’ve been very lucky to see so much of the world and I just love experiencing so many different places, people and cultures.

What do you always take with you when you travel and why?

I’m a bit of a techno-geek and love the latest gadgets. I certainly couldn’t do without my iPad and iPhone though, for books, films, series and music.

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