Jamie Bower is hoping to reap some big benefits for his golf as he spends the next six weeks playing in South Africa.
The 22-year-old from Meltham – he also practices and plays at Crosland Heath and Woodsome Hall – will represent England in six championship tournaments while he’s there.
Bower, however, sees the trip as a fantastic warm-weather opportunity to develop his game in the hope he can this year break into the top 50 of the world rankings and gain entry to the US Amateur Championship, which is at Oakland Hills in August.
A semi-finalist in the English Amateur who tied sixth in the European Amateur, Bower can’t wait to get cracking in the Rainbow nation.
“I’m fed up of wearing four layers and trying to swing the club, so I can’t wait to get some sun out there,” said Bower, who visited the country a few years ago with his grandfather, Harry Haworth, and played in the SA Amateur.
“Two of the tournaments are up north, another is at Leopard Creek, which I’m really looking forward to playing, and then there are three down south in the Cape.
“It should be really good and I’m just looking for improvements in my long game – my driving and my irons – because that’s what I’ve been working on.
“I’m not really going to be too focused on my results, it’s more about developing my game alongside playing and performing. In those warm conditions, I should be able to get a lot of putting and short-game practice as well, so all in all it’s a really good opportunity.”
Bower is playing alongside England colleagues Paul Kinnear (Formby), Alfie Plant (Sundridge Park) and Sean Towndrow (Southport & Ainsdale) in South Africa, when their events are the
Gauteng North Strokeplay (January 28-30 at Irene Golf Club), the South African Strokeplay (February 2-5 at Blue Valley), the African Open (February 10-13 at Leopard Creek), the Southern Cape Open Strokeplay (February 18-20 at Mossel Bay), the Cape Province Open (February 23-25 at Kingswood Golf Estate) and the South African Amateur (Feb 28- Mar 4 at George).
“I know all the lads because we are in the England training squad and went to Portugal together last year,” said Bower.
“I’ve known Paul since we were 14 or 15 and we’ve played a lot of golf together over the years.
“We all get on well, though, so it should be very enjoyable.”
Bower has received coaching this winter from Alan Thompson, the England Golf Union long-game coach who is based at Heswall Golf Club on the Wirral.
“It’s a bit of a drive over there, but I got to know Alan through England and I’ve been seeing him for personal lessons for the past two years,” he explained.
“I’ve been pretty much working on my long game, driving and irons, in preparation for South Africa because that’s what we’ve identified as a weakness in my game. I’ve been up at Woodsome Hall, too, putting in a lot of work.
“I tend to use the driving range at Woodsome, the short-game facilities at Crosland Heath and then play whenever I can at Meltham, so I split my time between the three.”
Bower flies out to South Africa today and doesn’t return until March 6.
“It’s not a Walker Cup year – I missed out on that last time – but there is the St Andrews Trophy, when GB &I play Continental Europe, and that’s a bit of a target for me at the back of my mind this year,” added Bower.
“As I’ve said, the top 50 in the World Rankings is another, but my focus is on developing my game. If I do that, and work on the things which need working on to improve, then the results should take care of themselves.
“That’s the way I’m looking at it.”
Bower admits he has taken inspiration from Chris Hanson’s progression to the full European Tour.
“It’s massive really and Chris is putting Huddersfield golf on the map really,” he said.
“After a few years struggling to get there, it’s great to see Chris finally make this breakthrough and see a local lad doing so well.
“Hopefully he will go on to bigger and better things and, hopefully, I can follow him in the future.”