Tony Clark recounts the career highs and lows of Darren Prosser and how his positive approach to golf and life is helping him become a top coach.
Despite being a Walker Cup player and accomplished tour player, Darren Prosser’s golfing life hasn’t been an easy ride, but remaining positive and with total belief in himself he’s come through and now has a thriving coaching business, The Darren Prosser Golf Academy, at the new Kingswinford Golf Centre near Dudley.
In 1979 aged eleven and yet to play golf, Darren was taken to The Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes and watched Seve Ballesteros. So transfixed was he with Seve and The Open that he said to his Dad, “I’m going to play in this”! And just nine years later in 1988 he did.
Darren’s story is a wider story, highlighting the challenges that juniors had, and in many cases still have, in being given the opportunity to play and compete at clubs throughout the UK.
Aged twelve Darren joined Dudley Golf Club, where his elder brother was a member. At that time Dudley GC imposed restrictions on juniors which meant little golf and even less competitive play. But in 1985 a call-up for the County changed everything. Playing off six handicap, Darren was sent out at number-one, a sacrificial lamb, against a one-handicap player. A seven and six victory immediately caught the attention of Dr Bill Cunningham and Darren was invited to join Moseley Golf Club a ‘junior friendly’ club.
Within a year Darren had committed himself to full time amateur golf and in his first year, at just 16, he won The Midlands Boys Championship and qualified at Forest of Arden for the Bells National Junior Championships at Gleneagles which he WON. More county and country success followed and through 1988/89 he made the quarter finals of the British Amateur, losing to the eventual winner; was runner-up in the Berkshire Trophy; finished third in the Lytham Trophy; was eighth in the Brabazon and consequently won the coveted Philip Scrutton Jug.
In 1989 Darren, playing off plus-three, was selected to play in the Walker Cup in Peachtree, Atlanta which GB&I won. This was the first time a GB&I team had won on US soil. However on arriving in Atlanta, Darren learned he’d contracted chicken pox and after just one game had to retire. An invitation to play in the US Amateur immediately after the Walker Cup was too attractive to resist but chicken pox took its toll.
Interest in Darren was high and through his management company ProServe, he secured tournament invitations and sponsors. Car, expenses and the chance to compete against household names was hugely exciting and life-changing.
In his professional first tournament in 1989, The Motorola Classic, Darren finished fifth and collected a cheque for £3,500. Things had started well. An invitation to play in the Chile Open on his 21st birthday followed and his first round delivered six birdies and the lead. But Darren was harbouring a virus as a result of chicken pox and plagued by continual health issues with CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis – ME) diagnosed and believed to have resulted from the chicken pox virus. Darren had to spend all of 1990 and 1991 away from the game rehabilitating.
A host of injuries followed and Darren’s tournament career was restricted to regional events and the Challenge Tour and between 1989 and 2006 Darren played in just 30 European Tour events. Naturally disappointed that circumstances has gone against him, Darren was determined to make a career in golf and became attached to Three Hammers Golf Centre working under Shaun Ball.
Darren explains, “Like any kid I’d dreamed of winning The Open and I still believe that had I not contracted chicken pox things would have been very different. Of course it was a tough time but you take what life throws at you and deal with it. I’m a positive person and have a great support network but I consider myself very fortunate and I’m grateful for the life that golf has given me.”
At Three Hammers Darren was playing 75 percent of the time in regional events and pro-ams both here and overseas, and coaching 25 percent of the time.
Darren then moved on to Halfpenny Green Golf Course and with his coaching reputation growing he found himself playing less. But in March 2013 the health curse struck again when he had a double fracture of the wrist and had to take 14 months away from playing. During that time Darren travelled to meet some of the world’s leading instructors, including Peter Cowen, Butch Harmon and Dennis Sheehy, to further his swing knowledge. What impressed him most was the fact that the best kept it simple!
In 2015 Darren was given the opportunity to establish his own Academy at a new facility near Dudley in the West Midlands. In less than a year Darren has gained a significant following and having met him I can understand why. His warm personality, golfing pedigree and quiet confidence will undoubtedly assure golfers that they are in good hands.
Darren confirms, “I was extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to come to Kingswinford Golf Centre from day-one and along with general manager James Murphy, himself a scratch player at South Staffs GC, we have been allowed to have a significant input.
“My students are from all over the UK and range from beginners to professionals. I keep my coaching as simple as possible and share with my students my experience of having played at a high level. With elite players I’m able to help them in their tournament play because I’ve literally been there, done that. I know what it feels like to be leading coming down the stretch so I often become a mental coach and mentor as much as a swing coach. I’ve invested in the Academy adding GC2, GASP software a Huxley putting aid and on the recommendation of other PGA pros, PlaneSWING, which I am already having success with. Combining technology with a kinaesthetic experience accelerates learning in my view and certainly the results I’m achieving with students would support this.
I believe that at Kingswinford Golf Centre we have the perfect location and facility to bring more people into the game. Our 21 bay driving range and par-three course deliver a varied an informal and fun learning environment. I’m loving what I’m helping build here and I’m extremely positive about the future.”
Darren Prosser can be contacted at 07976 236581 and email@example.com
Tony Clark is Owner/Managing Director of PlaneSWING Golf and a business consultant with Clark Management Group Ltd He can be contacted at 01604 830880 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org