Paul Waring interview: Wirral golfer gets set for The Open at Royal Birkdale
Southport’s Royal Birkdale will welcome the world’s greatest golfers when it hosts The Open for the 10th time, and Paul Waring will be flying the flag for the Liverpool City Region.
YM Liverpool caught up with the Wirral pro to discuss his hopes for the tournament, golfing in Merseyside and how accessible the sport is to newcomers.
Interview by Mark Langshaw
You’re about to take part in The Open at Royal Birkdale for the second time. Does the tournament have added significance to you as a local?
I’d say so. It’s also one of my favourite golf courses, which always helps. I have great memories from 2008 as it was my first Open as a professional and it feels good to be taking them into this one.
Back then I played with Phil Mickelson, who was world number two at the time, and we both finished on the same score and ended up in the top 20. I had a huge crowd around me and it was a really positive experience.
Which of your fellow pros are you looking forward to competing with at The Open?
All of the big boys. You always want to compete against the top 10 in the world. They’re the ones you want to be amongst.
There are a few lads playing really well at the moment, like Sergio Garcia – I was made up for him when he won The Masters.
I’m always looking to try and improve and can’t think of a better way to do that than pitting myself against the best golfers in the world.
Are there likely to be any upsets or surprises this year?
The Open always throws up surprises. You can get all kinds of weather conditions throughout the day and that often has a bearing on things.
There’s such a massive contrast. Some players will get sunshine while others are hit by 30mph winds. If you get on the wrong side of the draw anything can happen.
You booked your place at The Open by finishing as joint runner-up at the Joburg Open? How did that feel?
Securing a place in my home Open meant a lot. I was also pleased for my caddy Jamie, a local lad who’s been part of my team for about six months now and is doing a great job. He’s one of my close friends so to have him alongside me is a big bonus.
“I’m always looking to try and improve and can’t think of a better way to do that than pitting myself against the best golfers in the world.”
Is golf accessible enough for youngsters who want to get involved?
To be honest no. I think it’s a global problem in our game which is viewed by some as an elitist, expensive and overly time-consuming sport.
I know the European Tour has launched some initiatives to try and get people involved like the Golf Sixes, which is the equivalent of Twenty20 cricket. That went down really well because it was a shorter format, really fun and there was more speed golf involved.
Competitors have to get around a six-hole course in under an hour and I think that will appeal to more people. Many people of the target age don’t have the time to dedicate to 18 holes.
Golf needs to offer a cheaper way into the game, a format that doesn’t take up as much time and a bit more enjoyment. Shorter courses would go some way to achieving this but I think some of the rules and etiquette could also be relaxed to allow people to rock up in their own attire.
Are there signs of things changing in this respect?
I think what the European Tour is doing is fantastic. Obviously we still play the same game, but the six-hole format makes it a lot more fun and the speed of it is a key thing. I think it’s quite important to show that golf isn’t just a slow-paced fuddy-duddy sport. There was a good number of youngsters at the Golf Sixes events.
Did you find there was support available to you as a budding pro in the Liverpool City Region?
When I was younger I’d say there definitely was. My entry point came through things like junior opens and county golf. You need to be at a certain level for those events but at Bromborough Golf Club where I practise they have junior coaching for those seeking a way in. Initiatives like this are great because they bring kids together and add a social side to golf.
It’s often the case that they will make friends at the coaching sessions and go out and play golf with them in the future. This is helping the sport attract a younger audience.
How do you rate the courses and golf facilities in the region?
The facilities are certainly there in the Liverpool City Region and it’s good that there are people here who are trying to make the sport funkier, like Ghetto Golf for instance.
That sort of thing is great because it makes golf more accessible and brings out the game’s fun side. You can even have a few beers while you’re doing it.
Has being from the Liverpool City Region proved beneficial to your sporting career?
We’ve got a great sporting background in this region. There are some top football teams like Liverpool and Everton – it was a shame Tranmere Rovers missed out on promotion this season. We’ve also got some great athletes over this way and that inspired me to get into sport.
From a golf point of view, we have some great courses here like Formby, Southport & Ainsdale, Hillside, Birkdale and Royal Liverpool. I think there are about 11 courses in Wirral – it’s prime golf real estate. Because it’s so easy to find places to play golf in the Liverpool City Region it’s made it easier for me to get around and make friends within the sport.
What advice would you give to youngsters who are looking to get into golf?
It’s important to find something you enjoy about the game. People are always asking ‘what does it take to make it to pro level’ but that’s just placing stress on the kids when they should be out there enjoying themselves.
I always dreamed of playing professionally and competing at major tournaments but I was never putting too much pressure on myself to achieve that.
It was a natural progression of what I was doing at the time, but it started off as a fun game to me and that’s the key.