Surrey U14s Lead Coach Matt Antell has developed a growing reputation for developing talented juniors from his base at Reigate Hill Golf Academy.
Recently awarded PGA Advanced Professional status in recognition of his coaching achievements, Matt has led Surrey sides to back-to-back championships in the South-East Inter Counties League.
Matt is also the South East regional coach to the England U16 girls squad and the Lead Coach to Whitgift School’s Golf Academy - a programme which has produced national schools champions for each of the last 4 years.
Date of Birth – 11/03/1985
Current Club – Reigate Hill
Turned Pro – 2007
Clubs in the bag – Nike
Favourite club in the bag – Putter
At what age did you start playing golf and which club did you start at?
I was introduced to the game (before I can remember!) by my grandparents who are both lifelong members at Romsey Golf Club in Hampshire. As a child I played a range of sports to a high level and although my early passion was cricket, golf became my primary focus from around the age of 15. I played as a member at Romsey and Bramshaw golf clubs before going away to university.
Who was / is your biggest influence?
The players I work with! They challenge me is to help them solve problems and to find solutions in their own pursuit of success. I am therefore constantly having to refine my coaching practice and seek new was to improve my own coaching skills to meet these challenges.
From a learning perspective, I am fortunately to work alongside two of the best practitioners in golf - European Tour coach Hugh Marr and golf biomechanist Dr Mark Bull. This provides me (and the players I work with) with a unique opportunity to learn from them and to share experiences with some of the best players in the game.
Which is your favourite Surrey course (apart from the one you are resident at) and why?
I love Hankley Common. There is something very special about the whole experience - the landscape, the views, the design and the condition of course. It is always a pleasure to get an invite to play there.
Which is your favourite course worldwide?
Nowhere can beat the St Andrews golf experience! It is a must for any golfer.
What course is on your bucket list that you have not played yet?
As watching The Masters on TV was one of my earliest golfing memories and having seen so many iconic moments there it would have to be Augusta National.
What have been the highlights of your career?
Every time I see a player achieve a personal goal or leave a lesson having acquired a new skill is a highlight. The experience of building trusting relationships and having a positive influence on the development of a young person or on the leisure time of a recreational player is very fulfilling and at the heart of the joy of coaching.
From a personal coaching perspective 2015 was a special year as I coached the winners of all but one of the junior county champions (u12s, u13s, u14s, u15s, u16s and u21s) as well as the winner of the Surrey Rookie Tour. In addition, the Surrey U14s retained the Inter-Counties League Title and Whitgift School won the national HMC Singles, Strokeplay & Foursomes Championships.
Which Surrey club has the best half way hut?
My former club Tyrrells Wood has a fantastic half way hut. It’s position between the 1st and 10th tees (next to the putting green in front of the clubhouse) makes it not only a great place to get a drink and a bite to eat but its also the main meeting point for people before a round and mid-round when you meet people who have completed the other half of the course.
The club’s great culture of stopping for a tea break ‘at the turn’ can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you're playing! I know many tales of rounds collapsing after the usual inquisitions from other members waiting gleefully to hear how you are playing after 9! There have also been some very good match play recoveries after a strategically prolonged half time pit stop!
What advice would you give to the Surrey youngsters wanting to turn professional?
Surround yourself with good people and better players. The behave
ours and attitudes of others will influence many of the choices you make, so choose the right environments for you in which to learn, practice and play.
It is also worth noting that many of the best players were not the best amongst their peer group at a younger age. So do not always judge yourself against others. Reflect instead on your own abilities and forge your own path. That is where having an experienced mentor is key - be that a trusted friend, a former player or a good coach.
What do you enjoy doing off the course?
I have two young boys who I love to spend as much time with as possible. Fortunately for me (unfortunately for my wife!) they are both sports mad too so we can share lots of father and son time together playing football, cricket, golf etc or going to watch football - whether it’s the local senior side for their team Three Bridges or to the Olympic Stadium to watch their favourite team West Ham United.
I could kill a few birds with one stone by playing a round at Augusta National with my two boys - Lewis and Joshua - and Tiger Woods. I think he knows the place well enough to show us the way around…
If you could change one aspect, rule or thing about golf, what would it be and why?
The time it takes to play a round. I believe strongly that golf needs to offer more variety regarding the size of course people can play - whether that is 6 holes or 9 holes - in addition to the traditional 18 hole layout.
Like in other sports, the purest form of the game at an elite level is always going to be the longer format, 72 hole stroke play, like 90 minute football or 5 day Test cricket but at a junior and at a recreational level the games various stakeholders need to be encouraging and in some cases insisting that shorter formats are made available by clubs.
You wouldn’t play a 90 minute football match on a full size pitch at 10 years old - yet we expect juniors to play 18 hole stroke play off the mens tees. In football and in cricket we have also witnessed a real growth in recreational participation with 5-a-side and T20 formats on offer to those who are short on leisure time. Golf needs to be able to offer this sector of the population (most people with a full-time job and/or a young family!) with the option to play regular club events after work or within a shorter time frame on a weekend.