Golf: Kevin Craggs’ girls keep swinging to success

THEY say there’s a good woman behind every successful man. It can work the other way, too, as a string of successes in women’s golf have illustrated over the past week.

Melissa Reid won last weeks Turkish Airlines Ladies Open. Picture: Getty

That has proved a fruitful spell for coach Kevin Craggs as three of his players – Melissa Reid, Clara Young and Kylie Walker – have all accomplished notable achievements.

Reid’s win in the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open got the ball rolling; Young put another feather in Craggs’ cap by becoming the Scottish Women’s champion and Walker added icing to the cake by qualifying for the US Women’s Open.

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Add in Catriona Matthew, Craggs’ star pupil, recently chalking up her 100th top-ten finish on the LPGA Tour and the Bonnybridge-based guru is enjoying the best spell of his coaching career.

Kylie Walker has qualified for the US Womens Open. Picture: Getty

“It is fantastic,” said Craggs, who is now completely independent after cutting his ties with both the Scottish Ladies Golfing Association – he was their national coach for eight years – and the Scottish Golf Union.

“Melissa winning was an emotional one for me as she’s had an incredible journey,” he added of the English player having returned to the winner’s circle two years after the death of her mother in a car crash. “To have helped bring her back after being as low as she was, both in her career and personal life, has been great.

“Clara winning the Scottish Women’s Championship [her triumph at Monifieth came two years after the teenager had lost in the final] is also a great story because it took two and a half years to completely rebuild her swing, while it’s been a case of continuation for Kylie after her two wins on the Ladies European Tour last season.”

“Team KC”, as he calls it, also now includes two other LET players, Vikki Laing and Becky Brewerton, with Craggs now believing that he offers the complete package in terms of support for players.

“I’m finding myself more than a guy that stands on a mat and gives golf lessons,” he said. “I’m looking at how players can improve standards both on the golf course and off it. We’ve done that with Melissa and that’s going to reflect in how she performs on the golf course.

“What I’ve learned on my own journey is that it’s not just a grip change, a hip or backswing change. That’s only part of it. The whole picture is looking at someone. My opening line to any of them is: ‘If you want me to teach you, I don’t really need to know you. But, if you want me to coach you, I need to know everything about you’. And, in a way, I run the lives of the players in ‘Team KC’ on and off the course.”

Having already caught the attention of players from outwith Scotland, Craggs is confident it won’t be too long before his stable of players also includes a male Tour golfer, insisting there is no reason why he can’t help the opposite gender enjoy similar success.

“It is purely by coincidence that I am working with more high-profile women than men at the moment,” he said

“I haven’t proactively gone out and looked for European Tour players and I haven’t pro-actively looked for female Tour players. It’s just people who have knocked at the door.

“Sometimes you find yourself being labelled as a female coach, but that’s not strictly true because, if you look at my diary, it is 80 per cent male versus 20 per cent female. I’ve got a couple of young Italian lads that are doing well and also coach my son, Ben, who is a recent recruit to the professional ranks. Whether you are male or female, the coaching development is exactly the same.”

Having helped new recruit Reid get back to winning ways, Craggs is quietly confident that Matthew can do likewise as the North Berwick woman gears up for an exciting run that includes two majors – the Women’s PGA Championship and US Women’s Open.

“Catriona is a great example to every upcoming professional, male and female,” he insisted. “She keeps herself fit, she keeps herself healthy. She works incredibly hard and has a great balanced lifestyle. She is always open to new ideas and we are working on a few things with her movement right now. I said a few weeks ago that I was confident Melissa would win soon and I predict that Catriona is not far away from a win as well – she is very close.”