Interview – Maarten Lafeber accompanied with Neils Kraaij (Coach- Team Holland).

This week The Gecko Tour was honoured to have the 6 ft 5 tall Dutch golfing star Maarten Lafeber competing against the field. Winner of the 2003 KLM Dutch Open on the European Tour, winner on the Challenge Tour as well as former Dutch, Swiss and Spanish Amateur Champion. After finishing the course set-up, the Gecko on the Wall spotted the Dutchman in the restaurant and stopped for a quick chat.

Q Hi Maarten, thanks for taking the time to have a chat with me. You are one of the biggest names, if not the biggest, that I have met while working on the Tour, what brings you out to Spain?

“Well I didn’t manage to qualify for my full tour card this season. I had a few months off, so I went back to Florida, (I live there as well) before coming home to Holland. I spoke with my coaches and we were going to fly back to America for a few events before the start of The Challenge Tour in Madeira next week. I saw that Tim Sluiter was playing here and I was looking for a place to have some good competition. Going back to the States seemed like too much travelling. I have a Swedish coach and Neils (he points to the Dutch national team coach sitting by his side) and we decided to come here instead. I know with your players that you still need to play very solid golf to win here and it would give me a chance to play some courses I was not used to and to work on some aspects of my game we have been working on over the winter. So yes basically I came here to get some good competition.”

Q  Well, we are delighted you decided to join us! I believe we have had 12 Challenge Tour players competing with us this season, so we must be doing something right. Is it true that you are the only Dutchman to win the Dutch Open since 1974?

“Ha ha, no I used to be, but Joost (Luiten) won it two years ago. He is playing great golf at the moment and is really the flag carrier for our country, I am not sure but I think he is currently No.35 in the world  and excitedly we have got some really good young guys coming through who Neils, as the Men’s National Team Coach is helping. But I think that there are always good players around and all competition is good. You probably have a few local guys that know the courses better than me so I think if you want to win you are going to have to play well no matter where you are. Look at the Sunshine Tour, that’s really strong. I was going to compete in a few events over there but I have my family in Holland. I have been working on my game and I wanted a last competition before Madeira in one week and I thought it was too far to travel, so I came here instead.” 

Q Every amateur golfer has a sporting greatest moment, what was yours?

“For me personally, it was winning the Spanish Amateur in 1997 and beating Sergio Garcia in the final! We actually had a lot of great battles. He was top in Europe. Henrik Stenson, myself and a few other boys were close behind him. But he really was something else, so for me that was a big win. I also won the Swiss Amateur Championship that year, but the Spanish Amateur Championship was truly big. I beat Gregory Havret in the quarters and then Sergio in the finals. All the big names were there so it was a huge win for me.”

Q I have seen your name a hundred times on TV and in golf magazines. You have been playing on the European Tour for years. What would you say was your finest professional moment?

“It was definitely winning my national championship, The KLM Open in 2003. That was massive for me. I had a few good chances leading up to it. I was leading in the Madrid Open and few other tournaments but I couldn’t finish it off. The week before I played really well at The Dunhill where I actually finished in 4th place and played the final day at St Andrews with Ernie Els and Lee Westwood. I was confident that I had a good chance of winning at the start of the KLM Open or the Dutch open as it was named then. I had a few good years after that, I finished 2nd at the Scottish Open behind Tim Clarke, another South African. I was playing good and competing in “Majors” but definatly winning in Holland. We call it a fifth major if you can win your home country’s championship”!  

Q  What advice would you give to the younger golfers who are at the start of their professional careers?

“Funny you mention that because two days ago we spent some time with the National Team from Holland where Niels is trying to encourage these young golfers to play a lot more golf. They have got to get out and play golf. They need a lot of competitions with a lot of good players on different courses. They need to become all-round players. They need to get out of their comfort zones of their home clubs or home country. They have to go and play against strong competition and try to learn from the other players they encounter.”

Q  Don’t you think that The Gecko Tour is a perfect opportunity for these young players? Getting to compete against the Challenge Tour players while they are warming up, there is a lot to learn out here playing on the Gecko.

“Neils and I were thinking about it and it would be really good for a couple of our players to come out here during the winter. You guys have some tough courses and tough players. We should send them out here and get them involved. Neils & I played together as amateurs and travelled extensively playing in as many competitions as possible before we started playing on the Challenge Tour together, so we both know the importance to travel and to compete.

[Neils adds] “You see a lot of young golfers that are good ball strikers on the range, they love the Trackman and other devices on the range but they need to be taught how to hit certain types of shots into the wind, how to use the bounce. Course management in competitive environments can’t be replicated on the range.[Maarten continues] “I have seen it often over the years on the main tour. Young players come in and blast their drivers everywhere. Percentage wise out of the 15 players that get their cards for the main tour about 10 fall back down again at the end of the season. It’s not because the courses are more difficult but they simply play so aggressively and sometimes you can’t get away with it on the big tours. Trackman and Flight Scope are fine if you are in the middle of the fairway but what happens when you are not? What happens when you need to draw your ball around the trees or fade it round a corner to get back into the game? You see it far too often when young players hit a few bad shots on the course they question their coach to work out what’s wrong when all they need is more time playing tournament golf. What you have (The Gecko Pro Tour) is great for the players.” 

Q  I completely agree with you. I have been watching these guys all season and I have noticed a marked improvement in a number of them as each tournament goes by. There is a large number of them that have got stronger and more confident in their game. I have also noticed the regular players on our Tour have actually learned from the Challenge Tour players and have begun to take far less risks compared to the beginning of the season.

“Competition is great and very important and importantly you need to learn from your mistakes in order to grow.”

Q What are your movements over the next few weeks then?

“Next week I head to Madeira to start my season and then I move to Madrid after that.”

Q Hopefully I will see you in Madrid, as I may be heading there after our Tour Championship Final. What are your goals for this season?

“Obviously after playing on the tour for 15 years straight, it is time to get back there. My game was just not good enough, so I have taken a few months out and worked really hard, so I hope I learned from my mistakes and now I want to go and make the top 15 on the Challenge Tour.”

Q  Thanks for taking the time to have a chat with me and hopefully this event on The gecko Pro Tour will provide the ideal platform to sharpen your game for Madeira.

  “Actually I told Niels that this golf course is a little tricky. I have been using my wedge a lot and some of these holes are fiddly. It reminds me a little of Madeira so in a way it will be perfect preparation.”

Q We hope you enjoy your time with the Gecko Pro Tour, it is a pleasure and an honour to have you with us and we wish you all the best with the future. Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me.

   “It’s nice to be here and we are thoroughly enjoying it. No problem Cal”


2016-11-19T23:28:55+02:00 August 17th, 2015|News|