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Interview Thomas Johansson. Director of La Manga Club Golf Training Centre

It is obvious that the successful development of La MangaClub has not been achieved by chance. We believe that the company’s workforce is one of its key values; top-quality professionals that with one of the most extensive variety of touristic attractions in Europe make La Manga Club the ideal holiday destination for any kind of traveler.

One of these professionals is Thomas Johansson, Director of La Manga Club Golf Training Centre. His professionalism follows his own sport and life philosophy based on the values of respect, honesty and responsibility learnt throughout his life. These have led his career into teaching disabled golf players. He is an incredible teacher; he helped Paul Appleyard, a blind player, achieve the World Championship title both in 2014 and 2016 as well as helping Nicholas Payas, a player with Down Syndromeget a silver medal in the Olympic Games at Los Angeles. At the same time, he has promoted initiatives to create ski training programs for disabled sports people that have managed to get several medals at the winter games in Austria.

Thus, the Golf Training Centre at La Manga Club does not only have a unique manager but a whole teaching method based on the combination of professional experience at the Swedish, British and Spanish PGAs.

You started playing golf in 1981 and you have not stopped since then. We know about your interest in teaching children and disabled people. Tell us about your professional career in these fields.

Yes, I started to play golf at a young age and I quickly became good at it thanks to have played several racket sports before. We had a very good junior team and I met many new friends who I’m still in contact with today. Apart from the technical skills we learnt values like Respect, Honesty and Responsibility which has helped me a lot in my everyday life. Thanks to golf I’m living a wonderful life and I’ve seen most of the world. Now I’m in a position where I can reach out and help many young players and especially those who need it the most. That’s why I always start with creating a healthy junior programme where I work, this is my way of giving back to the game that I’ve received so much from.

In 2013 I got in contact with Paul Appleyard who asked me if I could help him with his dream of becoming the World Blind Golf Champion. We created a training schedule suited for him and after lots of hard work he managed to become the World Champion both in 2014 and 2016! After Paul’s success I got in touch with the Special Olympics Gibraltar and we created a golf program for their athletes. It has been a fantastic journey who resulted in a silver medal for Nicholas Payas in the World Games in Los Angeles. With a great support from Gibraltar and with my background as a ski instructor, I managed to start an alpine skiing program for Special Olympics which also ended up in several medals in the Winter games in Austria including Gibraltars first gold medal! The athletes and the volunteers are amazing and we have created friendships for life.

The next step now is to inspire more people to get involved in helping others. Last month I was giving a lecture to golf clubs in Sweden about the value and importance of having a golf program for disabled players. It has already resulted in golf clubs working together and many members willing to help as volunteers.

You have been the Manager at the La Manga Club Golf Training Centre since October 2016. Looking back, how would you describe your last year at the academy?

It took me a while to understand how big the resort is and how things are working but now when I’ve settled in I’m loving everyday here. We’ve seen a big increase in lessons and especially the junior academy has become very strong and is growing for every month. We’ve also managed to motivate our members to practise more and with better quality and now we can see the results at the tournaments and their new handicaps. The biggest improvement has been the amount of golfers who come for a week staying at our hotels, playing our 3 courses and joining our training programs and also we’ve seen an increase in PGA professionals bringing their clients for a week of golf in the sun.

La Manga Club offers a wide range of services, one of the most extensive in Europe. However, golf is the crown jewel. What kind of golf player visits the Golf Training Centre at La Manga?

Apart from our members we have many clients who come here to improve their game over a week or a long weekend. The majority come from the UK and Scandinavia but we also have many Spanish players who travel here for some intensive training. We have a good relation with many National teams so we often see them practising here which creates a great training atmosphere. We also see European Tour players visiting us and Frida and Marcus Kinhult, the future of Swedish golf, live at the resort and they are great role models for our juniors. The PGA of Norway have their Winter home at La Manga Club and we are proud to be involved in their education and mentor program.

I suppose there are different learning programs available for both adult and children players. What teaching method or methods do you follow at the academy?

Yes, depending on the season we offer several training programs. The most popular is our Stay, Play & Learn package where you stay for 7 nights, play 5 rounds and practise 10 hours. Everyone is improving after an intensive week like that and it’s a great way to bring your game to the next level. During the school breaks we run various junior camps where the juniors can combine the golf training with other sports at the resort or choose a full week of golf.

What makes us unique is that we combine the experiences from the Swedish, British and Spanish PGA’s. All our professionals are experts with at least 10 years of experience and we have top quality training facilities with the latest technology. The secret though is that with all our knowledge and technology we make the training very simple and easy to understand. It’s all about getting a good contact with the ball, having a swing that doesn’t harm you, practising effectively and being able to bring the skills out on the course to lower your scores.

In addition, you have implemented the latest systems to increase the quality of the teaching programs at the academy. Tell us about it and the role of these systems in the learning process.

We are fortunate to being able to work with TrackManwho gives us a great feedback of what happens at impact and how the ball flies. With TrackMan we don’t have to guess what happens at impact and we can be very precise and pin point what we have to work with. The future of golf instruction is being able to measure the ground force during the swing and I’m honoured to be the Swing Catalyst ambassador in Spain. Now we can combine feel with visualization of what happens under our feet during the swing and it helps golfers of all levels to understand what we need to do to be more effective in our movements.

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