A Dubai-based golf coach has spent a memorable week at Royal St George's with Thai professional Jazz Janewattananond.
Stephen Deane, Head of Academies at Dubai Golf, braved strict Covid-19 restrictions and bad weather to be part of the 25-year-old’s support team at The Open.
It seems their hard work is paying off. After battling to an even par on the opening day, Janewattananond finished Friday’s second round on one-under to make the cut – a fine achievement for the world No 144 who is yet to win on the European Tour.
“Royal St George’s really suits Jazz’s game because he’s very accurate off the tee,” says Deane, who overseas coaching for the Peter Cowen Academy Dubai at Emirates Golf Club, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club and Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“He’s in a really positive state of mind and I think if he keeps his putting going he should be right up there come Sunday.”
Along with Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, Janewattananond is one of 13 players in the field at this year’s Open who are being coached by elite teaching professional Peter Cowen and his team.
Deane says he’s been working alongside Cowen on the driving range to keep Janewattananond’s swing on track with a series of drills.
After arriving in the UK on July 11, Deane flew back to Dubai on Friday at the end of the second round.
“I needed to get back to coaching at home as we’re busy with our summer junior camps and training my new intern professionals who recently started,” he says.
After last year’s Open was cancelled because of the pandemic, this year’s tournament has gone ahead with stringent health and safety measure in place for everyone involved.
Although the UAE is still on the UK’s red travel list, Deane was able to avoid the 10-day mandatory hotel quarantine when he arrived in the country thanks to an official exemption letter.
He says life at The Open under the new regulations is far from easy. “We all had to be tested for Covid-19 every single day we’re there and we can’t go out, or meet with anyone outside the tournament,” Deane says.
Deane and Janewattananond first met under unusual circumstances at the inaugural Golf in Dubai Championship in December, which was played on Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Fire Course.
“Jazz was struggling for a caddie that week so I was on the bag for him - we were actually leading the tournament after the first round," says Deane.
The week sparked off an unlikely friendship between the two which was further strengthened when Janewattananond decided to stay in Dubai for a couple of months after the event.
“He’s just a really nice guy both of an off the course,” says Deane.
“I was delighted when he asked me to come down to Royal St George’s to be part of his support team at The Open this week.”
After being forced to withdraw from this year’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January because of a positive Covid-19 test, Janewattananond came agonisingly close to his maiden European Tour win at the Kenya Savannah Classic in March where he lost in a playoff to Daniel van Tonder.
The runner-up result in Nairobi was Janewattananond’s best finish on Tour, a performance Deane says proves that the man from Thailand is not far away from his first big win.
“He’s very, very close,” says Deane. “I think there is chance for him to get a win by the end of this season and he’s heading to the Olympics as well, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pick up a medal there for Thailand.”
Janewattananond will get his third round at The Open underway at 3.25pm on Saturday alongside German amateur Matthias Schmid.