World Number 12 Adam Scott has entrusted his short game development to an Australian PGA Professional working at his home club; Sanctuary Cove.
Matt Ballard, a former Tour Player for 14 years, has been a qualified Teaching Professional since completing the PGA Bridging Program at the end of 2015. Developing a reputation as a short game specialist at the home course he shares with Scott, it was there that the pair formed their relationship.
“I have known Adam since I was about 15 years old,” said Ballard.
“We kept bumping into each other at Sanctuary Cove earlier this year and spent some time together. It really was a case of being in the right place at the right time.”
Working together since February this year, Ballard is tasked with helping Scott work on every aspect of his game from 120 yards into the hole.
“Any time Adam has a wedge in his hand, a chip, a bunker shot, a putt, that is where I come in,” added Ballard.
“Adam is extremely talented and hard working, but there are still areas we have identified for improvement. We are only talking one shot, half a shot, a quarter of a shot a round sometimes but that will be a huge advantage to him at the end of the year.”
It is a partnership that is already paying dividends, particularly in the putting department.
“The improvement in the putting statistics has been great to see. It is exciting because we all know how good Adam is from tee to green.”
Working with Adam Scott is such a huge opportunity for a new coach but not one that Ballard is overawed by.
“Coaching Adam isn’t as intimidating as you might expect. I was a player for a long time myself and I had known Adam for a long time. It is more exciting than intimidating,” added Ballard.
“While I haven’t been coaching for 10, 20 or 30 years like Steve Bann, Dale Lynch, Denis McDade, Gary Edwin or Ian Triggs, I’ve played at a high level for more than 15 years.
“So I can relate to the demands and needs of tour players very easily, so the transition from playing to coaching was smoother than might be expected.”
Turning Professional in 2001, Ballard competed on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and developed a passion for helping other players with their short games.
When the desire to coach grew stronger than the desire to play, Ballard undertook the PGA Bridging Program which helped him develop his skills and receive formal qualifications.
“I’ve always had a passion for short game. I started giving some short game tips to guys I was travelling with, particularly putting, they were just my mates; they would do well, have a good result and it gave me a buzz,” said Ballard.
“It came to a point where giving away playing and starting to coach full time was an option but I needed to get some credentials if I was going to teach at a golf club.
“Without the PGA Bridging Program I wouldn’t have secured the job at Sanctuary Cove and I wouldn’t be coaching Adam Scott.”
Ballard’s whole approach to his coaching career has been geared around specialising as a short game expert.
“I believed that if I was jumping into the coaching world then specialising in a niche area was the way to go. Short game has always been my passion so it was an obvious choice,” added Ballard.
“I would always pick the brains of the best putters on Tour and chat to guys after they won tournaments about their short game; putting and chipping.
“During the Bridging Program and since then my whole focus has been on learning as much about coaching the short game as possible.”
While Adam Scott may be the star of Ballard’s coaching stable, he also works with a number of other Tour Professionals and is just as happy to give lessons to the club members at Sanctuary Cove.
“Teaching elite players short game is something that I always set out to do, it is something I feel comfortable doing,” added Ballard.
“I have been the putting coach for Adam Bland and Sam Brazel for a few years now, as well as Michael Sim. Adam has had great success on the Japan Tour in recent years and just qualified for The Open. Sam had a win on the European Tour last year, so there have been some exciting times.
“I’ve also been working with Brett Rankin and Ben Pisani on their short games. Brett has been dominating the PGA Pro-Am Series and Ben is currently the leading Queensland PGA Trainee,” added Ballard, who is rewarded by his player’s successes.
“I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing my guys play well, break down barriers and their belief of what is possible within themselves.
“It is extremely rewarding when it all comes to fruition and you have changed a player’s belief about what is possible. That is what I am trying to do with Adam and every client.”
For a new PGA Professional, working with a world renowned player like Adam Scott is a huge opportunity, however for Ballard it is about more than just creating a name for himself; his passion to help Scott succeed is his biggest motivator.
“I am driven daily to help Adam win more than one Major. I know he is very driven and extremely hungry for more,” added Ballard.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be a part of his team. It seems like a good fit; I am passionate about the short game and Adam felt like he needed some help with that. I am privileged for sure.”