Eduardo Celles seeks a Chinese Tiger Woods

The backbone of the constellation of athletes projecting an image of Spain to the world, a school of coaches has reached the highest rank

by Andrea Gussoni
Eduardo Celles seeks a Chinese Tiger Woods
© Jamie Squire / Getty Images Sport

The backbone of the constellation of athletes projecting an image of Spain to the world, a school of coaches has reached the highest rank. They have not only conquered football, with the Premier League as the greatest exponent, but their services are also of interest to headhunters in sports such as badminton - Fernando Rivas is the coach of France - handball - six Spanish coaches in the last men's World Championship - and golf, where Eduardo Celles, the mentor of Jon Rahm, has just signed a five-season agreement with the Chinese golf academy Leazen, which manages six golf courses in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and other cities in the country.

Eduardo Celles, results

The Basque professor has returned after the initial immersion in the giant Asian country where this sport was banned between 1949 and the early 1980s by Mao Zedong, and also restricted between 2015 and 2016 due to association with corruption, although he now views promotional programs favorably.

"We have started with the development of camps under the ECGolf Academy brand," he reveals. "This has been a winter camp on Hainan Island with the participation of about 25 children and young people from across the country." The project, driven by the aforementioned academy, currently involves the elite.

Children of wealthy Chinese families from clubs where becoming a member can cost up to 300,000 euros. "We have a group of boys and girls aged between 21 and 8. And they are doing well. There's one who is 11 years old and already shoots 70 strokes," says the former coach of the Barrika megastar.

With a long way to go, as there are only four Chinese golfers among the top 500 in the world rankings - much better among women starting with the world number 4, Yin Ruoning, who was once the world number 1 and won the latest PGA - Celles believes that in seven years he could produce a player who could serve as a small reference for the rest.

"The goal is to trigger a boom like what happened in Spain with Severiano Ballesteros." With the caveat that compared to the 36 million Spaniards in the 1970s, China's population is 1.2 billion. "Everyone wants to go to the United States.

Starting with the parents who are the ones who invest the most hope. Sometimes excessively. They come to you and say that their son is not doing well because maybe he plays one under par. And I tell them, do you know what the average score on the PGA Tour is? Three under par.

They think they have to play every day at -5," says the Spanish coach, whose goal now is to establish a permanent Spanish head coach. "Something that is easy to find because we have in Spain a roster of excellent coaches in the PGA.

We are at a level that we don't believe." In fact, hand in hand with José Vicente Pérez, a renowned international instructor, a certification has already been obtained to apply in China. "There are some coaches in China, but they need content and more training," acknowledges Celles.

"Three or four professionals need to be trained at a minimum to follow the method," which will have to coexist with established British and American schools. "It's a good time to land, and the method is going to work," says the third generation of golfers from the Celles family.

His grandfather Carlos senior won the Open de España in 1945, but died early and could not be an instructor. Eduardo's father, Carlines, who died in 2022, played in the British Open and was a teacher in Neguri. Eduardo has now adapted his method to the Asian character.

"All young people are young here, there, and in Antarctica. They are on the screen all day, but it is true that we work with them for eight hours, and they strictly comply. It's been a long time since I dedicated myself so intensely to a group." The routine is very intense.

The kids get up at 6:30 in the morning and are already on the field at 8:00. "We strengthen their swing with video analysis, as well as short game, approach shots, and putting. They are evaluated with scorecards, and they make their own individual training plan," the coach explains.

After lunch at 12:00, they go out to the field for three and a half hours, and then there is a final review until 5:30 p.m., which is dinner time. "They are all crazy about Jon Rahm and want to come to Spain. They know a lot about the country because they admire how good it is in sports."

Tiger Woods