Golf coach Peter is a YouTube star

WHAT began as a fun way of introducing himself to prospective new clients has grown into a huge internet phenomenon for Preston golf coach Peter Finch.

Sunday, 4th September 2016, 7:36 am
Updated Sunday, 4th September 2016, 9:41 am
Peter Finch (left) with Rick Shiels

He has become somewhat of a internet sensation on YouTube with his entertaining, slightly zany, but informative coaching videos.

Since filming and posting his first piece of footage online around three years ago, Finch’s videos have been watched by approximately 13 million viewers across the globe.

Finch – alongside his business partner and fellow PGA Golf professional Rick Shiels – is currently averaging around one million visitors to his video channel each month and the pair boast more than 70,000 subscribers.

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From total beginners looking to pick up a golf club for the very first time to seasoned players wishing to correct a particular kink in their swing, Finch’s videos cover a wide range of topics and cater for a variety of audiences.

As well as tuition videos, Finch also offers his opinion on equipment, provides analysis on courses and discusses the latest news affecting the sport.

The 30-year-old has produced content for the Golf Channel and last year signed a deal with UK magazine Golf Monthly to produce engaging print and digital content.

With his easy-going and self-deprecating manner in front of the camera, Finch’s popularity has continued to rise.

He has become so familiar within golfing circles that he is often recognised at tournaments and golfing events.

It often leads to the ‘strange’ situation of fans requesting selfies and asking for his autograph.

“I started doing the videos about three years ago,” said Finch, who grew up in Fulwood.

“Initially, I was just doing bits of coaching videos to help people go online and fix something in their swing.

“It was my business partner Rick, who showed me the benefit of using YouTube as a tool for coaching.

“He had been doing it for about a year previously and was getting lots of hits.

“So I starting doing some filming and then put the videos online.

“The videos are not really for players at professional level but more for the everyday golfer, who may be thinking of having a lesson.

“It was kind of a way of introducing myself to them so they could see what I was about.

“That was the only reason I started doing it.

“But it’s all just sort of took off since then and grown and grown and grown.

“The coaching videos were getting really good reviews online and a few months later, we went out to New York to do some work with the Golf Channel.

“I am collaborating with a quite a few other people and YouTube has such a massive reach.

“At tournament or events people will always come up and say ‘hi’.

“They will mention that they have watched my videos and it can be quite strange when they ask for a selfie or my autograph.”

It is not just among amateur players and fans that Finch has caused a stir; he has also caught the attention of the professionals, including some of the sport’s finest players.

Part of his appeal is his ability to think outside of the box.

He also produces entertaining and insightful features often with some of golf’s – and sport’s – biggest names.

Former world No.1 Lee Westwood has appeared in one of his videos; so too have this year’s US Open runner-up Shane Lowry and veteran Swedish star Jesper Parnevik, who twice finished in second place at the Open during the 1990s.

Even Ian Wright appeared on film at the Belfry as Finch enjoyed a few holes with the former Arsenal goalscoring ace before inviting his Twitter followers to send their questions to the ex-football legend.

The video shot with Westwood was particularly entertaining as it pitted Finch and Shiels’ driving skills against the Ryder Cup star at Royal Wimbledon Golf Club.

Known as the “Smash the Glass Driver Challenge”, the trio had to tee-off aiming to smash through a small board – made of glass – which had been positioned just a few yards down the fairway.

Given three opportunities – the person to smash through the glass the most was the winner.

Interestingly, Finch emerged the winner as he managed to smash the glass twice, which was one better than Shiels.

Westwood failed to meet the challenge, although in fairness on two occasions his efforts cannoned against the frame of the board.

“We did some really good stuff with Lee and we try to make the videos fun and interesting,” said Finch.

“A lot of people have said how much they enjoyed it.

“A few people at pro level have mentioned that they have watched a few of the videos, which is always nice to know.

“But our videos on YouTube are not really for the pros, it’s more for the amateur golfer who is looking to improve his game.”

One of Finch and Shiels’ unique ideas was to compile a video diary of their efforts to qualify for this year’s Open Championships at Royal Troon in Scotland.

The “Quest for the Open” was a journey which the pair began in 2015 and was a way of trying to illustrate just how difficult it is to win a place in the field for golf’s most prestigious tournament.

Despite both of them being scratch players, the odds of them achieving their dream of walking down the 18th fairway at Royal Troon on the first Thursday of the Open were always stacked against them.

However, it was a great way of showing the standard required to progress through regional and final qualifying.

It is a process which they will continue to repeat for the foreseeable future – and who knows, maybe one day they might just achieve their dream.

“The Quest for the Open” was a process we took really seriously,” said Finch, who attended Queen’s Drive Primary School and Fulwood High School.

“We spent a number of months refining our games because the amount of work needed to take our games to a standard where we would be good enough to qualify, is life altering.

“The chance of us qualifying was low, but the videos we did went down well with the viewers, who could watch our progress trying to qualify.

“For us, it was more a case of showing the journey – seeing whether we could progress to a level where we could qualify.

“If we could have qualified, that would have been a bonus.”

While coaching will always be his main priority, Finch admits he would love to see how far he could go as a player.

This week he has been competing at a PGA Europro Tour event at Hawkstone Park – which forms part of his 2017 “Quest for the Open” schedule.

Whether he could get to a point where he could compete regularly on Tour, Finch is unsure.

“I would have to dedicate five years of my time to get to a point where I could play much better golf against better players,” he said.

“Anything is possible, but I think it’s going to be tough to take five years out from what I am doing now.

“I would just be pleased and happy to be a very good player and world class coach rather than just be a good coach.

“The standard is very high on the Europro Tour. There’s some really good players competing in it, but it’s the third tier down from the European Tour – it’s a very tough sport.

“It’s a goal of mine to play a little bit more, but I’m still a coach – that’s my job, that’s my passion.”

Finch first picked up a golf club as a child, inspired to do so by his father Chris, who is a keen player. He played at Fishwick Hall Golf Club, in Glenluce Drive, Farringdon Park, before moving to Preston GC at the age of 14.

He played there up until the age of 18 where he worked on reducing his handicap, eventually becoming a scratch player.

“I have played for quite some time,” said Finch.

“I used to play both football and golf – I actually played for Cadley Boys FC as a junior.

“I played both sports up until I was 13 or 14 years old but after that I decided I was better at golf over football and chose to concentrate on that.

“I do pick up most sports pretty quickly, but you never expect to pick up golf too quickly because it’s such a hard game and it takes such a long time to get good at it.”

Finch’s first coaching job saw him head to the Shropshire Golf Academy and it was at this time that he earned a degree from Birmingham City University in Professional Golf Studies.

After 10 years he returned north to take a job at Trafford Golf Centre, in Manchester.

He has since established Quest Golf Academy with Shiels and has been working at Lytham Golf Club.

However, the academy is set to move to the Prairie Sports Village, in Burnley, which has only recently been built and boasts state-of-the-art facilities.

“Our first day at the new facility is today,” said Finch, who was named as one of the top 25 coaches in the UK this year by Golf Monthly

“We are really excited about moving there.

“It’s got great facilities with a driving range and there’s a new short game area.

“There’s pretty much everything you need from a coaching standpoint.”