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Few people know, that the highest ranked U14 amateur player in the world according to WAGR, is from Lithuania. Let´s explore the incredible journey of Giedrius and his brother, Gediminas. I truly believe that this interview will be an eye-opener for many aspiring players, parents as well as coaches.
15. 10. 2021
It has been just a year ago, when I emailed to each of European Golf Federations to introduce our Bryson app. Interestingly, most of the replies came from the Baltic States and Scandinavia. One of the people I got in touch with was Gediminas Mackelis, member of board of the Lithuanian Golf Federation. He liked our solution from the first moment, and together with his colleagues from the federation, they were not afraid to take the risk and start using Bryson to manage the agenda of their national teams.
During the call, Gediminas told me, that there are not many golfers in his country, but his young brother Giedrius, only thirteen years of age, is a serious golfer. “He is beating me every time we play.” He said. From that moment I have been witnessing an incredible 2021 season of Giedrius, who moved from No. 5000 on WAGR in February to No. 477 in late September. You must be making something really well, when you are the highest ranked player in the world in your age category and you nearly beat the European Tour star on his home soil. Let´s find out, what is the secret behind this incredible success.
Hi guys, congrats on your incredible season. Please, tell me about all the success you had in 2021 and are there any goals that you set before the season, and you did not achieve them?
Giedrius: I greatly exceeded my expectations for this season. The main goal that I had for the last couple of years was to become the No.1 ranked player in our Lithuanian amateur ranking. For two previous years, I came in 2nd place. This year I was finally able to do so while winning 4 out of the 5 national tour events. In addition, I also won the Lithuanian Junior Open Championship while playing my best round of -4, getting my first official course record. The highlight of the year was winning the European Team Shield Championship with our national men’s team. Just a couple of weeks before the tournament, I thought I would not play in the Team Shield as I was planning on playing in the other event at the same time. But my plans changed, and it was the most fun I have had on a golf course.
Another goal was to get into the top 1000 in WAGR, but I even got into the top 500. It’s cool to see my game compared with the best amateur players. It just gives me more confidence heading into events knowing that I am quite experienced and will be able to compete seriously with the other players there.
The only goal that I did not reach was getting a HCP of +2, I was just 0.1 away at one point during the season. However, there are still a couple of tournaments left for the year, and hopefully, I will be able to reach my goal.
Gediminas: I had other goals set for us. After putting an emphasis on fitness during the winter, my goal was for us to continue to train during the summer in a similar manner and maintain a good physical shape for the duration of the entire season.
In addition, with Covid and difficult traveling conditions, my goal was for us to find tournaments abroad where Giedrius could play. We had our schedule ready early in the year. It was constructed in a way that Giedrius would have resting periods. Periods where he could relax from serious competitions, work on his fitness, or golf game. We purposefully skipped several events.
For this year, and for the upcoming years, the goal remains the same. Keep improving.
I will take it from the back. Giedrius, you had a chance to go head-to-head with Adrian Meronk in the final group of the PGA Polska Championship when leading the tournament before the final round. Can you describe your experience, and what exactly did you learn during this tournament that took you up to the top 500 in WAGR?
Giedrius: It was a great experience overall. It was my first time playing in a professional tournament, and I could not expect a better result. It was interesting to see how professional players really play since you only see the highlights on TV. I took note of his pre-shot routine, how he approached putts, and so on. I tried to take some of the things and implement them into my own routine. As for the experience of being tied for the lead after 2 rounds, it was great. It just helps me be more confident, since now I know I can compete head to head with the best players in the world. The main thing I learned during the tournament was patience. I struggled off the tee, and my approach shots were not great, but I trusted my wedges, and I was not afraid to chip back to the fairway and try to scramble for par from a longer range, as you can tell I was usually successful.
Gediminas, I admire the way you work with your brother and create the environment in which he can develop as a player. Could you talk about the way how the team works, who is part of it, and when did you actually start to approach the development of Giedrius as the golf player in such a professional way?
Gediminas: I am 100% sure that the most important part of a junior’s team is his family. Without the support and dedication from our parents, nothing would have been possible. They were the ones that brought Giedrius to golf, they were the ones who created a positive atmosphere of playing golf together as a family, and have supported Giedrius all the way.
Now, I would say that the winter of 2019 was when we decided to start to work on Giedrius golf game in a more structured manner. Giedrius was 12 years old at the time and his hcp was already 4.2. We knew Giedrius was a good junior player. He has won multiple junior championships (in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Hungary) in his age category. But in the 2019 golf season, he has entered the Lithuanian golf tour and placed 2nd amongst all Lithuanian male amateur golfers in the rankings. It was then when we decided to commit and start working with our current golf swing coach Ari Savolainen. and make some significant changes in the way Giedrius swung the club.
We had a very difficult winter, but the hard work payed-off – Giedrius won the Lithuanian Golf Championship and opened his WAGR account in the summer of 2020. For us, it was a great indicator that we were on the right path.
With regards to fitness, Giedrius has always tagged along with me to the gym since he was 6 years old. Personally, I experimented with different fitness coaches and kinesiologists. I would also introduce Giedrius to them to see that we would train in the correct manner for a child. But again, Giedrius’s success in golf was an indicator that a structured and consistent approach brings the best results. Therefore, it was my goal to find someone that would understand what needs to be done and could guide us in the correct direction. It was Ari, who made the next introductions. We met with Matti Santtila, golf fitness coach and Matti Lindholm, golf kinesiologist. We made assessments and plans on how each area needs to be developed to help Giedrius perform best in the future. Giedrius has worked relentlessly under their consistent supervision. We also started speaking with a sports psychology professor Marc Lochbaum, that has introduced different concepts on how to peak perform from the mental side in golf.
The results speak for themselves. Giedrius has placed in the Top500 in the WAGR in the 2021 golf season.
The final additions to our team include Jarmo Alapirtti golf performance data analyst that has analyzed Giedrius stats (from Bryson application) for the 2021 golf season and identified the areas that we should work on in order to get to another level. And Ernesta Žeimyté, a kinesiology specialist here in Lithuania. She has been taking care of Giedrius during the summer. Not so long ago, both Ernesta and Matti have met in person and shared their insights about Giedrius. Now Giedrius has not only a program and online support from experts in golf but also a local specialist that is available any day of the week.
To conclude, we have met many people that have helped in one way or another during the years. But, I believe the key to success was consistency and trust in experts. You must trust the process and dedicate your time to get better. Correct guidance helps a lot too. And we have been lucky to meet the correct people at the correct time.
Lithuania is not a country with a long golfing history. Please, give us a look into what can we imagine when talking about golf in Lithuania. And also, how hard it is to dream big in a sport that is very much unknown in the country and what obstacles it brings to you.
Gediminas: Propper golf playing season lasts during the months of May and October. We have a total of 5 golf courses. The quality is good and each golf course brings unique challenges. I have traveled a fair bit, and I would highly recommend people to come and play some of the Lithuanian golf courses.
Golf in Lithuania has been played since 2000. The community is relatively small, but it is growing rapidly. We have several professional golf players. A handful of coaches. Some good amateurs that are collecting titles abroad. In fact, our Lithuanian National Team has just won the European Men’s Team Shield Championship for the second time. I am myself a Board Member of the Lithuanian Golf Federation and the Chairman of the Lithuanian Golf Players Association. I can see that golf is currently developing at a very rapid pace, both as a leisure activity and as a sport.
To answer your question, if a person would focus on obstacles, he would never achieve anything. And that is something I try to teach Giedrius.
Maybe our golf season is shorter, maybe we have less competition or fewer peers to play with and compete against, maybe our facilities are not of the highest standard, maybe people do not know about such sport here in Lithuania etc. But there are many positives. Here in Lithuania, we know all golfers and all golfers know us. They cheer and root for Giedrius when he plays in the tournaments. It is easier to stand out as an individual. You can even get more coverage in the media – for example, Giedrius match against Adrian Meronk in Poland was summarised by the national news television as a first topic in the sports section on that evening. Our dad played basketball, I played basketball – we played for the team, for the city, for the country. Giedrius plays golf, but he plays for Team Lithuania. I think he has embraced the role of the Lithuanian golf ambassador. He plays for himself, but also proudly represents his country and is willing to set an example for future generations. In this global era, there are no reasons why not to dream about the golf Major Championships, Olympics, and other major golfing events.
You know, given all the obstacles and shortcomings that we face, I think it gives even more motivation to be better than those who have it easy. And when you show that you are better than them it gives even more satisfaction, because you know that you traveled a more difficult path.
Gediminas, I know that you are very forward-thinking in approaching performance development. You analyse and focus on every aspect of the game. Last time, we discussed sleeping and the way it affects regeneration. Also, you used the service of renowned golf performance data analyst Jarmo Alapirtti, who analysed the game statistics, that Giedrius has in Bryson. Could you describe how you go about each aspect of the game and the overall performance of Giedrius? I have been in touch with many great players and their coaches in the last years, but only in your case I have seen this professionality and focus on detail. If anything, it reminds me of the way Cristiano Ronaldo thinks about everything he eats, every minute of his sleep, every movement he makes,… Everything is planned with the only goal – to be the best in the world. Where do you take the inspiration from for this approach to practice and performance management? And could you perhaps go into detail on some aspects of the performance that are maybe not so common between golfers?
Gediminas: You gave a lot of compliments. Thank you.
Although we have a 17 year difference between me and Giedrius, I can see that he is very similar to me both physically and mentally.
I have several rules in my life that I follow. Learn from the mistakes of others. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. There is always someone smarter than you. Lead by example. To name just a few.
Now, I want to put something on the public record. Nothing that we do with Giedrius is forced. We talk, discuss and make decisions together. In the end, it will be him who will need to put in all the work. I can only advise or find someone who will give advice. And be there as his training partner. And I think that the person (even if he is a junior) will be motivated and involved only if he is involved in the decision making.
I can talk about everything we do without any secrets. I think it is the same as with the golf swing technique. A person can know all the technical aspects of the golf swing, he can have all the coaches, but he still will not be able to execute the swing. I think the same applies to what we do with Giedrius. It is the sheer power of will and dedication that makes difference. And not everyone can do it.
Giedrius has willingly cut out his time playing computer games from his daily life. He knows his priorities – school and then golf. We have talked about Giedrius being a good golfer, but we haven’t mentioned that he is at the top student in school.
Together with Marc, our advisor on sports psychology, we have implemented several techniques for motivation. You need to have your goals visible to you all the time and you need to keep reminding yourself of what you are working towards. You have a daily checkbox list that includes different activities or tasks that you want to complete during the day. You need to wake up and then start your day without taking your phone to check social media the first thing in the morning – this exercise is to train you to remember your true goal. There are many other techniques, like positive thinking, meditation with correct breathing exercises etc.
Now as a part of our daily routine, me and Giedrius do morning yoga at 6:20am. And he does his stretches and mobility exercises at 8pm every single day that Matti and Ernesta has prescribed him.
We have regular fitness sessions during the week where we go to the gym. We work on strength, balance, coordination, hypertrophy, and explosive power, speed in cycles advised by Matti We have regular HIIT sessions and longer cardio endurance sessions throughout the week. Our weekly schedules include us going to the swimming pool or the sauna too. All is planned and scheduled in relation to our tournament calendar.
Our tournament calendar consists of tournaments where we go to win and tournaments where we go to collect experiences for the future. Also, it shows which weeks need to be spent resting, training etc.
Our approach to golf is quite standard. We have regular practices. A practice must be measurable. We set goals in advance and we have a clear plan on what we are going to do during the practice. Some practices are technical. Some are more performance related. We have a set of drills for each. For many performance related drills, we keep a log of scores to see if we are making an improvement over time. We have incorporated speed sticks into our routine too. Now with the help of Jarmo A. we know some of the areas that need improvement. We decided on some measurable drills to target those areas and see how we improve for the next competitions.
In terms of sleep, we followed in steps of other elite golf players and started using Whoop. It tracks your sleep, daily exertion, and recovery rates. Which later indicates how much you should push yourself during the practice. It is interesting to learn about your own body and how it reacts to different factors.
My response got quite lengthy, but I have covered only the surface. I believe in a consistent and measurable approach and I try to preach this to Giedrius.
Giedrius, what are your plans for the winter and for the following season? And where do you envision yourself in the 2025 when you will be eighteen?
After a talk with my coach Ari, we decided to focus more on maintaining my swing and form during the winter instead of ‘working on the swing’ like during the previous winters. I plan to play more during the winter in international events. But I will still aim to improve my swing further and get stronger in the gym. As for where I envision myself in 2025, I would like to see myself in the top 50 of the WAGR ranking. Also win some bigger international events and of course, hit the ball way further.
Thank you both for being so open and willing to share your successful formula. I wish you not only the success and many wins in golf, but to stay brothers in the best way of its meaning.
And you, readers, don´t forget to follow Giedrius on his social media!
I am also very proud that Giedrius has become the face of our Bryson Scout project. You can watch the video, where he is using the data from Bryson for introducing himself to the college coaches in the USA.