Premier League stars James Milner and Adam Lallana will be following golf’s US Open and European Tour results just as closely as football’s European Championship over the next month.
The former Liverpool team-mates have plenty of fascination for the Euros, but both footballers share significant interest in professional golf through their directorships of a company shaping the future of one Britain’s brightest golfing talents.
The firm, Cheshire-based White Rose Sports Management Limited, has signed highly promising youngster Ben Schmidt following the completion of the 18-year-old’s stellar amateur career.
The Rotherham teenager was part of the recent GB and Ireland Walker Cup team after rising to number six in the amateur world rankings, having lifted the prestigious Brabazon and Carris Trophies.
Now the youngster is offering tips to help improve the games of famous soccer stars while they ready him for the rigours of life as a professional sportsman.
“We are very fortunate in the football environment,” Lallana told BBC Sport.
“Even when you have bad days on the pitch, you have team-mates who bale you out. Since joining White Rose and working with Ben and the other players you can see that everything is kind of put on them.”
Lallana hopes he and Milner can help ease that burden. “If we can take the pressure off them and work with them then hopefully we keep them focused on their job and just a little less responsibility for themselves.
“It’s a tough sport, it can be a lonely sport at times,” he added.
The 33-year-old Brighton midfielder is relatively new to golf and plays off an 18 handicap. “But I’d like to think I’m a couple of shots better than that,” he smiled.
“I’ve got a lot more time on my hands at Brighton than I probably did at Liverpool for a couple of reasons; less games and the times of day that we train.
“So I often have time to go to the range in the afternoon or play a couple of rounds in the week. It does help release the stress and it’s a very good second sport to have.
“Of course there are frustrations because we play football at an elite level and when you can’t do something to how you want to do it, it gets frustrating.”
As a single figure handicapper, Liverpool’s Milner is currently the more accomplished golfer. “You need something outside of football,” he said.
“Obviously the intensity and the pressure is pretty much non stop, so to be able to get away from it for a few hours and play some holes is good.
“It should be good to relieve the stress levels, it’s probably not, though, but that’s more down to my bad golf instead of anything else,” he conceded.
Although now at different Premier League clubs, both players keep tabs on each other’s progress.
“We follow our rounds on the app where we can see each others’ scores,” 35-year-old Milner revealed.
“We get notified when either of us is playing and I get notified a lot more that he’s playing than the other way round. He’s definitely got the bug!”
But the footballers are also busy on their phones tracking the progress of their clients. “We’ve got our players favourited,” Lallana said.
They liked what they saw when Schmidt made a final-round charge to finish joint 12th on his professional debut on the Challenge Tour last month.
The young South Yorkshireman, whose footballing allegiance lies with Barnsley, scored a closing 69 to bank approximately £3,100 prize money from the Irish Challenge at Portmarnock.
“Ben had four birdies in a row in Dublin,” Lallana said. “He’s done brilliantly, especially with Covid meaning he only got out to the following week’s Czech event the day before, walking the course only once and it is a grind.
“We’ve been chatting the last couple days and to eventually get his card will take a lot of hard work, but that’s what every golfer has to do.”
Milner’s approach is as straightforward as his un-flashy footballing reputation. “The most important thing is that performance side and helping the players excel,” he said.
“Obviously the competition is so close, there are so many good players out there. When you get to the highest level the difference between success and failure is such a small margin.
“All these tiny little things on the performance side and preparation and recovery all add up. We obviously have a lot of experience in that and that’s what we want to help support the players with.”
They have enlisted the help of renowned trainer Dr Steve McGregor, who has worked with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, as well as Manchester City, Leeds United and Aston Villa.
Schmidt says it is important for him to be guided by figures who know the pressures of big time sport. “They’ve got great experience and I feel like they’ve got a lot of advice they can give that will help me,” he told BBC Sport.
“Especially in this last month, playing in the Walker Cup and then turning professional. There are also the other guys like Steve McGregor that I’ve been working with.
“He does my gym programme and helps me with scheduling and what tournaments to play in.”
Lallana, who has 34 England caps, will be at Wembley for Sunday’s European Championship opener against Croatia but would prefer to have been flying to San Diego for next week’s US Open at Torrey Pines.
Another of their clients, American Johannes Veerman, has qualified for his first major and Lallana says they will be watching with a lot of excitement. “With Covid it is bitterly disappointing we can’t actually be out in Torrey Pines,” he said.
“If restrictions had been lifted then that’s something myself and James would love to have done; go out and support Johannes and be on the journey with him and support him as much as we can.
“Likewise with Ben, if schedules align then we will go and support him.”
Milner agreed and it is clear that for both men football is not the sole driving force in their lives. There is plenty of room for the golfers they represent.
“You’re desperate for them to do well and want to do anything you can to help them,” he said.