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Teachers vs. Coaches

Some nice chap just asked me to explain what I meant when I sent a note to Robert Thompson’s blog about Sean Foley the Teacher of Stephen Ames.

In my opinion there are teachers and there are coaches, usually the teachers are PGA pros, family or others. The coaches are people who often will drive 100s of miles to become a coach of a prodigy or someone who has just won a tourney. If you want to meet Leadbeater just develope a kid so he or she can break par at 13 years of age, they’ll get an invite from the Coach! They only “teach” proven players. Michelle Wie’s coach is in Hawaii, David Leadbeater and his Company are her coaches. Unfortunately they have helped her into retirement. Score: Teacher 5, coaches 0. Similarly I think Ame’s teacher is in the islands, and Sean Foley is his most recent coach (is his brother still his caddie? if not Sean is filling in for the borther). Mike Weir’s Teacher is in Sarnia (where are you Stevie Bennett?), his latest coach is.. Jack NIcklaus had Jack Grout as a teacher, many others stepped behind him to build a reputation. Sevie learned enough Inglis to take lessons from Mac O’Grady (he is a brilliant person) and we know the rest of that story. A coach dispenses Tips for cash (tips are temporary).

I remember the 1969 Canadian Open at St. Georges’. My winter boss, Harry Obitz, was with me on the putting green watching Gary Player drain putts from 3 feet. This was his routine, to show his eyes (and brain) the ball going into the cup. “Why teach your brain to see missed putts?” was his answer. Anyway, Harry says to me “Pal o’mine, take a picture of me while I give Gary a lesson”. He walked over to Player, knelt down beside him and, as he reached out to touch his putter shaft he asked “Is that the same old shaft you started with?” and I clicked the shot. Harry became Player’s coach, at least he was to everyone who he showed the picture to.

The Coaches are easy to spot – always on the range at a PGA event, usually dressed in the same clothing as the pro and usually looking around to see who is looking at them, as in “See me teaching Tiger”. They even get comp cars from the tourney. Tiger’s teacher was his dad, Butch Harmon and Hank Haney are filling in for Earl. Do you think Tiger would be as good as he is without Butch and Hank. I think he would, Johnny Miller thinks he’d be better. Watch the coaches when their pupils hit a ball. If its a good shot they say “That’s the ticket”. When its not so good, their lips don’t move, they rotate their heads to see who noticed them. A smart coach will never do anything to discourage the fragile mind of the player, they just have to encourage their man , to occupy their mind while the stuff their teacher gave them takes over. Like remoras, they have to keep their meal ticket in good shape.

Don’t get me wrong, there might be some great coaches, but they’ll be at the rinks on Saturday morning. Right now, the number one teacher and coach is Bob Torrance, Sam’s dad. Some might leave him, but not for long! Anyway, that’s just my opinion.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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  • I believe Gary Gilchrist actually taught Michelle Wie ( he is also presently working with Suzanne Pettersen of LPGA fame this year) and was let go so the “Leadweighted Academy of Bandwagon Jumpers” could take over. Sure has worked out well for Michelle as we can see her past results. Watch for poor Michelle have to attend LPGA qualifying school as her “Camp” has appealed to the LPGA Board to grant her an exemption but “word on the street” from the Card carrying members of the LPGA…. Possible boycott if Michelle is granted a “freebie” and then everyone has to watch her shoot 76 plus all year long again…..A word to all those players that got to the top with the one coach or mentor…..if you need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm….the “parasites” are there strictly for themselves

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