My dad introduced me to the game of golf when I was 7 years old. He bought me a starter set of junior clubs that had a three wood, 3,5,7,9 irons and a putter. All in a “Sunday” bag to carry. As with most kids back then, golf was another thing to do, along with every other sport. No formal training, just used my natural ability and whacked the heck out of it. We played on a par three course that was always hard and dry, so my duck hooks would roll forever.
In my early teens I was looking for work and the local driving range needed someone to help shag golf balls- while others were hitting them, literally. Our safety gear consisted of an old WWII army helmet. So, for a couple of ear ringers, I could hit as many balls as I wanted and play golf for free during the week. Life was good.
Eventually, I was promoted to working behind the counter at the driving range. My big break came when the Head Pro asked me to help him in the golf shop. I felt trusted- being left alone to open the shop at 5:45am on weekends. The responsibility brought more money and more importantly, a discount on all golf related merchandise. I could finally afford a nice set of Ben Hogan golf clubs. Life was even better.
By the time I was a junior in high school I had played junior golf with some success. I played well enough to compete in tournaments across the state of Illinois. I made my high school golf team and we won our district and regional tournaments both years and qualified for the state tournament. I finished an individual third place as a junior and made the “All Regional” team. I was hooked.
After graduation I moved to Michigan and began college. I played golf at the junior college level for two years until, as they say; life got in the way… marriage, kids, full-time work and school. Little time was left for sleep, let alone golf. But, I knew in my heart golf was always going to be a part of my life.
Through the 70’s and early 80’s I played recreational golf, joined leagues at work, hit it socially with friends and participated in the occasional scramble tournament. I finally joined the Flint Elks Lodge #222 and Golf Club. That is where I got interested in tournament golf again. I played in several club championships and was fortunate enough to win three of them, all under different formats. The bug had bitten me, once again.
In the early 90’s I was traveling all over the U.S. with my job and, while it afforded me an opportunity to play beautiful courses across the country, it hampered my ability to be able to play competitively.
In 2001, I moved to Virginia and “settled” down with my beautiful wife, Karen, who wanted to learn how to play golf. I tried to teach her, (in spite of several warnings from teaching buddies to never go there). I was having trouble making her understand the lingo, the setup, the swing. She didn’t know golf speak and she had never played… then it hit me, she was a “clean slate,” with no pre conceived notions, nor habits. That is when it dawned on me that it was the perfect opportunity to try out a method that I had been intrigued by years before. There were these two guys from Oklahoma City and a guy that had a funny looking swing and set-up, but as odd as it seemed, it simply made sense. The time was right, I had the willing student, and the curiosity to learn more.
As luck would have it, I searched the Natural Golf data base and found that instructor Dave Predzin was close by. Karen and I signed up for a couples group, with the idea (my idea) that Dave would work almost exclusively with my wife, after all, I had been playing conventional golf for over forty years, and I’d generally done well, why would I want to switch my swing now?
As we worked through our series of lessons, covering putting, chipping, pitching and even bunker play, it all started to make even more sense to me… enough so that I started practicing the grip and swing myself. As I have said earlier in this bio I had some successes. But, I was a timing and feel player. If the timing was good, then I was good. Throw in a case of nerves, or simply an “off” day and viola, disaster waiting to happen. Now I was learning to play easier. Using technique instead of timing and feeling, WOW, what a difference.
In 2004, my lovely wife wanted to get me something special for Christmas. She enrolled me in a Graves’ Build Your Game Camp. For all of you out there that aren’t familiar, I’d call it boot camp for golf. Suffice it to say, by day three it all started to make sense. One thing builds upon another. Imagine that putting can tell you about your driver? I was hooked and fascinated (and working my butt off to learn, with only two days left). I had worked all those years to improve my timing and feel. Now I could use a technique to play. HUGE difference to say the least.
In 2005, I received an offer to take an early retirement from General Motors after working for the company for nearly 35 years. I loved my company and enjoyed my colleagues, but it was time to go, but what would be next? I was too young to truly retire, but I wanted to do something that made me feel inspired, kept me active, and used my talents. That is when it became clear that it was finally time to pursue my life-long dream of being in and around the game of golf every day. I retired April 1, and started working as an assistant pro at a local course on April 4. Long retirement, huh?
In May of that year, Virginia National Golf Club, where I was working, hosted a PGA Play Ability Test (PAT). This is a 36 hole qualifier to be able to apply to get into the PGA. If you cannot pass this test you will not be allowed to even enroll in the program. The thing is, unlike other tournaments that I’d played in the past, you were not competing against the field. You had to shoot a target score, already known before you teed it up. I hadn’t played a competitive round of golf in over ten years. But I knew I had to pursue my goal of becoming a golf pro, and in order to do that, I had to start by passing the PAT.
When I decide to play in this PAT, the first person I called was Tim Graves. I asked him how to prepare for this tournament. Tim said to work on the short game. DUH! What else did I expect him to say. Secondly, he said to leave the driver in the bag, or better yet, trunk. You read this correctly, trunk. Remove the club that could get you in the most trouble and leave it in the car. For two weeks prior to the tournament I had no swing thoughts. All I worked on was my wedges around the greens and putting. The last piece of advice I received was from the Head Pro, Jim Burns PGA. He told me to worry about my game and ignore everyone else’s. Don’t look at their swings, don’t look for golf balls, be courteous, but focus on the task at hand. As I’d find out later, Todd plays his best golf this way, as well.
The above mentioned advice was invaluable. Two of the people I played with did not break a hundred each round. Our target score was 155. All you had to do was shoot 78, 77. Not too difficult, except you knew that BEFORE you teed off. Thanks to the advice from my friends, teachers and co-workers I passed with scores of 74, 75. What a relief!
I applied to get in to the PGA as soon as I was eligible- in late January, 2006. I completed the entire program, graduated, and became a PGA member in October 2007. It’s an accomplishment I am pretty proud of, since the program, on average, usually takes six years. Icing on the cake was the scholarship I received from Titleist for being a top performer in my section. I had a goal and I was making it happen.
For the next few years I coached the local high school golf team, worked at the course, and occasionally taught lessons. My desire to teach full time was growing and in 2008 I was fortunate to become an instructor with Dave Predzin through his golf academy in Manassas, Virginia. In 2012, I pursued another opportunity to teach full-time at Golf Tour Trailer, where owner and friend, Jerry Donahue, PGA, built me a teaching studio.
I first started serving as an occasional instructor with Todd and Tim Graves in 2007. I traveled around the country, as necessary to help with schools. The more I was involved, the more I knew it was where I was meant to be. Even though I taught alongside these guys, I’ve never stopped learning from them. In October 2012, I became staff at GGA. Along with teaching schools as a Master Instructor, I now coach hundreds of students through the Video Coaching program.
In August of 2013, Karen and I moved to Orlando full-time. I am now able to teach year round at our host course, Eagle Creek Golf Club. Through schools, the internet academy, and private lessons, I am living my dream of teaching and mentoring golf students each and every day, helping them improve their game and grow their love of golf. What more could a guy want?