Monday, July 25, 2022

From the good old golfing days

Back in fall of 1993, the last semester of my studies at Professional Golfers Career College in Murrieta (the college have long since moved to a bigger and more modern campus in Temecula), I spent every Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the driving range of either Menifee Country Club, Sun City Golf Club, or the newly opened Red Hawk Golf Club, giving free swing lessons as the practical part of the college's Techniques of Teaching class.

It wasn't my favorite part of the course. I was there at the college mostly to pass the time while I got old enough to be allowed to play on professional tours, and never intended on any teaching or club professional career. I was what they'd call a 'visual learner'.... What I really looked at tended to get pretty well imprinted in my head, and became hard to get rid of (forget). So, I avoided looking at any golf swing that I would have any problem assimilating into my own swing. When I would go out golfing with others, I'd take very good care to not look directly at their swing. I'd just look at the ball being hit, but not the hitting process.

Naturally, that didn't work very well when I had to correct other people (especially amateur golfers)' swing. My professor, the late Gordie Severson, who happened to also be my own swing coach back then, found that endlessly amusing and got into a wicked streak of sending for me when he'd find particularly obnoxious golf swings that needed fixing. In hindsight, I suspect that was his way of building my tolerance for exposure to really hideous stuff some people do in the process of trying to hit a dimply little white ball...
But I digressed...

Anyhow, the most memorable swing I still can't get out of my head to this day (bless you, Gordie!), I was called to after having scored a much nicer looking swing on the other end of the golf range at Sun City Golf Course. I arrived at the appropriate stall and glanced at Gordie who was trying very hard to hide a growing smirk on his face while indicating that I should take over trying to fix the swing of the grumpy looking gentleman in front of him.

I resigned myself to being on the butt end of another unintentional practical joke from my golf professor and turned to have a glancing look at as the man made a few practice swings. Wouldn't you know it, it was one of the most beautiful golf swings I had ever seen! Something of a very fluid mix of the swings of the young Davis Love III and Steve Elkington; exquisite use of leverage while being beautifully compact at the same time. 

I couldn't believe my eyes. I think I even broke into a very hopeful smile at the thought of being able to actually look at a golf swing full on without fearing having it stuck in my head and messing my game up.

Then the man stepped up and put his iron clubhead behind the ball...

Two full minutes went by, and he still had not progressed into the swing from his address... If you golf, then you know, two minutes standing on top of the ball translates to an eternity and a month. His beautifully relax stance transformed into a tense huff and puff, veins were popping on his neck and forearms. My heart sank... this gorgeous golf swing was going downhill fast.... and he hadn't moved an inch. I glanced back at Gordie, who had turned beet red and was quivering in place from a heroic effort to stifle a chuckle.

'Bastard!' I cursed under my breath, as I watched my designated 'pupil' finally inched his club into a jerky and laborious backswing, took a long pause at the top, and then proceeded to bash down on the ball, producing a perfect shank that nearly took the golfer in the next stall out.

"Well?", snarled my pupil, "What did I do wrong?"
'Oh, you caught me by surprised and I didn't have a good look,' I lied as my pants let off a wisp of smoke, 'Could you hit another one at the 150 banner for me, please.'

Nearly six more minutes, and only two actual swings (and two completely murdered range balls... and they were the abominable two-piece craps of golf balls rather than the wholesome but soft three-piece balata spheres that I was used to hitting) that produced rather undesirable results along with a stream of vocalized grumpiness,... and I was out of stalling option. Luckily for me, I had begrudgingly seen many golf swings in my teens to have one that seemed to offer the solution.

One of the ladies I had golfed with in tournaments in Asia back around 1991 had this weird habit of swinging the club forward past the ball before taking it back into a proper backswing. I never understood before why she did that, but she was a pretty good ball striker for it. So I got up to demonstrate to Mr Tense how I would like him to, as a matter of experiment, when he next addressed the ball, to swing the club forward to point toward the target before taking it back into the real swing and then just go on to hit the ball.

He wasn't keen on it, but as nothing else seemed to have worked for him lately, why not try this weird youngster's strange suggestion. As anyone would predict, the first swing didn't produce a good hit (it's quite a change going from the normal start of any golf swing), but it was still the most solid hit he had that morning. So he tried some more.

It was amazing to see the gorgeous Davis Love III/Steve Elkington-esque golf swing rematerialized and making contact with golf balls on that range. Even Gordie was at a loss for words. (Served him right!) He could diagnose the problem as well as I could, of course, but telling someone to relax.... and actually getting any relaxation out of them. Now, that was a dilemma.

It was a good learning experience for both me and the golfer (who left the range that morning never being told to relax at all). I still don't like looking at other people's golf swings even though I don't golf anymore, but I learned then to appreciate being exposed to different things and ideas. You never know when they would come in handy in giving you more choices of solutions to problems, and understanding why people do things differently. There are as many different ways of smashing the golf balls as there are of skinning a cat.... so to speak.

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