ORLANDO, Fla. – How do you engage PGA Professionals with their students? Perhaps it’s as easy as an eye in the sky. PGA Professional Dave Phillips of Rancho Santa Fe, California, who is unabashedly bullish in exploring technological advances in golf, executed a historic move Monday in the final day of the 15th PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit.
Phillips flew the first drone in the PGA’s largest educational forum, an event that attracted nearly 800 attendees. There were representatives from 12 countries.
“I’m happy to know it was a first, and I have been using the drone for a few years,” said Phillips, co-founder of the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) in Oceanside, California, and one of Golf Digest’s Top 50 Teachers in America. “It’s one way to keep up with what is happening on the course, at the practice range; to stop and catch the attention of juniors, or just experimenting as you learn more about its capabilities.”
The Summit’s theme of “The Pursuit of Excellence” was a healthy dose of information and best practices to spark teachers to attract new golfers and maintain current students.
Said master of ceremonies Martin Hall, the 2008 PGA Teacher of the Year, “I hope that you can take home this spirit. . .I’m not what I’m want to be, I’m not what I’m going to be, but I’m better than I used to be.”
The day opened with a rousing presentation by Dr. Bhrett McCabe, a sports performance psychologist and Louisiana State University graduate who now lives in the shadow of the Crimson Tide in Birmingham, Alabama.
“Before it was fun to be working in ‘enemy territory,’ but now after being around the university and getting to know so many, I can honestly sit here and say, ‘Roll Tide.’ ”
While University of Alabama is among McCabe’s wide student base, he said that golfers account for 40 percent of his business. McCabe has been encouraged by his interaction with PGA Professionals, and has had ample feedback over the years.
“I want people to see that their mindset is the most powerful thing that they own,” said McCabe. “I see the top 15 percent will find a way. We see a large majority in the middle and feel that they are stuck in the middle. Unfortunately, mediocrity has a lot of partners. There are more ways to engage a client base. One of the best ways is to continue to work on being personable.”
McCabe believes in “seeing opportunities rather than seeing barriers.”
“I have made six trips to the PGA Merchandise Show and now find myself humbled to be at a seventh this week, preceded by people paying to come and hear me speak on stage,” he said. “I was at a soccer tournament, and they’ve got a bunch of kids, 20-30 kids on a field. They got to keep them corralled, they got to keep them excited and they got to keep them in the game,” said Phillips. “That’s what junior golf is, it’s not an individual sports, it might eventually, when they become performance-based. But right now it’s just participatory. Let’s get them playing.”
Phillips then pointed to what he called a “forgotten generation” in the game. “It’s me, 50-years-old or above,” he said. “We got to keep them healthy. We’re growing the game but we’re not taking care of the back of the bus. They’re the ones helping bring the kids out. Think about what you can do to engage them.”
The Summit’s lone live lesson was a reunion of Todd Anderson, the 2010 PGA Teacher of the Year, and longtime friend Randy Myers of Sea Island, Georgia, one of the most respected golf fitness experts in the country. The twosome was heavily involved in behind-the-scenes preparations at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.
“When you integrate golf instruction with golf fitness, it is something that’s very powerful,” said Anderson, the Director of the Tour Performance Center at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. “You improve you as a teacher and your students improve—not just on the physical side – but how your body functions crossing over to your golf swing. You put the two together and it’s very powerful.”
“As an instructor, your grade is based on results. If they are getting better, they will keep coming back. By doing golf fitness, it shows you care, and not just about their fitness, but also to prevent them from hurting themselves.” Anderson was a longtime coach of veteran U.S. Ryder Cup Team member Brandt Snedeker, while Myers made Hazeltine his sixth Ryder Cup appearance as a member of the U.S. fitness “team.” He assisted Captain Davis Love III in providing a state-of-the-art fitness area.
“The No. 1 thing that Davis wanted to do was provide a normal environment for players that they would experience during a week on tour,” said Myers. “The fitness staff had access as never before and that was the result of coming together with the players and cooperation with the PGA Championships Department. It was a very well-coordinated effort and one that we hope to continue to use going forward.”
PGA Members Tony Martinez, Chris Carpenter, Matt Reagan and Moderator Rick Murphy joined in an engaging “Building a Golf Factory: Creating New Golfers” panel discussion that proposed flipping the model for teaching juniors from “Train, Coach, Play” to “Play, Coach, Train.” In other words, similar to football and soccer, allow kids to play the game first before they take lessons. This enables the junior to understand why they’re being taught in the matter they are and how it can benefit them. “You need to provide the experience first – lay the knowledge, otherwise they are developing and learning without any idea as to why,” explained Carpenter, PGA Director of Golf at Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord, Massachusetts and a three-time PGA Junior Golf Award recipient at the Section level. “The mantra needs to be not ‘learn to play’ but ‘play to learn.’” Reagan, co-founder of iGrow Golf and the 2014 Carolinas PGA Youth Player Development Award recipient, offered a brand new “Creating Golfers” blueprint for developing golfers that promotes this model as the onboarding process.