THERE IS NO DEGREE OR Diploma needed to call yourself a golf teacher. You don’t even have to be a good golfer, though it helps. All it takes is knowledge and patience to coach. But to be a great teacher requires knowledge, patience, intuition, and a gift for natural inspiration. Here’s a look at five of the best in Dallas: Royal Oaks head pro Randy Smith, Hank Haney of Hank Haney Golf Center, Cedar Crest and L.B. Houston pro Leonard Jones, Dan Strimple of Irving Golf Range, and Jackie Anderson, head golf coach at Rockwall High School.
RANDY SMITH: star student
Randy Smith, 45, has labored tire-lessly at Royal Oaks Country Club in Northeast Dallas since 1976. He replaced Buddy Cook as head pro in 1980 and has attracted a very loyal and select following, especially around club pros, with his devoted efforts to raise money for junior golf. Smith has won dozens of Professional Golfers of America (PGA) section and national awards for his money-raising activities, which included 24-hour teach-a-thons before a bad hip forced him to stop.
Smith was named national PGA pro of the year in 1996aftertwodecadesofservice to golf. Along the way, Smith also achieved some acclaim for the tutelage of his promising junior student, Justin Leonard.
Everyone who knew the work Smith had done with Leonard said the young University of Texas star would be a good player one day. He seemed to fulfill some of the stardom predicted for him by winning a U.S. Amateur title in 1992 and a PGATOUR victory in 1996. But last July, Leonard changed everything for himself and his longtime teacher by shooting a final-round 65 to win the British Open in the greatest final-round charge this century and giving part of the post-round credit to his teacher. Smith.
Almost overnight, messages for Smith filled the yellow legal tablet which sits next to the phone in the Royal Oaks pro shop. Media from across the country and around the golfing world lined up for interviews with the laid-back Odessa native. Two national golfing magazines have featured the star student on their covers and the famous teacher in their copy. In the profiles, Leonard has revealed plenty of secrets he has learned from Smith.
“It’s been quite an experience,” Smith understates.
Certainly, Leonard’s celebrity is gratifying for Smith, even if fame is not his driving ambition. In the last two decades, he has been motivaled by his love of teaching, especially teaching junior golfers.
When the media descended on Royal Oaks following Leonard’s victory in Scotland last summer, they found Smith on the practice range with another student. Business as usual.
“When you have a little success with a kid, then it keeps you going with other kids,” Smith says.
He currently teaches dozens of young golfers, none of whom may ever reach the Justin Leonard level. That’s fine with Smith.
“I just enjoy seeing a difference in golfers,” Smith explains. “When I see a guy who has a slice, I really want to see him hook the ball. If they play a left to right, I want to see them work it the other way. 1 want the light bulb to come on in their heads.”
Smith will teach any Royal Oaks member and accepts referrals from members or friends. He keeps a large week-at-a-glance planner on his desk and it is covered with penciled-in appointments. During 1996, Smith estimates he gave nearly 1,400 lessons at Royal Oaks and had a similar number in 1997.
Before every initial lesson, he asks his students three questions.
“I find out what they want, how much time they have to get it, and if the lesson is for the short or long term,” he says. “I’m not a method teacher. I think you have to be flexible and let the student dictate the method chosen. A person who really wants to improve and knows it takes more than just one lesson to do it, that’s the best candidate.”
Despite his sudden high profile, Smith has managed not to lose his humility and his sense of humor.
“I tried to teach my wife several years ago,” he says. “And she doesn’t play golf anymore, so that may say something about my teaching.”
HANK HANEY: top gun
HANK HANEY IS ONE OF THE most successful and highest-paid teachers in the area, if not the nation.
“I may have achieved a few things in my career, but teachers like Hank Haney are so far up there, it’s incredible,” Irving teacher Dan Strimple says.
Haney. a Chicago native, moved to Dallas in 1989 as head pro at Stonebridge Country Club. He stayed because Dallas winters are warm and the golf season is pleasantly long.
He now owns and operates four local Hank Haney Golf Centers, including the highly successful Haney teaching center in downtown Dallas. Together, the centers gave $ 1.5 million worth of lessons in 1996. And business keeps growing. Haney recently was awarded the management contract at the remodeled McKinney Municipal Golf Course.
A graduate of the University of Tulsa, he began his teaching career by giving $ 10 lessons at the Tulsa public recreation centers. Now Haney offers lessons at $250 an hour. His early 1998 schedule called fora teaching seminar in Sweden, where he is typically paid $3,000 to $5,000 a day for the week-long series of lessons.
Haney says he still mainly teaches amateurs and will book any golf lesson without pre-qualifications. He’s famous for the pros that he teaches but is just as happy teaching raw talent.
“It’s a much easier task teaching the high handicappers,” he says, “because they don’t have as high expectations or as big egos as the pros. It’s much harder to work with lower handicappers because they make the same mistakes but much smaller and quicker ones.”
Nevertheless, it was his work with a pro that first thrust Haney into the spotlight.
His hreak into golf’s big time came in 1982 when he was director of instruction at Pinehurst Country Club in North Carolina. “[Pro golfer] Mark O’Meara had just missed making the cut in a PGAevent called the Hall of Fame Invitational,” Haney remembers. “He was 124th on the money list and I started talking with him on the driving range at Pinehurst.” Haney says.
Since Haney began working with him, O’Meara has won 14 times on the PGA TOUR, including four AT&T Pebble Beach titles. O’Meara has been a regular Ryder Cup performer and one of the most consistent PGA players on tour.
“I was just at the right place at the right time,” Haney says.
Over the years, he has helped nearly 100 professional golfers. Haney is the only teacher current LPGA stars Kelli Kuehne and Emilee Klein have ever had. “It was the ultimate to take Kelli and Emilee from juniors to where they are on the LPGA TOUR,” he says.
Haney solidified his impact on the local golf scene in 1993 when he volunteered to become head golf coach at SMU, He initially offered to take the job for free but eventually accepted a small salary.
“SMU was really struggling back then and I really like SMU,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of students who went there, and there is no reason why SMU shouldn’t have a good program.”
His results with the Mustangs have been impressive. Haney has produced three All-Americans and SMU’s best NCAA finish in school history. With a young and talented lineup at SMU, Haney will turn the team over to his assistant after the 1998 season in order to concentrate more on his teaching and business.
Haney briefly considered turning pro himself but chose instead to teach. “I knew pretty soon I wasn’t good enough for the PGATOUR, and I didn’t want to be 28 and have no job,” he says. “Golf is a very hard game. I’m supposed to be one of the best teachers in the world now and still there’s no magic cure.”
His own brief playing career taught him to be a realist and has helped him deal with the fastest-growing segment of adult lessons he now encounters: those players who are about to turn 50 and think they can have success on the SENIOR PGA TOUR.
“A lot of people don’t realize how good the touring pros really are. I don’t mind being harsh about people’s chances. It’s just my opinion, but my opinion is pretty good,” he says.
Tiger Woods’ first golf appearance since winning the 1997 Masters came at L.B. Houston golf course last May as part of the Tiger Woods Foundation Junior Clinic. The private appearance before the Dallas juniors attracted headlines nationwide. But the story behind the story was Dallas native Leonard Jones.
For Jones, 50, head pro at L.B. Houston, Woods’ clinic was a fulfillment of along-held dream-a minority golfer becoming the best in the world and serving as a role model for thousands like him.
“When our course was selected, I was very honored. It almost brought tears to my eyes,” Jones says. “I just want to expose kids to the game of golf, especially those who are underprivileged, because I was underprivileged.”
With Woods’ rise to the top of the professional golf world and his well-attended and publicized clinic at L.B. Houston, Jones, a recent inductee into the Dallas African-American Hall of Fame, is seeing the results of his many years of work.
“Now I have kids coming up to me, asking if they can practice, and the clinics are full,” he says. “Now Tiger Woods is bigger than life, and I have a bunch of kids who want to work hard and try to be the next Tiger Woods. Everyone is excited and the kids will never forget when he was here.”
Jones was born and raised in West Dallas and attended Pinkston High School. He first played the game by sharing a couple of clubs and a ball with his neighborhood friends, playing between the housing projects and across the street on a makeshift course in West Dallas. Officials from the minority Hillard Golf Association introduced him to his first golf course at Cedar Crest in Dallas. L.P. Carter, a Dallas businessman, took it upon himself to help out Jones and others with lessons and free golf equipment at Cedar Crest. Jones also caddied at Brook Hollow Country Club, attempting to learn the game from the players whose bags he carried. He won his state high school golf championship as a senior in 1964 and became the first black golfer to participate in the state amateur championship.
He won a golf scholarships Prairie View A&M, a path out of the ghetto that he is determined to show to other kids in Dallas.
“A kid can’t get in trouble on the golf course. When you give him time away for golf, that’s time away from guns and drugs.” Jones says.
His first golf job after college was at a course in Winston-Salem, N.C., when Jones studied everything he could.
“I read Hogan’s 5 Lessons of Golf ’probably 100 times from cover to cover. I would look at players’ films and copy their methods about everything,” he says.
While he won five mini-tour tournaments on the Negro professional circuit, he found his opportunities for advancement to be limited and his chances for professional help blocked by color barriers.
“I couldn’t go to clinics at the Dallas Open and the Nelson,” Jones says. “I would have loved to have seen Nicklaus give a clinic.”
In 1981, he returned to Dallas to work at the city public courses. Eventually he was named head pro at both L.B. Houston and Cedar Crest Golf Course, a homecoming of sorts.
Jones’ first love is teaching kids. And he teaches them more than how to swing a club.
“1 deal with kids mentally, morally, and physically,” he says. “I know their problems because I’ve had those same problems. When I see kids go to high school, then go to college and gel a degree while somebody pays for it [on scholarship], it’s a dream come true.”
Every summer, Jones helps conduct clinics for more than 1,500 kids at local recreation centers and at the driving range at L.B. Houston. Every Christmas, he helps sponsor parties for Dallas kids, hoping to hook them on golf.
“When kids see me, they see a living example of what you can become. I came from West Dallas, came from the ghetto. Kids listen because they know I’m genuine, they know I’m concerned about them,” says Jones.
He officially charges $30 for a 30-minute lesson but Jones feels obliged to be generous to the golf community. When he was starting, his family couldn’t afford lessons or equipment. In order to play, he had to have lessons given to him for free. And now he’s giving back. Out of the 500 lessons Jones gave in 1997, he estimates he gave more than half away for free.
SITTING ALONE BY THE ROADSIDE near DFW Airport, almost obscured by a huge airport billboard and wedgeupetweernwMipci^UNdsMnc Irving Golf Range seems an unlikely place for one of the hottest teachers in the city.
Dan Strimple, an Ohio native who learned the game as a caddy, moved to Dallas in 1981 to teach at some local clubs. He soon decided to earn his fortune on the professional golf tours and attempted to qualify for PGA TOUR School in 1983. Strimple spent two years traveling the world, playing in different exotic and not-so-exotic locations. After amassing plenty of memories but very little money, Strimple returned to Dallas in 1986.
“[My wife and I] got to do things and see places we would have never seen, but teaching was always my passion and I knew a long time ago teaching was what I was going to do as a professional,” he says.
His friend and fellow professional at the Golf Academy David Hampton offered him the chance to teach at the Irving Golf Range in 1986. Two years later, he began the Irving Golf School. The school grew when he added the Fundamental Golf School with another friend, Scott Robbins, in 1990. Strimple has been featured in USA Today and local golf magazines and was named North Texas PGA Teacher of the Year in 1994 and ’96.
“Through all the struggles I had on the pro tour, I began to learn my swing and how to fit it into a complete game,” Strimple says. “People want to take lessons from people who can teach them the whole swing.
“People see golf is a competitive game and everybody goes through slumps, but people need to know they can be more successful after going through struggles,” he adds.
In addition to teaching from his own personal experiences and lessons he learned as a pro, he relies heavily on the teaching methods of local golf greats Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson.
“I believe a good player will do the fundamentals the same way every time,” he explains. “You can model your golf swing after Ben Hogan, who had a classic swing. I don’t do any lessons without taking video of people and I always show them the video of what Hogan and Nelson did.”
From his obscure location, Strimple teaches a steady stream of golfers from the very experienced to those who have never before picked up a club. He charges $90 per hour for private lessons, which he estimates he gave 500-700 times in 1997. He also has group lessons and special packages for seniors and first-time golfers.
“I’ll work with anybody who wants to learn. Golf lessons can be very affordable, depending on what you want. I’ll do clinics for anywhere from three to eight people and try to cover the complete game with everybody.
“There is no perfect teacher or perfect student, but I think the key to good teaching is communication,” Strimple says. “I like students who ask me a lot of questions and give me plenty of feedback.”
MOLDER OF YOUNG MEN
JACKIE ANDERSON IS ONE OF THE FEW athletes in Rockwall High School history to have his jersey retired. As a member of the 1963 state championship football team and a state medalist in track and field, nobody needed to tell him about the Yellowjacket athletic tradition. But when he got an offer to head up the Rockwall golf program in 1984, he was a little baffled.
“They didn’t have anyone else to coach the golf program,” says Anderson. “No one else wanted it, so I just took it as something to do. I wasn’t dedicated to golf until I started coaching.”
That was 14 years ago. Since then, Rockwall has become one of the most successful high school golf teams in the area. Anderson retired this spring, but his foundation will keep the program strong.
The Rockwall program has produced three individual state champions, one state team title in 1996, and four second-place state finishes in the 1990s. More important, his players have earned 14 players college golf scholarships.
“We started off with just nine players, but we had some good ones like Bradley Holt that helped build the foundation,” Anderson says. “We managed to win the district title the first year and got the tradition going. Each year since then, we’ve gotten better.” Now. Anderson has 30 players out for the team each year.
He credits the success of his Rockwall program to good players, good tradition, and a good mental attitude. Anderson is the first to admit that he teaches more about dedication and good practice habits than how to cure a hook or slice. He focuses on his strengths as a coach, teaching composure and self-discipline.
“I’m more of a cheerleader than an actual coach,” Anderson says. “I work with the young kids on their fundamentals, but most of my team go to private teachers. I would never tell a kid to do the opposite of what a private teacher has told them.”
When it comes to skill. Anderson isn’t afraid to admit most of his players could defeat him on the course. He attended college in Oklahoma on a football scholarship and had never played 18 holes of golf before his senior year. Six or seven years ago, he couldn’t break 90; now he’s shooting in the mid-70s.
Anderson gives most of the credit for Rockwall’s coaching success to his star players, but he takes personal pride with every golfing victory.
“To see them reach their individual goals and sign college scholarships is very rewarding. It’s in my blood 100 percent now and I’m going to do anything I can do to help them.”