PGA Level 1 Seminar: Day 5

After two days, Australia's Marcus Fraser leads the
After two days, Australia’s Marcus Fraser leads the men’s Olympic golf tournament.

Today was our last day! And we survived what felt like a pretty long week. With Olympic Golf coverage playing out in the Education Center lobby, we continued talking about giving lessons and how to best demonstrate new skills to our students. We also discussed practice – how, when, how much, and when to stop as well as how to motivate.

Here’s something I didn’t know. The right amount of practice for adults is about 1-2 hours, and in general, it’s less than an hour for juniors. How do you know when to stop practicing toward your goal? When you’ve achieved it during your practice session or when a lack of progress leads to frustration and discouragement. You should stop practicing entirely when concentration cannot be sustained or when fatigue beings to impair skill performance.

I also learned a lot about junior golfers and how junior golfers learn. The ideal period for learning golf skills is late childhood (7-12 years). This is the time when learning a variety of sports lays a broad foundation for future specialization in one sport and when learning a variety of sports gives a junior enough experience to decide which sport or sports he or she wants to specialize in later. This is why late childhood is considered the “sampling years.” Early childhood (2-6 years) is considered a “play and exploration” period while adolescence (13-18 years) is considered the “specialization years.”

The best slide of the morning involved playing competitively at a high level. There are about 2.2 million junior golfers in the U.S., and only about 226,000 play competitive golf. Of those, a little less than 5,500 (2.4%) will play Division I college golf, and even fewer, 446 golfers (8.1%), will make it to the PGA or LPGA Tours. That’s a conversation we might have to have with an overbearing parent one of these days.

After lunch, the conversation shifted to physical assessments and making initial physical observations, which was basically like Anatomy, Exercise, and Bio-Mechanics at the Golf Academy. I continue to be amazed at how the things people do in their everyday lives or for work lead to physical abnormalities that can affect their golf swing. At around 2:00p, we headed back outside for our final outdoor session of the week.

The short game
A short game skills assessment like the one we did today is a great way to track your student’s progress.

The first station was a Short Game Skills Assessment: 20 putts, 10 chip shots, and 10 pitch shots. The 20 putts (10 left to right and 10 right to left) were to the same hole from 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15 feet out. We got two points for each make and zero points if we missed.

Then we attempted five chip shots from 45 feet and five chip shots from 60 feet out. The pitch shots were 15 yards from the edge of the green and 10-15 yards from the pin with points being awarded based on proximity to the hole. Each total resulted in a handicap for that short game element. Add up all up and divide by three and you’ve got your Short Game Handicap.

From there it was on to the driving range where we gave each other full-swing individual lessons. My roommate and I took turns pretending we were beginners. He pretended to have a swing like Jim Furyk’s but with a weaker grip, and I pretended to swing like Happy Gilmore. Then it was up to us to get the other guy to swing the right way.

I had him strengthen his grip and adjust his posture. He made me change to a ten-finger or baseball grip and adjust my stance. Both teaching strategies worked, and we had a great time laughing and joking around about the awkward situations in which we had put one another.

For our last activity of the day, we headed over to one of the practice bunkers where Rafael Floriani (PGA) was waiting to show us and talk to us about how to teach the short game to a beginner. This was by the far the best weather day of the week, but it was also the hottest and most humid. I felt bad for Rafael standing there in the bunker roasting away for three straight hours. He gave us a lot of great tips on how to teach chipping and bunker play, and I came away with a lot of drills I can take back and use at La Paloma.

My roommate totally blew Rafael’s mind with a bunker drill he likes to do using the rake as a training aid. Rafael was so impressed that he whipped out his phone and started snapping pics of the set-up so he could use them at future seminars. Today was great until this hot, hour-long bunker session. We were dismissed a little after 5:00p (instead of 6:00p as scheduled). We were sweaty, and we were exhausted, but we were also grateful for what we had learned this week.

I felt bad for Rafael who stood in this bunker for about three hours.
I felt bad for Rafael who stood in this bunker for about three hours.

So that’s it and that’s all! I would say, the sooner you can get back for Level 2, the better. This time of year, the PGA Education staff is averaging about 15 days to turnaround a Portfolio (as opposed to 30). Once your Work Experience Portfolio gets approved, you’ll receive an email from PSI Exams so you can schedule your five-test battery.

The tests take between four-and-a-half and five hours to complete and cost $78. Why it costs $40 to retake each test is beyond me. I’m thinking about making my return trip to Port St. Lucie in early January if I’m lucky, but some of my buddies are talking about coming back to Florida as soon as late October.

After a long week, I finally went to Duffy’s Sports Grill with a bunch of the guys to let loose and knock back a few beers. On this night there were 2-for-1 specials. Oh, and try the Firecreacker Shrimp.

Flight Plan
All aboard! My shuttle for Palm Beach International Airport leaves at 5:15 tomorrow morning. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to get up at the dawn of crack. It’s me and 16 other dudes. My flight leaves at 7:25a, and because Port St. Lucie is about 45 minutes away from the airport, they want us to leave about two hours beforehand.

Flight Plan Update (as of approx. 9:44a EST)
A bunch of us woke up to some exciting news if you want to call it that. Our American Airlines flight to Dallas had been cancelled overnight because of severe weather in the Midwest. Apparently, I missed American Airlines’ courtesy call at 2:40a, I don’t know, because I was asleep?

Because I didn’t answer my phone, I was re-ticketed for Sunday night… flying first to Chicago. We were all frantically trying to reach American. I was on hold for almost 20 minutes when my call got disconnected. The callback time was estimated at well over two hours! Thank goodness I was able to get ahold of my wife at around 2:00a Arizona time. She’s a Platinum Member and was able to get me on a flight from West Palm Beach to Charlotte.

Now this day is all screwed up! Instead of getting home a little after 11:00a, I’m looking at a six-hour layover in Charlotte if I can’t catch an earlier flight to Phoenix and an arrival time of 7:00p. But that’s way better than getting home late Sunday night. I’m on the standby list, and my fingers are crossed.

At one time or another, I held tickets for seven different flights today. I only got on three of them.
At one time or another, I held tickets for seven different flights today. I only got on three of them.

Flight Plan Update #2 (as of approx  12:53 EST)
Just caught a huge break! I was on the standby list to leave Charlottte at 11:25a but was eventually turned away because the flight was oversold. Next flight up was 1:00p, and I made it on board at the last minute. I felt bad. The only reason I got on was because people were trying to make their connection from the opposite end of the airport and just came up short.

As I was boarding the plane, I asked the ticketing agent to get me on the standby list for the next flight from Phoenix to Tucson (at 3:19p) knowing that there were still three seats left on the plane. She did me one better. She booked me a ticket! As I approached the gate and didn’t see my name on the standby list, my heart sank. Then the lady at the counter handed me my new ticket.

Someone was definitely looking out for me today. Now, I’ll still be getting home about four and-a-half hours later than my scheduled arrival time, but all things considered, it sure as heck beats spending almost two more full days at a hotel in Port St. Lucie.

Things I Won’t Miss About the Week:
* The slow (and at times spotty) internet connections
* The breakfasts at Sam Snead’s
* Sitting in a classroom for eight hours a day
* The humidity – especially because we had to wear pants each day
* Marvin’s driving – I’m surprised I didn’t get carsick
* Flight delays and cancellations

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