Fowler spends extra time with young fans

Rickie Fowler gives a few pointers at his Rickie Fowler gives a few pointers at his golf clinic at Huntington Crescent Golf Club. (Aug 20, 2012) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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Rickie Fowler spent time with every student at the clinic Monday morning, especially 10-year-old Caleb Pollan, who was wearing a bright orange cap with a Puma logo, just like Fowler wears. Fowler told him, "You use the same grip that I did."

It was just then that Fowler's pro golf career fell into context. He might be seen as an underachiever because he has only one PGA Tour win and is two major titles behind his peer Rory McIlroy. But the fact is, he is only 23 and not all that far removed from whaling away with a big driver on the range.

Fowler encouraged the youth on the driving range at Huntington Crescent Club: "You've got good balance." And he gave this parting advice, "Keep swinging hard."

That pretty much sums it up for Fowler, too, a potential star who always tries to show good balance in his young life and who still is swinging for the fences. He might make his second consecutive Ryder Cup team and he has won a tournament, the Wells Fargo Championship in May.

"It got the monkey off my back," said the golfer from Oklahoma State who turned pro in 2009. "I had a very good stretch there for a month or two, had some good finishes, played really well. It was just a matter of time and I finally had an opening there in the playoff and I took advantage of it. The biggest thing is just to get that first one out of the way."

He is on Long Island this week for the Barclays, the FedEx Cup playoff opener that starts Thursday at Bethpage Black. Monday, he put on a clinic, then gave individual instruction during the Citi Private Pass event. Observers who have been to and hosted other seminars said they never have seen a tour player take such an interest in each pupil, to the point of putting tees in the ground for them.

Several players were advised to move the ball up in their stance even though, as Fowler said, "It might feel funny at first." To 11-year-old Frankie Marzano, he said: "Looks good, Bud. Keep swinging. You'll beat your dad.

"I like hanging out with other golfers, people who are fans of mine," Fowler said. "It's fun to be able to show them I'm just another one of the guys."

Fowler is looking forward to revisiting Bethpage, which he played as an amateur in 2009. Golf watchers are looking forward to seeing whether he can become another of his sport's big guys, along with McIlroy, his friend and fellow 23-year-old who just won the PGA Championship.

"He is a very impressive player," Fowler said. "He's not where he is right now for nothing. He has obviously put in a lot of hard work and he's playing well. It's fun to see. He's someone who definitely pushes me and wants to do more. Hopefully, he and I will be playing against each other for a long time."

Notes & quotes: Tiger Woods, McIlroy and Phil Mickelson all will be in the pro-am at Bethpage Black Wednesday beginning at 7:30 a.m. The Woods and Mickelson groups will tee off on No. 1, McIlroy's group will start on No. 10. Barclays defending champion Dustin Johnson and British Open champion Ernie Els will be in the 1:30 p.m. wave.

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