Just as there is no one precise way to swing a golf club, there is more than one way to tell someone how to do it. Two Long Island club pros have proven that by taking unique approaches and landing among Golf Digest’s 50 Best Teachers in America.
Michael Hebron, director of golf at Smithtown Landing Country Club and PGA Hall of Fame member, made the list again, as he has done in every year since 1991. He made a major change in philosophy during his 51 years in the profession, switching from focusing on details like a bad grip to emphasizing every person’s capacity for learning, exploring and experiencing.
Mike Jacobs, who began as an intern at Rock Hill Golf & Country Club in Manorville 21 years ago and has worked his way up to being director of golf there, made it for the first time. He has become a pioneer in high-tech study of the swing, measuring a golfer’s motion with a 3-D biomechanics lab and translating the results to the student on the practice tee.
Unlike Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter and others on the list, neither of the Long Islanders is a major TV celebrity. Hebron and Jacobs both work at public courses. Both are honored to make the top 50, which was compiled in a nationwide poll of golf pros.
“My first reaction is that I think it’s great that the media promotes instruction, and if they want to include me in that promotion, I’m honored and pleased to be there,” Hebron said. “For them to promote the instruction section of the industry, they’re to be congratulated.”
Jacobs said, “It was always my goal to make the top 50. I thought I had a chance to maybe just creep in there. But I came in 32nd and Dave Pelz is 33rd. It was funny to look and see a guy who charges $25,000 a day got four less votes than I did.”
Numerous tour pros, whom he won’t name, have “secretly” made the trip to Manorville for the high-tech analysis designed by Jacobs and Steven Nesbit, a professor of mechanical engineering at Lafayette College. The Rock Hill pro said the two of them will soon publish a study on the effects of the golf swing on the human spine.
“There are 10 Long Islanders in the study, we can’t say who they are but they’re 10 regular guys,” he said, adding that he long has sought a different way to teach. “When I was a kid, I was a really good golfer. I took lessons from supposedly the best teachers and I just got worse. I said, `How can that be humanly possible? I’m not going to do that to somebody.’ ”
Now he is in demand as a speaker, having spent part of the winter lecturing in Europe and giving an indoor clinic near the North Pole.
Hebron, No. 23 in the survey, has been giving talks all over the globe for years. His audiences hear the result of more than 80 course hours he took at Harvard on the workings of the human brain. He did that after he had been an acclaimed teacher and author. His new approach revolves around what he calls “green grass experience,” built on learning by doing, and enjoying.
“I’ve coached a guy who has won the Open, I’ve coached a guy who has won the PGA, I’ve coached a guy who has won the Masters, I’ve coached guys who have won on every tour in the world, on the Ryder Cup and the Walker Cup, but I never mention their names,” he said. “I’d rather be mentioned for how I coach than who I coach.”
The 20th annual Ann Liguori Foundation Charity Golf Classic will be June 4 at Atlantic Golf Club, Bridehampton. Visit annliguorifoundation.org . . . The Sayville High School Booster Club Golf Outing will be June 25 at West Sayville Golf Course. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Denise Connors, Brookville CC, third hole, 148 yards, driver
Carl Paffendorf, Brookville CC, seventh hole, 158 yards, 3-wood
Ed Muller, Eisenhower White, 17th hole, 188 yards, driver
Jack Lessing, Meadow Brook Club, sixth hole, 200 yards, 5-iron
Dan Malossi, Gull Haven GC, ninth hole, 175 yards, 4-hybrid
Paul Rifkin (of Elmont), Kings Point Executive, Delray Beach, Fla., second hole, 157 yards, 7-iron
Angela Corry, Bellport CC, 14th hole, 135 yards, 4-hybrid
Al Vazquez, Sumpwams Creek GC, ninth hole, 158 yards, 7-iron
John Mingione, Heatherwood GC, 17th hole, 145 yards, 8-iron