Golf School Trains Teens in Swings Life
However, these teens have hours of course work left this afternoon - along with sand shots, drives and reading putts.
They are enrolled in the International Junior Golf Academy, a facility that blends college preparatory courses with intensive, high-level golf instruction from former pro golfers. Not that there's much choice but to practice and train; the mainland is a half-hour ferry ride away through the Calibogue Sound.
'It might sound like Alcatraz, but it's not that,' said Charlie Hoyle, a 17-year-old student from England in his second year at the academy.
The school was founded in 1995 by Brooklynite Ray Travaglione, who grew up playing and caddying on city courses such as Dyker Beach. He had a successful career on Wall Street before sinking much of his savings into the longheld dream of a golf school. How much did he have to invest? 'Let's just say it took everything I had at one point,' he said.
Travaglione modeled the school after the success of tennis academies, such as Nick Bollettieri's, which has developed Grand Slam winners including Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova.
Travaglione liked nearby Hilton Head Island, one of the country's top golf locations and home of the PGA Tour's MCI Classic at Harbour Town Golf Links. So began the slow, time-consuming process of convincing parents to send their children to an island off the coast of South Carolina to become scratch golfers.
'At the time it was fairly innovative, fairly risky,' Travaglione said.
He says he started with a handful of teens whose parents 'believed the story.' By the school's fifth year, the academy had earned a viable reputation of combining academics with golf - not necessarily to scorch the PGA or LPGA tours, but to earn golf scholarships to college.
A year ago, Gary Gilchrist, a former professional who taught rising stars Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, became the IJGA's golf director.
Gilchrist liked the focus on the total person: helping to train a student's mind as well as their swings. 'The thing is it's so exciting to do this,' he says.
There are about 125 students from 24 states and 16 countries. Full-time students are housed in guest cottages along Daufuskie Island's shore. They attend class at the Heritage Academy, then work on their golf for three hours each afternoon.
Along with stance and grip, come lessons on health and life.
Sports psychologist Stephen Russo helps the teens on mental issues such as blocking out distractions and making smart choices. 'Some of you have been here two or three years,' he tells about three dozen students, 'and you've gotten tremendously better.'
That's been the case for Hoyle, who has lowered his handicap from an 11 to a 3 during his time at the academy. 'It's just a really good sort of atmosphere,' said Hoyle, who hopes to earn a golf scholarship to college.
All the tools to improve are on the island. The teaching staff includes former pros, including Hugh Royer III, who spent several years on the PGA Tour. Royer says if someplace like the academy existed when he was a teen, 'I wouldn't be here, I would be a multimillionaire playing on tour.'
The students disperse to two island courses after classes. There are instruction weeks to work on technique and style and competition weeks as students prepare for events on the International Junior Golf Tour, in which academy students play tournaments at Harbour Town and the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass.
Gilchrist showed one group the proper backswing, while Royer worked with another group by the putting green. 'Come on, concentrate people,' he called as teenage minds wandered.
Ana Johnson, 17, of Oconomowoc, Wis., is in her second year at IJGA. She says she would like to design courses or take part in the industry some other way.
Her game, though, might force her to think again. Shooting over 100 on her high school golf team, Johnson has brought that down to the high 70s here.
She likes the secluded spot to train and study but admits the academy 'was a lot of sacrifice because I gave up a normal life.'
There are supervised outings to malls and movies. 'We do things like paintball,' Hoyle said.
Ben Lasso, 16, of Falls Church, Va., thinks the students mesh well since they share same goal of improvement. Lasso has brought his high handicap down to a 3 in his two years at the school. 'This is a great place to be since golf is everything I do or want to do,' he said.
The academy is not for everyone. A full-year's tuition is $34,000, and the seclusion does not suit everyone, Gilchrist says.
'I think personally, it has been a sacrifice,' Lasso said. 'But to me it's worth it.'
Students have accepted scholarships from college powers such as Georgia, Purdue and Clemson. Johnson, a senior, says she's discussed scholarships with golf coaches at Virginia, North Carolina and William & Mary.
'That's certainly part of our mission,' Travaglione said.
Its scope could be growing. The academy is building a practice facility and dorm space for 200 students on the island. Travaglione says he's in negotiations on a West Coast satellite school and to bring other instruction in baseball or soccer to his campus.
Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball
Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.
In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.
"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’
Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.
“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.
“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’
Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.
The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving
Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.
The major championships I'm certainly proud of, but Barbara, the kids and my grandkids are the best things to ever happen to me. From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving! pic.twitter.com/wkma1Q9LlK— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) November 23, 2017
GC Tiger Tracker:
Mixing Thanksgiving and waiting for a week from today. pic.twitter.com/u9m9WxQNYx— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) November 23, 2017
Happy thanksgiving to everyone! Hope you have a wonderful day with family and friends. #Thankful— Steve Stricker (@stevestricker) November 23, 2017
Was reading about Thanksgiving. Originally they ate waterfowl, venison, ham, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash. Seems a bit tastier than Turkey!— Frank Nobilo (@FrankNobiloGC) November 23, 2017
Literally food for thought.
Tyrone Van Aswegen:
Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017
Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.
Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan
Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.
Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.
Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:
“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”
Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.
“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”
Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.
“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”
Best Greg story: coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes “Yep, caddied for her, her, her and her” Legend— Matthew Galloway (@matthewgalloway) November 23, 2017
In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.
“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”
Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.
“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”
The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time Tour caddie, Greg Sheridan. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP pic.twitter.com/QKy0YdK249— LPGA (@LPGA) November 22, 2017
Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.
“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.
Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:
Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:
Sad to hear the passning of Greg Sheridan. This photo brings back many memories. Always respected his caddy skills and devotion to womens golf. @natalie_gulbis @LPGA #RIPGreg pic.twitter.com/lHU3Ixz9Vk— Annika Sorenstam (@ANNIKA59) November 23, 2017
LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:
Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:
Professional caddies are often overlooked and underrated. But they're just as often the unsung MVP of a player's success. We just lost a great one. RIP Greg Sheridan. He was the 1st to welcome me to my LPGA assignment years ago. He will be missed eternally.— Jerry Foltz (@JerryFoltzGC) November 22, 2017
Rest with the Angels now, Greg Sheridan. ❤️— Christina Kim (@TheChristinaKim) November 22, 2017
LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:
RIP Greg Sheridan. One of the most successful and great caddies of World Golf, period.— Shaun Clews (@shaunclews1973) November 22, 2017
LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:
Sad to here that long time tour caddy Greg Sheridan has passed away! RIP Greg, you will be missed. — Jonny Scott (@stixy76) November 22, 2017
LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:
The world is a sadder place today without our buddy Greg Sheridan, a caddy and a friend for lifetimes...Godspeed buddy— Kevin Casas (@TheKevinCasas) November 23, 2017
LPGA pro Jennie Lee:
So sad to hear the news of long time LPGA caddie Greg Sheridan. I️ remember sitting next to him on the plane from Walmart to the US Open one year and he gave me the best words of wisdom on player/caddie chemistry. He will be missed greatly. Thinking of you @natalie_gulbis ❤️— Jennie Lee (@JennieLeeGolf) November 23, 2017