Bump and Run Suzy Whaley

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We know it's difficult to find time to practice during the week. When a Saturday or Sunday tee time rolls around, you're hoping to find some spark or productive swing thought that will help you break 100, 90, 80 or whatever your scoring goal may be.
 
With the weekend warrior in mind we created Bump and Run, a weekly Q&A with some of the game's top instructors. Each Friday, a teaching professional will occupy this space and answer questions directed toward improving your game. This week it's Suzy Whaley, a PGA Teaching Professional at TPC River Highlands – site of the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship – in Cromwell, CT.
Suzy Whaley headshotSUZY WHALEY
PGA Teaching Professional, TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, CT
 
Accomplishments:
- Second woman to qualify and play in a PGA Tour event (Greater Hartford Open); shot 75-78
- 2008 LPGA Northeast Section Teacher of the Year
- 2006, 2008 Connecticut PGA Section Teacher of the Year
- Top 10 Teacher in Connecticut, Golf Digest
 
Web Site:
www.suzywhaleygolf.com
 
Contact: 860-635-5000
An accomplished player, Whaley captured the 2002 Connecticut PGA Section Championship – a first by a PGA of America woman professional – qualifying her for the Greater Hartford Open. Whaley became just the third woman to play in a men's PGA Tour event, shooting 75-78. 'I was really nervous on that first tee,' said Whaley. 'But to put it in perspective, I was no more nervous than any woman playing in her first 18-hole Ladies Day tournament or a man playing in his first club championship. The advantage I had was that I had 10 months to prepare for that moment.'
 
To submit a question to Whaley or one of our teachers, please e-mail bumpandrun@thegolfchannel.com and check back every Friday to see if your question got answered. 

You said you visualized that first tee shot over and over for 10 months?
 
When I finally reached the tee, I went through a series of steps that helped me focus on what I wanted to have happen, not what I feared happening. I took a very long, deep breath prior to my practice swing, focused on my target – not the cameras or people following me – and made sure I went through my pre-shot routine like I always practiced.
 
What advice would you give a golfer to help them overcome their first-tee jitters?
 
What they could do is play the first hole on the practice range. Actually, on that day (first round of the 2003 GHO) I played the first three holes on the range. I've always done that for all my tournaments, if I had the opportunity to play the course before then. I play the hole as if I was on the course, and hit the shots that I think I'll need to hit. This way, by the time I get to the first hole I feel as if I've already done it.

If you're a notoriously slow starter, and it takes you three or four holes to warm up, play those first three holes on the range. This way, when you get to the first tee, you'll be all warmed up.

From your experience playing with the guys, what's the biggest difference you see between the PGA Tour player and the average golfer?

No. 1, they've got more confidence. They look more relaxed; they don’t fear the missed shot as much as the average golfer. The other thing is, when it's their turn to hit, they're not as distracted. They're very focused won what they want to do.

Their routine is the same. They take the same amount of time from one shot to the next, whether they're hitting out of trouble or they're in the middle of the fairway. A lot of weekend golfers, when they hit a bad shot, just want to get out of trouble as fast as they can. They run up and hit the ball. What the best players do is they focus on what they can and cannot do in that particular situation.

Any advice for the weekend warrior? Something that may help them drop a shot or two during their Saturday or Sunday round?

When you're out on the course, focus more on strategy and your target than mechanics. If you don’t have a pre-shot routine, I encourage you to get one, but it you’re just making a practice swing make sure you’re paying attention to that particular swing. Make sure you’re staying in balance, that you have good rhythm, and you’re actually clipping the grass at the bottom of your swing, where the ball would be. Many weekend golfers, they take a practice swing because they think they’re supposed to, and when they step up to the ball their swing looks nothing like their practice swing. If I can get my students to emulate the tempo of their practice swing over the ball, and find the ground, they’ll score much better.

Suzy Whaley hits approach from fairway at 2003 GHO
Rotate your arms and chest back and through together to hit more solid 3-woods.
One of our readers is having trouble reaching the green with his 3-wood. He tends to hit 'an ugly worm-burner that doesn't get more than 3 feet in the air.' Any tips to help him get more carry and distance with his 3-wood? 

If he’s not topping it and hitting it thin, he’s swinging up at the golf ball. He’s not finishing his arc at the bottom of the swing and trying to help the ball up in the air. I would have him visualize swinging more like a letter 'U,' making the arc wider and flatter versus up and down. It also sounds to me like he’s using a lot of hands to lift the ball up in the air versus a lot of rotation. If he can get his arms and chest to rotate back together and swing through together his arc should get wider and shallower at the bottom.

Another one of our readers has a grip problem. His old tendency was to wear out his glove in the thumb and lower palm areas, but after loosening his left-hand grip he's only wearing it out on the thumb. What is it you can learn from the wear marks on your glove, and how do you correct it?

If you're wearing out your glove in the palm, it means you're holding the grip in your left palm. The handle needs to move closer to your fingers, or where the base of the palm meets your fingers on a diagonal from your left index finger to your pinkie. Your left thumb and index finger should be together and your left thumb pad also needs to be on top of the club. It sounds to me like the club is not underneath the pad on his left hand, and it’s running across his lifeline or palm. 

Be wary of holding the club 'more in your fingers,' as is often written. Very few people are strong enough to hold a club entirely in their fingers, and not let go at the top, which would also cause you to wear out your glove, especially on the thumb. The handle needs to rest at the base of the hand, where the palm meets the fingers, so there’s more support. 

Related Videos from Suzy Whaley
  • Power & Distance Drill
  • Warm Up Stretch
  • Wedge Shots Over Bunkers
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