USGTF members identify their ideal foursomes and imagine the resultant teaching applications.
“As you walk down the fairway of life
you must smell the roses, for you
only get to play one round.”
– Ben Hogan
Everyone who loves golf strives to master it, alife long pursuit. Somewhere along the way, discoveries are made: customized equipment for one’s game, favorite courses one has played and others one longs to experience, prominent players whose techniques one respects and tries to emulate, and determination of how best to teach others the skills one has learned – a way of passing the torch. Yet what these objective factors overlook is perhaps the most powerful element of all: imagination. Visualizing a perfect ball flight, contemplating hitting every fairway, envisioning putting with a deft touch and unwavering confidence…all can lead to greater success on the course.
Imagination can carry us even further. The greats of the game – those who still walk the links as well as those who have passed into the annals of golf history – dwell in us. Their achievements, personalities, playing styles and contributions to golf and other causes inhabit our thoughts. We admire them, marvel at them, wish we could meet them. Why not imagine playing around with them? That is precisely what several USGTF members have done. Asked to name the living individuals who would round out their dream foursomes and then explain how this experience would enhance their teaching, four members share some insights, their delight in selecting their ideal playing partners on full display.
JOE BERMEL, known as The Putting Doctor, chooses players known for their putting prowess, naturally. Bermel has been teaching for twelve years at My Putting Doctor Private Teaching Facility, on Long Island, New York, his own facility. To complete his foursome, he would pick Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
“I chose them because they are great players and great putters,” Bermel says. “Our golf game would be light hearted yet serious.”
In his instruction, Bermel focuses on putting and the entire short game. As he was a top contender at the World Putting Championship, Bermel knows of what he speaks. He has produced two volumes of copyrighted DVDs, How to Putt Well, has performed The Putting Doctor Road Show with golf celebrities, and has enjoyed extensive media coverage.
Bermel chose Nicklaus “for his pre-putt routine.” Bermel teaches his own brand of routine, but would like to see first-hand what Nicklaus does. The same goes for Mickelson, whose pre-putt routine is more meticulous and repetitive than that of most other golfers, according to Bermel, “which is why he is one of the best putters in the world.”As for Tiger Woods, “one of the best golfers ever,” Bermel admires his general demeanor during play. Bermel would tell his students to “do it like Tiger does it. Copy Tiger.” He would advise his students to buy these players’ books and instructional manuals to learn more about their secrets to playing at the level they do.
STEVE KUZMIC, who teaches in the San Francisco Bay area, has been a USGTF member for three years and is in the process of formulating his thesis for certification as a USGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional. He and his teaching partner, Rob Wollack, are working on building an indoor instructional facility in San Francisco’s SoMa District. They have not yet settled on a name for their facility.
We’re like the Beatles,” says Kuzmic, who finds joy, solace and balance in golf. “They wrote their music first, then the lyrics afterwards.”
Kuzmic, whose father escaped Communism in the former Yugoslavia by “running away with an accordion on his back,” grew up playing classical piano, and now produces music of his own “mel-low electronic genre.” He has “traveled the world as a DJ.” These days he also makes beautiful music on the golf course and the lesson tee.
He first was introduced to golf twenty-five years ago by his brother-in-law, Clay Stokes, who represents Kuzmic’s first pick for his ideal living foursome.
“Clay started me on the range,” says Kuzmic, who has been teaching golf for fifteen years. “He put a difficult 4-iron in my hands and gave me a couple of pieces of advice, and I was off and running. It’s the opposite of how people learn today.”
Kuzmic also would include Lee Trevino. “He is an everyman,” Kuzmic says, “hilarious. He comes from humble beginnings. He has a low ball flight, yet won a U.S. Open. I love his scrappiness and creativity, showing that anyone can play and win at the highest level.” These are Trevino’s qualities that Kuzmic would try to impart to his students after playing around with the famous Texan with the self-taught style.
Ernie Els would be Kuzmic’s fourth. “I’ve modeled my swing after The Big Easy,” says Kuzmic. “I’m a pretty mellow guy myself.”
Big on playing lessons rather than repetitive practice on the range, Kuzmic would learn from his dream foursome while playing at his dream venue, Pebble Beach Golf Links, in Pebble Beach, California.
“I would love to see Lee and Ernie interact,” says Kuzmic. “Lee would get us all laughing. It would be awesome to see two pros so different from each other play the beautiful game of golf. We would all four hit some amazing shots.”
SHARON BARLEY, a USGTF member, holds a Master of Divinity as well as a Doctorate in Theology and the Arts. She lives in Denver, Pennsylvania, near Lancaster, an area with an abundance of golf courses. Barley, who professes to a passion for golf, helps elder women players.
“I golf with a lot of older women who often get injured,” says Barley. “Their bodies are changing. I consider their body mechanics to teach them not to over swing, while maintaining a powerful impact zone and remaining competitive.” Barley finds it exciting to see how straight they hit the ball, although not far.
A United Methodist pastor and a clergy and congregation consultant, Barley makes time to play golf twice a week and work with golfers. She estimates that 30 percent of her professional life is golf related.
“Golf is my Sabbath,” Barley says, “a walk of 18 on ‘holey’ ground. It’s a silent, sacred walk. It is my time. The game is powerful.”
In 1986, in Houston, Barley won the U.S. gold medal in Archery at the U.S. Olympic Festival Games, which take place between the Olympics.
“What I learned carries into my golf and my life,” she says. “It has to do with the mental game and where you focus your attention.”
It is with the mental side of golf in mind that Barley selects her dream foursome. Her first choice is LPGA Tour player Gerina Piller, whose performance at the Solheim Cup Barley admires.
“I love her competitive spirit, her great attitude, and her gracious and fun-loving disposition,” says Barley, qualities she would ask her students to emulate, along with Piller’s putting technique.“I believe she always thinks an eagle awaits her on the next hole.”
Barley’s next pick is Phil Mickelson, “a classic and classy player. I like that he seems to put golf in perspective. And I would teach his short game technique.” Barley likes the fact that even when Mickelson finishes “second fiddle” he doesn’t appear to be defeated. It’s his attitude that Barley would take away from her dream round to share with her students. “He can miss a shot, stay competitive, and smile,” she says. “Some of the other best players just walk by and ignore everyone.”
Lexi Thompson is Barley’s final choice. “She is an inspiration to youth,” Barley says. “And she is my driving queen.” Thompson’s drives are not always accurate, notes Barley, yet she is #1 on the LPGA Tour for eagles. She keeps a youthful spirit and puts golf in perspective.
“You gotta fall in love with the game,” Barley says. “Don’t do it for money or for your parents. Lexi is an inspiring golfer in that way.”
Barley would play her imaginary round at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. She envisions that her interaction with her chosen players would be comfortable and appreciative, not star struck.
“My dream is to retire someday on a golf course and teach part time,” says Barley, “the mental, physical and spiritual aspects of the game. I would learn a lot from my ideal-foursome round.”
DAVID THOMPSON teaches at two locations in Huntersville, North Carolina: Northstone Golf Club, a private facility, and Skybrook Golf Club, a public course. His first dream-foursome pick is Tiger Woods.
“I’d love to interact with Tiger,” says Thompson, who would like to witness first-hand Woods’s personality, attitude, mental toughness, preparedness and intense concentration on his swing. “Like Ben Hogan was, Tiger is ultra focused when he needs to be. That’s what I would teach my students.”
Phil Mickelson would be part of Thompson’s foursome for his short game and his personality. “He’s even keeled, even when not playing the way he wants to,” says Thompson, who has played the ASU Karsten Golf Course, in Tempe, Arizona, Mickelson’s collegiate home course. “I’d observe his touch and feel in his short game – his flop shot and his often amazing putts.”
Thompson’s final selection is Jack Nicklaus. “I assume I could take away from the experience the ability to work the game,” says Thompson, who lives in Palm Beach, Florida. “You don’t just hit the ball. It’s the whole thought process of playing the course that makes the difference.
“I’ve always admired Jack’s long-iron game. If the tournament was on the line, he always had the ability to hit that one shot to win.”
It’s that winning attitude that Thompson would remember from Nicklaus during his ideal round, teaching it later to his students.
Thompson imagines that his dream-foursome round would be “phenomenal…a great day. Even if I played badly, nothing could spoil that day.”
There you have it. It’s interesting to note that while there is some overlap in whom these USGTF members would choose for their dream rounds, what they each would derive from the experience is personalized, tailored to their own playing and teaching interests.
Just imagine your own ideal living foursome. Whom would you select to play with you? Where would you have this unforgettable experience? And what would you take away from your dream day to share with your students?