Although it didn’t start particularly well, 2016 turned out to be one heck of a ride. It definitely ranks as one of the most memorable seasons of my life, career wise as well as on the home front. Do much so that I feel obligated to share the highlights as well as the lessons I’ve learned. This post is also my small way of honoring some special who made sacrifices without asking for anything in return.
The first major event involved my father, who turns 75 this year. He underwent surgery to remove a bladder stone a little smaller than a golf ball. If you’ve never seen a loved one being rolled into an operating room before, trust me… it never feels like a “routine” procedure no matter how much the doctor tries to convince you. (Or maybe the doc was convincing himself?) Fortunately, the surgery went well without complications. Big thanks to Dr. Ferdie Tolentino, Dr. Manny Gomez, and all of you who visited and prayed.
Then there was my eldest daughter Chelsea transferring to a new school in a part of town I’m not familiar with. Chloe, my youngest, also started attending kindergarten. To make things more exciting, our family had to move out of our residence of 7 years. Also to a part of town I’m not familiar with. If you had suggested all that change to me at the start of 2016, I would have called it crazy. But I guess God has a way of kicking us out of our comfort zones when we least expect it. Because that’s the only way we grow. Thanks to Jo and Leni Tomas and to Joey Mendoza for helping us move into our new home.
I visited Bangkok after more than 20 years to attend a coaching summit organized by Golf Education Asia. Details here. The event coincided with my wife’s birthday so the trip ended up becoming the honeymoon we never had. Thanks to my favorite mother-in-law Julie Go for looking after the kids while we were gone. Thanks also to fellow teaching pro Andrew Ong for bringing the event to my attention.
I also got to fulfill a 10 year old promise to Chelsea. She finally saw Hong Kong Disneyland. But I think Chloe had the most fun. Thanks to my friends who dubbed themselves the 7-Eleven Club for making that trip happen.
On the golf side of things, I had a very active year on the course. Partly due to a change in philosophy (more on that later) but also due to the fact that my perennially aching body allowed it. In 2015, I only played a total of 108 holes due to back issues. Thanks to JOe Suarez for the supplements and for encouraging me to get a foam roller. In the process of learning how to use it, I discovered and corrected my “anterior pelvic tit”. I can’t say I’m completely pain free, but at least I’m not worried about embarrassing myself by quitting on the back nine. I even regained some of the old clubhead speed back.
That’s my swing below. Yeah, it’s short. It’s not pretty. But it works. Thanks to Raffy David for taking this.
I finally pulled the trigger on two amazing pieces of technology, the Flightscope radar launch monitor and the BodiTrak pressure mat. I must admit I felt a bit guilty digging into Chelsea’s college fund at first. But I guess it won’t be a problem if she gets an athletic scholarship. Right, Chels? (Wink, wink,) Thanks to Stanley Ang, Chito Mandanas and Lauence Tan for helping me on the logistical side.
If last year had ended in October, I would’ve been completely satisfied with it already. By this time, I had already said goodbye to my love affair with photography. My lesson schedule was as busy as it had ever been. Just when I thought I couldn’t get any more interesting, it did. I had the opportunity to attend the Modern Golf Summit held in Greeen Sun, Makati City with no less than 2016 PGA Teacher of the Year Mike Adams as one of the speakers. His Bio Swing Dynamics approach is a real game changer . The event also featured PGA Master Professional John Dunigan, the inventor of Strokes Gained Mark Broadie, biomechanics expert Dr. Scott Lynn, motor learning expert Will Wu, and Cool Clubs Founder Mark Timms. Thanks to Merwin Tee for the support. Thanks also to Matthew Lim for accomodating us at Green Sun Hotel.
Finally, I got to play with my brother Angelo during Christmas break. It had been more than a decade since I teed it up with him. So when he invited me, I jumped at the chance even though I was still recovering from the flu. I wish I could explain what happened to us over the years. I’m just glad that chapter is over. And yeah, of course, he beat me. Based on what I saw, his form should earn him a title or two this year.
And now for the lessons. Below are 16 things I learned in 2016. Some of them are the opposite of what I used to believe. Just goes to show… we’re never too old or too wise to change. 16 years in the business of teaching golf… still a work in progress. That’s life. We make mistakes. We grow old. We learn. Hopefully we come back stronger. Happy new year!
- Learn to hit straight. – I’m still a fan of working the ball both ways. But yes, zero club path is doable.
- People don’t trust you because your concepts make sense, but because they work. – One of the things I started demanding from myself last year was that a student needs to see results immediately. I measure what needs to measured at the beginning of a lesson, then measure again at the end. If an adjustment is not showing any effect in the first hour, there’s a chance it might not work ever.
- No substitute for feel. – If a student can’t feel it, he can’t fix it. Feel is a skill. If I can help him learn that skill, he can learn anything… even without me.
- Physics before geometry. – I used to think it’s the other way around. Truth is if you get the physics right, the geometry usually gets sorted out automatically. On the other hand, good form doesn’t always result in good performance.
- Coach the parents. – You can’t stop parents from coaching their kids. So might as well tell them how to do it properly. Correct them even at the risk of offending them. If I can’t get them to see my point of view, it’s the kid who suffers. In the end, nobody wins.
- It’s not a one man show. – Aside form parents, family and friends, you got the caddie, the fitness trainer, the clubfitter, etc. Even the chauffeur and yaya serve as emotional anchors. And since it’s impossible for a student to learn everything from me, I never stop them from seeking other mentors. The key is to get everyone on the same page as far as goals are concerned.
- Get on the course more. – Not just to coach then, but to play against them. If I can’t do what I’m telling them, up to what extent is my authority? In addition, there are way too many situations that are impossible to simulate at the range.
- Don’t wait for them to report. – Never underestimate the power of accountability. Especially with kids. They train better. They think better. They even learn to communicate better. Simply because they know that someone else is paying attention.
- Goals should have deadlines. – A goal without a deadline is just a wish. Work ethic. Dedication. Discipline. It’s amazing how all that becomes automatic when you have a timetable.
- Absolutes are fewer than we think. – And they’re not the ones we traditionally call fundamentals. There is always more than one way.
- Age is really just a number. – Nobody is ever too young or too old.
- Technology doesn’t have to be complicated. – But It can be. I rely heavily on external feedback. Video. Radar. Pressure mat. The more accurate the data, the better the analysis. The challenge is in translating the information into a language the student can relate to. Everyone learns differently. And more talking doesn’t always mean always better coaching.
- There’s always that someone. – Who thinks his success in another field makes him smarter than you. Who doesn’t care what you’ve accomplished as a coach. Who always asks but never listens. Who will eventually make you look like a bad coach because he’s never going to improve.
- Distance is not an option. – Like it or not, it’s a necessity. If you drive longer, your approach shots are shorter. Shorter approach shots mean better chances to make birdie. In a sense, more distance makes you more accurate.
- Never up, never in. – I used to believe that to hole more putts, you should die it to the hole. Supposedly this approach makes the hole bigger. But statistics on the PGA Tour reveal that the best putters are consistently 2 feet behind the hole when they miss.
- Golf is 100% mental. – You don’t play with half your brain, do you? And you don’t want to use your full brain half the time either. Don’t work on it later. It comes first. You cannot not be working on it constantly. More than your technique or physique, it’s your mindset that will determine your success.
Romans 8.28.ESV And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.