Why is your local PGA professional a good teacher? Because he or she is also a good student. The PGA of America pros who give lessons at our local courses, driving ranges, and studios go to school, too—not to improve their golf, but to improve their ability to teach golf. Some 200 of them recently got together at the Met PGA Educational Forum to kick off the season with some serious studying.
The 53rd Annual edition of this event began with an intense session on biomechanics by Sasho MacKenzie, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Human Kinetics at St. Francis Xavier University. MacKenzie has conducted, presented, and published extensive research on putting, shaft dynamics, shoe fitting, and the role of center of pressure in the golf swing. His theme was how to use a scientific approach to analyze a player’s game and help them score better.
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Associate Professor Sasho MacKenzie
MacKenzie used putting as an example of how to apply his methods, and worked through two-dozen different factors that influence whether the ball goes in the hole. He followed a type of decision-tree approach (which space prohibits here) and reported that distance control is four times as important as the line of the putt. Also important: golfers who look at the hole instead of the ball when they stroke their putt (like Masters champion Jordan Spieth) get better results.
Chuck Cook, whose credentials include coaching three US Open champions (Payne Stewart, Tom Kite, and Corey Pavin), as well as Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, and Luke Donald, was also there. He explained teaching a proficient golf swing versus a picture-perfect one. In other words, how to teach what works, not what’s pretty (if you need any help, check out these 5 beautifully basic tips that can help improve your swing)
The Met PGA also used the occasion to honor recipients of three of its most prestigious awards.
Rodney Loesch, head pro of Connecticut Golf Club in Easton, received the 2014 Sam Snead Award, which is presented for contributions to golf, the PGA of America, and the Met PGA. Loesch has been active in growing the game in local schools, and was one of the founding board members of The First Tee Metropolitan NY. He’s served on the PGA of America board (two terms), plus several other national positions. He’s held every officer’s position in the Met Section, including president.
Grant Sturgeon, assistant pro at Mamaroneck’s Winged Foot Golf Club, earned honors as the 2014 Player of the Year by compiling an outstanding competitive season. He won the Westchester PGA at Mount Kisco, then the Met Open at Trump Bedminster, the Met PGA Assistants’ Championship at Bethpage Red, and capped off his year with a victory in the National PGA Assistant Professional Championship in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Darrell Kestner, head pro of Deepdale Golf Club, won just about the only Met PGA title he hasn’t held: 2014 Professional of the Year. Kestner’s competitive wins includes three Met Open titles, five Met PGA championships, two MGA Senior Opens, and a Met PGA Senior title—among many, many more. He’s also known as one of the best teachers in the game, with students like Nick Watney, Nick Price, and Tom Kite, not to mention thousands of amateurs. Among his other accomplishments is mentoring professionals like Michael Breed.