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“On This Father’s Day, I Want to Say Thank You”

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Dear Dad, 

On this Father’s Day, I want to say thank you. Thank you for always being supportive and teaching me to work with my hands and solve problems on the go, just like you did as a welder and millwright for more than 30 years. It was about 21 years ago today when I first got the call from some hockey friends to come to the golf course and play. I had never picked up a club at that point, and I didn’t even know if I had clubs. Somewhere in our garage, there was a set of zinc cast Northwesterns in a bag with some Top Flites just waiting to be used. If I remember correctly, you bought them at a flea market years before. I don’t remember much from that first round of golf except I had a lot of trouble in a sand trap on the second hole that eventually left me feeling embarrassed before I picked up and putted out on the green. 

It was about 20 years ago today that you yelled down to me in the basement (I was most likely playing Nintendo 64). You brought me out into the garage and with a Black and Decker Workmate, some Varsol, and two-sided tape, and you showed me how to re-grip a golf club. Little did you know at the time, but that simple lesson set me on a path that would lead me to a career building golf clubs for PGA Tour players, famous athletes, celebrities, renowned businessmen, and everyday golfers just like you. I was only 18 when you and Mom sent me to what would be the first of two trips to Austin, Texas, to the Golfsmith Club-Building School. I not only learned from great teachers on how to be better at something I was passionate about, but I also made friends that I still keep in contact with.

We have played countless rounds of golf together in all seasons and weather condition, yet and I still remember the time when I was just starting out and you hit the flagstick on a long par-3 with what I think was a 5 wood. You were so excited! It was one of the first seasons I was playing, and at the time I thought, “Of course. You’re my Dad and good at everything, so this must be a pretty common occurrence.” Little did I realize that as a 20-handicap, hitting a flagstick was a pretty big deal. The funny part of that story is I have no recollection if you made the putt. 

Thank you for the early morning, summer drop-offs at the course on your way to work before the sun even came up (Mom did it, too). You guys loaded me up with bottles of water, granola bars and $5 for a burger, fries and pop after the first 18 of the day. Then there were the short fall days in high school, when three times per week you would pick up me and my best friend with our clubs and shoes already in the van so we could all get to the course and get in 18 holes before sunset.

Thank you for the connections I’ve made over the years in the golf industry, which I was only able to enter because of the support of you and Mom. For that, I always felt it was my obligation to do everything I could to take you to some of the best golf courses our country has to offer. Not just because I wanted to play them, but because I wanted to share each experience with you. Since our lives run on different schedules now, it’s not always as easy as it used to be to play golf together, but I cherish it every single time.

Last year, the most memorable round was the 18 holes in 90 minute at the public executive course in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. It also included non-golfer Mom, my wife (Dana, an avid golfer and 18-handicap), and you (now a 15-handicap!). In that round, the longest holes were 100 yards, the greens were tiny, we teed off from mats, and we played with two less-than-desirable rental clubs: a short-iron and a putter. Coincidentally, the short iron I selected from the messy rack was a Northwestern Conquest 9 iron that was a lot like the first set I ever played with.

Zinc_Northwestern

We missed putts we shouldn’t have, but you chipped in twice. Mom somehow managed to make two completely legit pars, and Dana made some huge putts including one for birdie. That was the most memorable round of golf I had all year, and I have no idea what I shot.

So as Dana and I are about to welcome our newest addition to our family — a yet-to-be named baby girl — I only hope I can offer her the same level of love, support and happiness in life in whatever she chooses to pursue. If I come anywhere close to offering her the passion and desire you gave me to pursue my dream, I’ll be doing an incredible job.

Thank you, Dad. 

Love,

Ryan

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Ryan Barath is a club fitter and master club builder who has more than 15 years experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour professionals. He studied business and marketing at the Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf located in Toronto. He now works independently from his home shop in Hamilton and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers, including True Temper. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf and share his passion for club building, wedge grinding, & craft beer.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Bob Parsons

    Jun 18, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Does it have a sweet spot the size of Texas?

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Courses

Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure

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My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers to many… and that’s not all.

Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.

Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.

I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.

First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.

Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.

Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”

Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!

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Opinion & Analysis

Be Curious, Not Critical, of Tour Player Swings

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After a foul ball by a tour player, the talking heads on TV are often quick to analyze the “problem” with that swing. Fair enough, I suppose. Even the best players are human and our game has more failure than success. But I’d like to offer a different take on swings of the best players in the world.

First, let’s remember how good these guys and gals really are. If you met up with the lowest ranked player on any professional tour at a public course one day, I’ll bet that golfer would be the best golfer most of you have ever played with. You’d be telling your buddies in the 19th hole about him or her for a very long time. These players have reached a level of ball striking most people only dream about. That’s why I’m more curious than critical when it comes to a tour player’s swing. I’m not thinking about what he/she needs to do better; I’m thinking, “How do they do it so well?” In other words, I want to know how they put their successful move together. What part goes with the other parts? How did their pattern evolve? What are the compatible components of their swing?

Let’s use Jim Furyk as an example. Furyk has what we might call an “unconventional” move. It’s also a swing that has won nearly $70 million and shot 58 one day. But I’ll offer him as an example because his swing illustrates the point I’m making. From a double-overlapping grip, Furyk picks the golf club up to what might be the most vertical position one would ever see from a professional. Then in transition, he flattens the club and drops it well behind him. Now the club is so flat and inside, he has to open his body as quickly as he can to keep the club from getting “stuck.” Let’s call it an “up-and-under loop.”

Let’s take Matt Kuchar as a counter example. Kuchar’s signature hands-in, flat and very deep takeaway is pretty much the total opposite of Furyk. But he comes over that takeaway and gets the club back into a great position into impact. We’ll call that an “in-and-over” loop.

Both are two of the best and most consistent golfers in the world. Is one right and the other wrong? Of course not. They do have one thing in common, however, and it’s that they both balanced their golf swing equation.

What would happen if Kuchar did what Furyk does coming down? Well, he wouldn’t be on TV on the weekend. If he did, he’d be hitting drop kicks several inches behind. That doesn’t win The Players Championship. The point is that the Furyk downswing is incompatible with the Kuchar backswing, and vice versa, but I’m guessing they both know that.

How can this help you? My own personal belief and the basis of my teaching is this: your backswing is an option, but your downswing is a requirement. I had one student today dropping the arms and club well inside and another coming over the top, and they both felt better impact at the end of the lesson. I showed them how to balance their equation.

My job is solving swing puzzles, a new one very hour, and I’m glad it is. It would be mind-numbing boredom if I asked every golfer to do the same thing. It’s the teaching professional’s job to solve your puzzle, and I assure you that with the right guidance you can make your golf swing parts match. Are there universal truths, things that every golfer MUST do?  Yes, they are the following:

  1. Square the club face
  2. Come into the ball at a good angle
  3. Swing in the intended direction
  4. Hit the ball in the center of the face (method be damned!)

But here’s the funny part: Let Kuchar or Furyk get off base and watch every swing critic in the world blame some part of the quirkiness of their move that has led to their greatness. When players at their level get off their game, it’s generally due to poor timing or that they lost the sync/rhythm that connected their individual parts. The same holds true for all of us. We have to find the matching parts and the timing to connect them. You might not need new parts.

After all, weren’t those same parts doing the job when you shot your career low round?

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Opinion & Analysis

The numbers behind “full scholarships” in NCAA men’s college golf

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If you are in the world of junior golf, you’ve probably heard about a young man you know who’s getting that coveted full ride to college, maybe even to a Power-5 school. With all the talk in junior golf about full scholarships, and a lot of rumors about how many are available, we decided to poll coaches and gather some real data about “full scholarships.”

So, what did we find out? In total, we got responses to a voluntary online survey from 61 men’s D1 coaches, 19 men’s D2 coaches and 3 NAIA coaches (83 total). On average, the coaches in the survey had 11.8 years of coaching experience. Of the coaches that responded, 58 of the 83 coaches reported having zero players on full ride. Another 15 coaches surveyed reported having one player on full ride. This means that 69 percent of the coaches surveyed reported zero players on full scholarship and 18 percent reported one player on full scholarship, while another four coaches reported that 20 percent of their team was on full ride and six coaches reported between 2-3 players on full ride.

We then asked coaches, “what percent of golfers in Division 1 do you think have full scholarships based on your best guess?” Here’s what the responses looked like: 25 coaches said 5 percent and 36 coaches said 10 percent. This means that 73 percent of respondents suggested that, in their opinion, in men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA, there are less than 10 percent of players on full ride.

Next, we asked coaches, “what was a fair scholarship percentage to offer a player likely to play in your top 5?” The average of the 83 responses was 62.5 percent scholarship with 38 coaches (46 percent) suggesting they would give 30-50 percent and 43 coaches (52 percent) suggesting 50-75 percent. Only two coaches mentioned full scholarship.

The last question we asked coaches, was “what would you need to do to earn a full scholarship?”

  • Top-100 in NJGS/Top-250 in WAGR – 41 coaches (49 percent)
  • 250-700 in WAGR – 19 coaches (23 percent)
  • Most interesting, 17 coaches (20 percent) noted that they either did not give full rides or did not have the funding to give full rides.

The findings demonstrate that full rides among players at the men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA levels are rare, likely making up less than 10 percent of total players. It also suggests that if you are a junior player looking for a full ride, you need to be exceptional; among the very best in your class.

Please note that the survey has limitations because it does not differentiate between athletic and academic money. The fact is several institutions have a distinct advantage of being able to “stack” academic and athletic aid to create the best financial packages. My intuition suggests that the coaches who responded suggesting they have several players on “full rides” are likely at places where they are easily able to package money. For example, a private institution like Mercer might give a student $12,000 for a certain GPA and SAT. This might amount to approximately 25 percent, but under the NCAA rules it does not count toward the coach’s 4.5 scholarships. Now for 75 percent athletic, the coach can give a player a full ride.

Maybe the most interesting finding of the data collection is the idea that many programs are not funded enough to offer full rides. The NCAA allows fully funded men’s Division 1 programs to have 4.5 scholarships, while Division 2 programs are allowed 3.6. My best guess suggests that a little more than 60 percent of men’s Division 1 programs have this full allotment of scholarship. In Division 2, my guess is that this number is a lot closer to 30 percent.

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