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Opinion & Analysis

My chat with a champion: Long after her competitive days, Annika continues to strongly influence the game

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There are a handful of golf legends that go by only one name; Tiger, Jack, Arnie and the queen of golf, Annika.

Annika Sorenstam continues to be a major influence on the game long after her retirement from competitive golf. Right by her side, every step of the way, is her husband Mike McGee, who has golf blood flowing strongly through his veins as well. I have had the privilege of getting to know Annika and Mike a bit over the past ten years. It has long been my opinion that this family is one of the games most generous and genuine. The work that they do through the Annika Foundation is playing a major role in the growth we have seen within the women’s game over recent years.

I had the great honor to chat a bit with Annika and Mike recently. As you will see, they absolutely have their fingers on the pulse of the industry and continue to work hard everyday to make golf better then they found it.

When did you start playing the game and who had the biggest influence on you getting started?

Annika: I started to play golf at the age of 12. I split a set of clubs with my sister, Charlotta. I got the odd numbers and she got the evens. My parents were my biggest influence in starting to golf as they played a lot. We would go to the course with them and ride their pull carts like a horse and get ice cream at the turn. Fun memories.

At what point did you know that you had what it took to play at a high level?

Annika: My first love was tennis, but when I was 16, I decided to focus on golf. I played on the Swedish National Team and won the World Amateur Championship in 1988. That’s when I realized I could play at a high level.

How early in your development did you first start getting formal instruction?

Annika: I started getting formal instruction early on. I would say between the ages of 12 and 14.

Was golf something that was part of your childhood? If so, when did you start and who was your influencer?

Mike: Yes, my Dad, Jerry McGee played the PGA TOUR until I was eight in 1982. He won four times and played in the 1977 Ryder Cup. I traveled the TOUR as a kid, so golf was literally a part of my upbringing.

What are your thoughts on current youth player development programs such as Drive, Chip & Putt and PGA Jr. League?

Annika & Mike: Mike and I both love what the PGA has done with PGA Jr. League. In fact, our kids play to play this year for Old Greenwood in Tahoe. We also love what Augusta National has done with Drive, Chip and Putt. It is a fantastic initiative and really motivates kids to try and make it to the Finals and putt on the 18th green at Augusta National.

Since your retirement from playing, you have been involved in several business endeavors. In recent years a great deal of attention has been put into the development of your Foundation and specifically, your Invitational, Intercollegiate and Annika Cup events. Can you expand on your passion for helping bring opportunities like these to young female golfers worldwide?

Annika: We started the ANNIKA Foundation in 2007 as a way for me to give back to the game that has been so good to me, and now have seven global events that sees over 600 players come through per year from over 60 countries. Over 45 have gotten LPGA cards and we have dozens of college coaches come to recruit the junior girls. We have what we call “More than Golf” educational seminars at each event to prepare girls for the future. I also give a clinic at each event and share my experiences to hopefully improve their preparation. It gives me great pride to help inspire the next generation.

I see that the McGee kiddos did some Drive, Chip and Putt qualifying and did fairly well…what is the kid’s connection to the game at this point in their lives? Any prospects for either to play competitively?

Annika & Mike: Our kids have been fortunate to attend the Drive, Chip and Putt finals the past two years. I can say that it really inspired them to take the game more seriously. They both have talent and I would say Will is more serious about it at this point. They’ll try DC&P again this year. Mike and I just want them to have fun with it. Golf teaches you so many valuable life lessons so the fact that they want to play makes us happy.

Professionally, what is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Annika: I would say being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. That encompasses all of the accomplishments that mean the most….89 worldwide wins, shooting 59, playing against the men. I have achieved more than I ever thought possible and I take great pride in always showing good sportsmanship.

How often do you get out to play or practice? Not for a clinic, or an event, but just for you?

Annika: I practice a little before events. I still play some sponsor outings or TV matches, so I don’t want to embarrass myself. I would say I practice once or twice a month.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the game? Where are we winning and where do we need some work?

Annika & Mike: The game of golf is in a great place on the professional Tours. I love the global nature and the young superstars. Family friendly is the key. I think we have a lot of great initiatives to grow the game, we just need to keep working at it. We need to make it fun, take less time and be more accessible for anyone who wants to play. I don’t think golf is much more expensive than other sports. Competitive skiing and soccer are equally as expensive if not more. We really just need to all work together to make it fun.

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PGA Professional Brendon Elliott is a multiple award winning Golf Professional based in Central Florida. He is the 2017 PGA of America's National Youth Player Development Award Winner among other coveted awards. He is considered by his peers as an industry expert on topics ranging from Jr. golf player development to operations to industry sustainability. He is the founder of the Little Linksters Golf Academy and the Little Linksters Association for Junior Golf Development, a 501c3 nonprofit also based out of Central Florida. You can learn more about Brendon and Little Linksters at littlelinksters.com

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Geoffrey Holland

    May 12, 2019 at 12:27 am

    When the author’s bio is longer than the actual article, you know that the author has a giganticly ridiculous ego.

  2. Dave r

    May 8, 2019 at 10:24 am

    Yes great article, lovely person it’s what’s golf should be about giving back .

  3. dj

    May 7, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    Nice article.. I’ve always liked her and her approach to the game.

    Looks like you are job hunting…Nice resume’

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Opinion & Analysis

Clark: A teacher’s take on Brandel Chamblee’s comments

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Because I’m writing to a knowledgeable audience who follows the game closely, I’m sure the current Brandel Chamblee interview and ensuing controversy needs no introduction, so let’s get right to it.

Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, now plays a role as a TV personality. He has built a “brand” around that role. The Golf Channel seems to relish the idea of Brandel as the “loose cannon” of the crew (not unlike Johnny Miller on NBC) saying exactly what he thinks with seeming impunity from his superiors.

I do not know the gentleman personally, but on-air, he seems like an intelligent, articulate golf professional, very much on top of his subject matter, which is mostly the PGA Tour. He was also a very capable player (anyone who played and won on the PGA Tour is/was a great player). But remember, nowadays he is not being judged by what scores he shoots, but by how many viewers/readers his show and his book have (ratings). Bold statements sell, humdrum ones do not.

For example, saying that a teacher’s idiocy was exposed is a bold controversial statement that will sell, but is at best only partly true and entirely craven. If the accuser is not willing to name the accused, he is being unfair and self-serving. However, I think it’s dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater here; Brandel is a student of the game and I like a lot of what he says and thinks.

His overriding message in that interview is that golf over the last “30-40 years” has been poorly taught. He says the teachers have been too concerned with aesthetics, not paying enough attention to function. There is some truth in that, but Brandel is painting with a very broad brush here. Many, myself included, eschewed method teaching years ago for just that reason. Method teachers are bound to help some and not others. Maybe the “X swing” one player finds very useful, another cannot use it all.

Brandel was asked specifically about Matthew Wolff’s unique swing: Lifting the left heel, crossing the line at the top, etc. He answered, “of course he can play because that’s how he plays.” The problem would be if someone tried to change that because it “looked odd.” Any teacher worth his weight in salt would not change a swing simply because it looked odd if it was repeating good impact. I learned from the great John Jacobs that it matters not what the swing looks like if it is producing great impact.

Now, if he is objecting exclusively to those method teachers who felt a certain pattern of motions was the one true way to get to solid impact, I agree with him 100 percent. Buy many teach on an individual, ball flight and impact basis and did not generalize a method. So to say “golf instruction over the last 30-40 years” has been this or that is far too broad a description and unfair.

He goes on to say that the “Top Teacher” lists are “ridiculous.” I agree, mostly. While I have been honored by the PGA and a few golf publications as a “top teacher,” I have never understood how or why. NOT ONE person who awarded me those honors ever saw me give one lesson! Nor have they have ever tracked one player I coached.  I once had a 19 handicap come to me and two seasons later he won the club championship-championship flight! By that I mean with that student I had great success. But no one knew of that progress who gave me an award.

On the award form, I was asked about the best, or most well-known students I had taught. In the golf journals, a “this-is-the-teacher-who-can-help-you” message is the epitome of misdirection. Writing articles, appearing on TV, giving YouTube video tips, etc. is not the measure of a teacher. On the list of recognized names, I’m sure there are great teachers, but wouldn’t you like to see them teach as opposed to hearing them speak? I’m assuming the “ridiculous” ones Brandel refers to are those teaching a philosophy or theory of movement and trying to get everyone to do just that.

When it comes to his criticism of TrackMan, I disagree. TrackMan does much more than help “dial in yardage.” Video cannot measure impact, true path, face-to-path relationship, centeredness of contact, club speed, ball speed, plane etc. Comparing video with radar is unfair because the two systems serve different functions. And if real help is better ball flight, which of course only results from better impact, then we need both a video of the overall motion and a measure of impact.

Now the specific example he cites of Jordan Spieth’s struggles being something that can be corrected in “two seconds” is hyperbolic at least! Nothing can be corrected that quickly simply because the player has likely fallen into that swing flaw over time, and it will take time to correct it. My take on Jordan’s struggles is a bit different, but he is a GREAT player who will find his way back.

Brandel accuses Cameron McCormick (his teacher) of telling him to change his swing.  Do we know that to be true, or did Jordan just fall into a habit and Cameron is not seeing the change? I agree there is a problem; his stats prove that, but before we pick a culprit, let’s get the whole story. Again back to the sensationalism which sells! (Briefly, I believe Jordan’s grip is and has always been a problem but his putter and confidence overcame it. An active body and “quiet” hands is the motion one might expect of a player with a strong grip-for obvious reason…but again just my two teacher cents)

Anyway, “bitch-slapped” got him in hot water for other reasons obviously, and he did apologize over his choice of words, and to be clear he did not condemn the PGA as a whole. But because I have disagreements with his reasoning here does not mean Brandel is not a bright articulate golf professional, I just hope he looks before he leaps the next time, and realizes none of us are always right.

Some of my regular readers will recall I “laid down my pen” a few years ago, but it occurred to me, I would be doing many teachers a disservice if I did not offer these thoughts on this particular topic!

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

A trip down Magnolia Memory Lane: Patron fashion at the 1991 Masters

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Like a lot of golfers out there, I’ve been getting my fix thanks to the final round Masters broadcasts on YouTube via the Masters channel. Considering these broadcasts go back as far as 1968, there is a lot we could discuss—we could break down shots, equipment, how the course has changed, but instead I thought we could have a little fun taking a different direction—fashion.

However, I’m not talking players fashion, that’s fairly straight forward. Instead, I wanted to follow the action behind the action and see what we could find along the way – here are the 1991 Highlights.

I love the “Die Hard” series as much as anyone else but one fan took it to a new level of fandom by wearing a Die Hard 2 – Die Harder T-shirt to Sunday at the Masters. This patron was spotted during Ian Woosnam fourth shot into 13. Honorable mention goes to Woosie’s gold chain.

There is a lot going on here as Ben Crenshaw lines up his put on 17. First, we have the yellow-shirted man just left of center with perfectly paired Masters green pants to go along with his hat (he also bears a striking resemblance to Ping founder Karsten Solheim). Secondly, we have what I would imagine is his friend in the solid red pants—both these outfits are 10 out of 10. Last but not least, we have the man seen just to the right of Ben with sunglasses so big and tinted, I would expect to be receiving a ticket from him on the I20 on my way out of town.

If you don’t know the name Jack Hamm, consider yourself lucky you missed a lot of early 2000s late-night golf infomercials. OK so maybe it’s not the guy known for selling “The Hammer” driver but if you look under the peak of the cabin behind Woosie as he tees off on ten you can be forgiven for taking a double-take… This guy might show up later too. Honorable mention to the pastel-pink-shorted man with the binoculars and Hogan cap in the right of the frame.

Big proportions were still very much in style as the 80s transitioned into the early 90s. We get a peek into some serious style aficionados wardrobes behind the 15th green with a wide striped, stiff collared lilac polo, along with a full-length bright blue sweater and a head of hair that has no intention of being covered by a Masters hat.

Considering the modern tales of patrons (and Rickie Folwer) being requested to turn backward hats forward while on the grounds of Augusta National, it was a pretty big shock to see Gerry Pate’s caddy with his hat being worn in such an ungentlemanly manner during the final round.

Before going any further, I would like us all to take a moment to reflect on how far graphics during the Masters coverage has come in the last 30 years. In 2019 we had the ability to see every shot from every player on every hole…in 1991 we had this!

At first glance, early in the broadcast, these yellow hardhats threw me for a loop. I honestly thought that a spectator had chosen to wear one to take in the action. When Ian Woosnam smashed his driver left on 18 over the bunkers it became very apparent that anyone wearing a hard hat was not there for fun, they were part of the staff. If you look closely you can see hole numbers on the side of the helmets to easily identify what holes they were assigned to. Although they have less to do with fashion, I must admit I’m curious where these helmets are now, and what one might be worth as a piece of memorabilia.

Speaking of the 18th hole, full credit to the man in the yellow hat (golf clap to anyone that got the Curious George reference) who perfectly matched the Pantone of his hat to his shirt and also looked directly into the TV camera.

It could be said the following photo exemplifies early ’90s fashion. We have pleated Bermuda shorts, horizontal stripes all over the place and some pretty amazing hairstyles. Honorable mention to the young guys in the right of the frame that look like every ’80s movie antagonist “rich preppy boy.”

What else can I say except, khaki and oversized long sleeve polos certainly had their day in 1991? We have a bit of everything here as Tom Watson lines up his persimmon 3-wood on the 18th. The guy next to Ian Woosnam’s sleeves hit his mid-forearm, there are too many pleats to count, and somehow our Jack Hamm look-alike managed to find another tee box front row seat.

You can check out the full final-round broadcast of the 1991 Masters below.

 

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole Episode 119: Gary Player joins the 19th Hole!

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Hall of Famer Gary Player gives an exclusive one-on-one interview with Host Michael Williams about his life in golf, his thoughts on the current game and his tips for thriving even in difficult times.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

 

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