By Patti Putnicki
There are great golfers, and there are great people. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you come in contact with those who are off-the-charts “both.” Such is the case of PGA Boy Wonder Jordan Spieth and down-to-earth Texas favorite and 18-year tour veteran Harrison Frazar. Tuesday afternoon, just a day and a half before the start of the AT&T Byron Nelson, these two UT grads put on a master class in golf; a Youth Clinic that delighted junior golfers, adults and seniors alike.
This event, sponsored by Tech Mahindra, was originally scheduled for Memorial Day afternoon, but postponed due to torrential downpours in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Despite the 4 p.m. start time on a school day, with evening thunderstorms predicted, throngs of smiling golfers of all ages streamed into the TPC Four Seasons’ practice facility at Las Colinas, Texas, to watch their heroes in action.
“Harrison has been a part of this organization for a long time and has given us tremendous support. He has been co-hosting our youth clinic, with different golf professionals, for the past 10 years,” said Jon Drago, tournament director for the AT&T Byron Nelson. “We scheduled Jordan for this year’s event, long before he won the Masters.”
This dynamic Texas duo did not disappoint.
Harrison Frazar took the roll of emcee and teacher, while Jordan, who made his PGA Tour debut at the AT&T Byron Nelson at the age of 16, flawlessly demonstrated the shots. The underlying theme was practicing with purpose.
“People want to grab their clubs and go smack balls around on the driving range and we all think that’s great—we think everyone should have fun with golf,” Frazar said. “So, we’re going to try to drill things down for you to make that practice as simple as possible.”
According to Frazar, it all comes down to three things: alignment, balance and rhythm. In a little under 20 minutes, he explained the fundamentals: “Point shoulders and knees in the direction of the target to move the ball down the line. Stay balanced; if your weight is on your toes, you’ll fall forward. Keep your backswing and downswing at a tempo you’re comfortable with, which happens more naturally if you’re having fun.” As he narrated, Spieth flawlessly executed shots while the enraptured crowd went wild.
The biggest lesson? Be yourself.
“When I was younger, I wanted to swing like Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, and my coach, Cameron McCormick said, ‘Why?’” Spieth explained. “You have a different body type, you’re a different age, a different height a different weight.”
Instead of emulating the greats, McCormick taught Spieth to be a great himself by using his own style and assets.
“Swing the way you swing, swing the way your body allows you to swing, and then, work every shot off of that,” Spieth said. “So many kids get very, very technical; trying to hit every single position here and here and here. You have to find something that works for you—something that lets you feel comfortable working those right-to-left shots, left-to-right shots—you need something that you can take to any golf course and make it work. Take away the technicality and worry about feel.”
The secret sauce: imagination.
“The great players have good swings and are good ball strikers, no doubt. But, they also play with their minds. They play with their imaginations,” Frazar said. “They can make golf clubs do things; they use their creativity to see the shots they want to hit.”
According to Frazar, the biggest takeaway is go and have fun on the driving range, but don’t worry about every little thing; every little lesson—all of the mental things that can overwhelm what the body can do naturally.
“Don’t worry about your score, don’t worry about beating your buddy, but above all, have fun playing golf,” he said.
Fun, Games and a Kid Named Isaac
The fun kicked up a notch when 2008 RE/MAX World Long Drive senior champion Dan Boever stepped in, smacking trick shots, impossible drives and taking aim at very brave, red-panted Salesmanship Club of Dallas volunteers.
The kids were captivated by his card tricks, involving Spieth hitting a ball through an erupting wall of playing cards; striking the exact one chosen by a little boy in the crowd.
But, the biggest smiles emerged from the long drive contest: a battle between Frazar, Spieth and an enthusiastic boy named Isaac. Frazar and Spieth both got down on the muddy ground and hit their drives off of their knees; Spieth ending in an inverted genuflect position. Unfazed by the crowd, Isaac took center stage and smoked his competition (after an extended wait time while he tied his shoes). Pressure? Not even close. A multitude of pre-pubescent PGA wanna-be’s went to school on this fearless young hotshot. Isaac took his new rock-star status in stride. No one looked more delighted than Frazar and Spieth. After all, they came here to help more people, of all ages, fall in love with the game of golf. And they succeeded.
Leaving the venue, the kids were giddy; talking about their heroes, clutching their autographs and recounting the lessons they learned. Based on one overheard comment, the clinic even made an impact on the adults.
“That actually made me want to go out and practice,” one man enthusiastically proclaimed to his friend.
What a concept. And what a great day, courtesy of two pros who not only know their stuff, but also understand the value of giving back.