Rubenstein: Canadian coaches take students to the top
Published on Monday, May. 27, 2013 11:25AM EDT Last updated on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012 06:54PM EST
Canadian male golfers have made their marks on the PGA Tour, including, most notably, George Knudson and Mike Weir. Now Canadian swing coaches are also finding the spotlight, as their players succeed on the rarefied heights of the PGA Tour.
Sean Foley is the most well known of current Canadian instructors. Foley, who was born in Burlington, Ont., works with Tiger Woods and, among others, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose, two top PGA Tour players.
Ralph Bauer, from Turkey Point, Ont., a half-hour from Brantford, is another Canadian finding success. Bauer, a former assistant coach on Golf Canada’s national amateur team, has worked with David Hearn since 2009 and has increasingly focused on his short game to help him progress. Hearn, 32, of Brantford won $1,012,575 (all figures U.S.) to finish at No. 97 on the PGA Tour’s money list this year.
Bauer also works with Matt Hill, a young Sarnia, Ont., pro who led the Canadian Tour’s money list this year. His finish got him into the second stage of PGA Tour qualifying school last week. He passed the test and will compete in the final stage next week in La Quinta, Calif.
“My goal,” Bauer said recently in an e-mail, “is to develop the next generation of Canadian tour players.” He meant that he wants to help the next generation of Canadians reach the PGA Tour, as opposed to being all that interested in working with international players.
Then there’s Jeff Leishman, from Alliston, Ont. He and his wife Belinda, from Prince Edward Island, run the par-three Jupiter Dunes club in Jupiter, Fla. Leishman has been developing a strong reputation as a swing coach. He has worked with 2010 RBC Canadian Open winner Carl Pettersson and other PGA Tour players such as Will MacKenzie, Steve LeBrun, and Richard S. Johnson.
Meanwhile, Kendal Yonomoto, another Canadian swing coach, has had quite a year. Yonomoto went to the University of British Columbia, turned pro, played some Canadian Tour events, and also ran track for six years. He has written an e-book called The Athletic Fundamentals of Golf. Yonomoto has been working since last spring with Ryan Moore, the 2004 U.S. Amateur champion and a winner of two PGA Tour events.
Moore’s most recent win was last month at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. Yonomoto teaches indoors in downtown Vancouver and at the Richmond, B.C., Olympic Oval.
Much of Yonomoto’s work with Moore has occurred not on practice ranges but on squash or racquetball courts. Moore has even done medicine ball exercises in a parking garage at a tournament. Yonomoto believes that working with a heavy ball is more effective than training with a golf club, and that his exercises will help an athlete develop the eight principles of athletic movement that he has identified. He’s developed a fascinating series of exercises to help golfers develop the proper motions and sequencing in the swing. They’re in his book.
“Coach Kendal is going to change the way golf is taught,” Moore has said.
Yonomoto has also done some work with David Duval, the 2001 British Open champion who has struggled since, while showing intermittent flashes of the form that took him to the No. 1 world ranking. (He tied for second place in the 2009 U.S. Open, for one).
“I don’t want to change their swing styles,” Yonomoto said during a telephone interview. “Both Ryan and David have kind of funky moves. I try to isolate principles of movement. I do think that players don’t use their lower bodies enough. I call it adult physical education, or movement education. I’m big on non-verbal communication, like The Karate Kid.”
In that 1984 film, a martial arts teacher teaches karate to a bullied boy by having him paint fences and wax cars. The youngster doesn’t understand at first how this will translate into his being able to do karate, but the movements transfer.
“It’s all about translating the movements,” Yonomoto said. “The best thing is when a player tells me that he’s not thinking about the swing, he’s just playing.”
That’s every swing coach’s ideal scenario. And some Canadian coaches are demonstrating that their ideas are working at the game’s highest levels. Their methods are translating.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein
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