Thanks to Hockey…you may like golf!
by guest blogger Caroline Stanistreet
During my visit to last week’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, I witnessed dozens of children fighting for autographs from Phil, Keegan, Rory, Bubba, numerous other international pros, and this year’s PGA champion, Jason Dufner.
|Rory McIlroy amidst a sea of umbrellas during Friday's round|
|2013 PGA Champion Jason Dufner|
Since my veteran youth hockey player has been severely bitten by the golf bug the past few years, I’ve taken a look at what the sport of hockey has done, fundamentally, for kids interested in taking up the sport of golf.
No, I'm not suggesting all of you Happy Gilmore wannabees head out to the golf course and try his trademark slapshot with a hockey stick on the tee box, nor throw a punch at the nearest Bob Barker lookalike. It simply may be a nice “life sport” to consider, since people well into their 80s are able to still play, and play quite well!
The hockey swing provides the "raw material,” so to speak, with which one can transition to a decent golf swing. Central New York PGA Professional Linda Mulherin says the advantage that many hockey players have is what’s called the “lag.” During the downswing, it’s how far the club head “lags” behind the hands before the release. But, most people who don’t play hockey release early before impact, and the later it’s released, the better the results.
In addition to the lag in the swing as an advantage for an average hockey player to become a decent golfer, it’s no secret that golf teaches some of life’s most important lessons. First, there is etiquette. There's nothing more refreshing than to attend your child's junior golf tournament and hear just about every 12-16 year old (and I'm talking BOYS here) say "please" and "thank you." Manners are in abundance on the golf course! Golf parents are also a breath of fresh air (although the summertime air on the course can be sticky) as they encourage kids other than their own to play well, and their overall support is amazing.
The kids are dressed impeccably, with collared shirts tucked in, a rainbow of colored attire and of course, the head-to-toe Rickie Fowler trademark orange donned by a few players.
The other great lesson in life is patience. With the exception of a faceoff or a power play, hockey players are not supposed to be patient. They move constantly, they turn, and then they halt in front of the net, only to move again. In golf, they wait. They wait for the foursome ahead of them, then they wait for others to swing, then to line up a putt, and it goes on and on.
|Graham DeLeet walking up to #14 to his drive on green|
We, as spectators, were quite patient as we waited for some of the pros to come up on Hole 14 at Oak Hill and see just how far they could drive. We saw PGA pro and former hockey player Graham DeLaet drive the green on what is a par 4, and only a handful of these players were able to do so the entire weekend.
PGA professionals Jerry Kelly, Swedish golfer Jonas Blixt and Canadian pros DeLaet, Mike Wier and David Hearn were hockey players, although their swings certainly don't match the one-of-a-kind slapshot swing of Happy Gilmore's. Hearn, who lives in Wayne Gretzky’s hometown of Brantford, Ontario, was interviewed during the PGA last week and simply said, “In the winter we played hockey, in the summer we played golf.” Golf kept their hockey swings in check and vice versa. As a small sized pre-teen, Hearn stopped youth hockey in Canada the year checking began, but with the encouragement of his father, Hearn made the great decision to stay with golf. It’s likely if you visit a golf course, you will find a number of adult golfers who played hockey when they were kids.
As summer is winding down and many hockey players are dreaming of lacing up their skates again for another season, there is still plenty of time to visit one of the numerous courses in your area and give golf a try. Golf course rates are terrific in the fall and there are some fantastic PGA instructors to start you on your way to something you can do with your whole family. But -- don’t wear a hockey jersey and keep the “other” stick at home.
Caroline Stanistreet is a veteran hockey mom from Camillus, New York