In his office next to the practice tee at Orange County National Golf Center near Orlando, Sean Foley is taking an air-conditioned break from a steamy August morning when he notices a conspicuously placed magazine on his desk. It's open, and the article displayed asks a question in big, block letters: "WHO IS SEAN FOLEY?"
"Who cares?" Foley replies, after reading the headline out loud.
Before this summer, that question could have been rhetorical. He was a promising golf instructor who was quietly assembling a stable of PGA Tour pros, including Hunter Mahan, Sean O'Hair, Stephen Ames and Justin Rose. But then Tiger Woods took notice and asked him to look at his swing. The two have since been spotted working together several times, and now everyone wants to know more about the guy working with Tiger.
"The other day," Foley says, "my parents called me. They said a TV crew was knocking on their door for an interview. This is insane, eh?"
That "eh" is telling. Foley was born outside Toronto and lived in Canada for several years. At age 10, he learned the basics of golf from his dad and grew to love the game. But he says he never had aspirations of being a professional golfer. Instead, he recalls attending the Canadian Open one year and watching David Leadbetter work with Nick Faldo. "I remember thinking how cool Leadbetter's job must be," he says. By 15, Foley was learning all he could about the swing, even studying Homer Kelley's technically explicit book The Golfing Machine. Adding to his diverse experience in the game, Foley played college golf at Tennessee State, a historically black university.
"I learned there that you have to be yourself," says Foley, who graduated in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in political science and philosophy. "You can't fake anything. People will know." "He's a deep thinker," O'Hair says of Foley. "Not just about the golf swing, but about life in general."
Foley, the newest Golf Digest Teaching Professional, has studied everything from kinesiology to Eastern philosophies to geometry to improve his teaching. "I don't necessarily know what's right," he says. "But I know enough about the golf swing to know what's wrong." --Ron Kaspriske