Assistant pros: Always second fiddle
January 06, 2010
As underappreciated people in golf go, head club professionals have a firm grasp on second place. There is no end to what they do for the game and its amateur players, but the recognition they get is mainly limited to awards within the PGA of America. It has always been that way, and it's a shame.So who's in first place for "most underappreciated?" That would be the assistant pro. This is one of the toughest apprentice jobs in the United States. They work the toughest hours, perform the most menial tasks, and many live on subsistence wages. What's particularly brutal is there is no guarantee they'll land a head pro job one day. It's a big career gamble and a stressful one. They deserve more praise. And a little pay raise wouldn't hurt, either.
For all the help Tiger Woods has had with his game over the years, I have a hunch he would have turned out as great without it -- and maybe even better. That's a pretty bold statement, but I remember the impressions Tiger left on me in 1993, when he won his third-straight U.S. Junior Amateur at Waverley Country Club in Portland, Ore. Tiger's swing was amazing even then. It really fit his natural tendencies and tremendous speed. He was more powerful with the driver than he is today, and arguably just as straight.Tiger has improved in so many areas since then, particularly with his wedge play. Butch Harmon got a lot of well-deserved credit for that, but my feeling is, Tiger would have figured it out eventually. And much of what Tiger has that makes him great -- his feel, concentration and competitive fire -- you can't teach anyway.I do think that Butch and Hank Haney have contributed to Tiger's success in a key area: knowledge. They've broadened his understanding of the swing and perhaps speeded things along. But on balance, Tiger would have become a legend without them.
As a native Californian and proud of it, I've never thought that the PGA Tour's "swing" through my home state depicted the courses or tournaments in the best light. The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am has been plagued by cold, wet weather, which is a reason several of the tour's best players don't play that tournament, along with L.A. and San Diego. January and February are the rainiest months in California, yet that's when the tour chooses to go there. I wish the tour would reverse the West Coast and Florida swings. The weather in Florida is great in January and February. If the California and Arizona events were played later -- with the Arizona events coming first -- the great weather would attract much stronger fields.Logistics are not an issue at all. Look at what the PGA Tour did in 2007: It went from Houston to points east for three weeks, then back to Dallas for a week before going east for three more weeks, then back to Fort Worth. Moving is a snap, and I think this switch would really help the tour.