Buttoning up a couple cartloads of swings always makes for a good day, but 20 of the best teachers in the world made even more of an impact at a Memphis charity event this week.
Top teacher Rob Akins brings in 19 of his instructor friends every year in advance of the FedEx St. Jude Classic tour stop to participate in the Gurus of Golf -- a unique benefit for the Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.
Instead of running a traditional pro-am where everybody goes out and plays for a score with a celebrity partner, Akins pairs 20 amateur foursomes with their own swing guru for the day. The group gets a nine-hole playing lesson in the morning, private instruction in the middle of the day, and then a nine-hole playing lesson to finish out in the afternoon. This year's roster was a virtual who's-who of the Golf Digest 50 Best Teachers list -- Chuck Cook, Mike Bender, Mike Adams, Stan Utley, Randy Smith, Jack Lumpkin, Brian Mogg, Mike Shannon, Todd Sones and Charlie King all supervised groups at Spring Creek Ranch, as did Tom Stickney, Scott Davenport, Mark Wood, Kathy Hart Wood, Kip Puterbaugh, John Elliott, Don Sargent, Tom Ness and Mark Hackett.
Each amateur foursome paid $10,000 for unlimited access to their guru -- as well as access to all the other instructional firepower on hand. During the lunch break, players actively cross-pollinated, moving from Utley's short game clinic at the practice green to Cook and Adams' stations at the range.
Out on the course, Smith and the other teachers mixed concrete swing tips with strategy advice and volumes of stories about tour life behind the scenes. Smith made quick work of his team, tuning up turns and fixing grips early in the day and seeing immediate results. His only concern? "I get a little nervous when a guy tells me he has his member-guest coming up next week," he said. "That's not usually the best time to be making a bunch of changes."
The combination of entry fees and proceeds from a charity auction the night before at Lexus of Memphis raised more than $250,000 for Le Bonheur's childrens programs -- a resounding success by any measure. But for the teachers, it is Akins' homespun hospitality -- and the legendary closing barbecue he always cooks -- that has made them block off space and give their time. "It's a great cause, but we do it for Rob," says Utley, one of many of the instructors who has been coming since the event started in 2009. "It's one of the highlights of the year."