From The Archive
How Golf Saved My Life: Brian Haack
I'm the first assistant pro at the only private course in Mankato, Minn. I started at Mankato Golf Club as a bag boy when I was 15, one year after I quit baseball, which was the season they moved us to the big diamond and all my line drives suddenly became groundouts.
I'm now 33, and my life is as ordinary as it has ever been.
Finding decent shoes is a pain. I wear size 6 wide, and adult sizes start at 7. I teach in dress shoes, and I typically go through a pair in a month because I walk on the outside edges of my feet. Shirts aren't an issue. For slacks, I buy 31 by 30 off the rack and take them to a girl in town who lops off five inches and tapers the legs. Costs $10 a pair.
I hit my 44½-inch driver about 230 yards on a good day. My irons are cut a half-inch short with lie angles that are 3 degrees flat. If I gave full credence to static custom-fitting measurements, my irons would be made at least 5 degrees flat, but I prefer having them a couple clicks upright so I can turn the clubface over more easily and combat a slice. When I was a teenager, I experimented with shorter clubs that fit me traditionally, but to score on big golf courses I need all the clubhead speed I can squeeze from longer shafts. I can't really work the ball right to left much (ever), but a power fade is all you--or anyone--would play if you had to swing a javelin around your body.
My putter is 27 inches, and I address it in a conventional stance. I'm not too obsessive about wedges. I just cut the shaft by feel each time I get a new one. My glove is a cadet small, and my regular-size bag carries fine as long as I tighten the shoulder straps. If my bag is on a cart, you'll notice I can't reach the top of most clubs; I have to shimmy the shaft of the club up to get it out. I do it so often I don't even notice.
My car has extensions clamped to the pedals, but other than that I'm pretty much the same as any Class A PGA Professional you'd meet. I'm proud to say I passed my player-ability test on the first attempt, carding 72-78 at Meadows Golf Course in 2001. Sometimes I get strange looks on the first tee, but in serious tournaments everyone usually assumes you can play.
There are supposedly more than 300 types of dwarfism. I don't know mine. I've visited a doctor only once since college. When I was in third grade and it was plain everyone else was growing and I wasn't, the doctor called it something. My senior year in high school I got a call from the producers of a movie named "Simon Birch." I had never acted in my life, but a Walt Disney affiliate based in the Twin Cities had happened across my picture from a golf story in the high school sports section of the newspaper. I auditioned, but in the final round they said I was too tall, and my voice wasn't squeaky enough.
The only people who ever stare in public are children, which is fine. Often I'll go a week or more without thinking even once about being 4-feet-7. I've known nothing else.
I'm waiting for the right head-pro job to open up somewhere, but I'm also real happy here in Mankato. It's where I was born, went to college and everyone in town knows me. Someday if I meet the right girl I'd like to maybe have a family, but I like the single life, too.
Because of the tough breaks you're bound to get, competitive golf teaches you to be free from self-pity. I think I would've been successful in any occupation, but the fact is, I chose golf, and it has made me who I am. Golf is my life. From the amount of bellyaching I hear from some office folk, I'm about the luckiest guy around. I go to work every day at a golf course.