September 26, 2008

My Shot: Bob Toski

A legendary teacher on firm handshakes, road rage, singing in the shower, and why the homonculus is really to blame for your slice.

'I'd rather take a player's long, loose swing and shorten it than the other way around.'

'I'd rather take a player's long, loose swing and shorten it than the other way around.'

__ Age 75,

teacher,

Boca Raton, Fla. __

A firm handshake doesn't reveal a thing about character. All it tells me is, you're probably going to hold the club too tight.

I entered a tournament under my given name, Bob Algustoski. It was a big moment for me. On the first tee the announcer boomed out, "Now playing, Bob Aglus ... Aguss ... oh, hell, play away." The gallery roared. From then on, I was Bob Toski.

My best year on the PGA Tour was 1954. I won four tournaments and was the leading money-winner. I weighed 118 pounds. The moral is, if you're good enough, you're big enough.

Swinging a weighted practice club will do more for your swing than a hundred swing-training gizmos combined.

I've yet to see a golfer who wasn't disappointed when he saw his swing on video for the first time.

I never played in the British Open, because in 1953, first prize was about $1,500. You couldn't cover expenses, even if you won. The history and tradition of the Open are wonderful, but it never surpassed the need to feed and clothe my wife and kids.

We all have "natural" swings. The problem is, a natural swing produces a slice. That's because the homonculus, the part of the brain that controls motor movement, sees the hands as the largest part of your anatomy. When you're a baby you're constantly moving your hands away from your body so you can explore things in your environment. Now, when the day comes to play golf, the instinct to move your hands away from you really takes over. On the downswing the hands move away from the body too soon, out toward the target line, and you end up cutting across the ball from out to in.

Thanks to the homonculus, I make a very good living.

I love competition. If you know someone my age or older you think can beat me, come on down to Florida, name the stakes and let's tee it up. I'm the best 75-year-old golfer in the world, with the possible exception of Joe Jimenez.

I won a penmanship contest in grade school. The principle is the same as golf: Your right palm faces down with the thumb and forefinger touching. And you move the pen with your entire arm, not just the wrist.

Somewhere there's a 10-year-old kid practicing with some version of the long putter. When he grows up, he'll putt better than anyone the world has ever seen.

People sing in the shower because they sound better in there. You get that little echo off the walls. I may be the best shower singer of all time. When I belt out "How Great Thou Art," I believe God is pleased by the expression of praise and talent coming from the Toski bathroom.

God can hear me longer, now that I have a 30-gallon water tank.

It's better to play than to practice.

If your back hurts from playing golf, you're not swinging correctly. If you shift your weight to the left on the downswing, and let your right heel come off the ground, you should be able to play forever.

As a ball striker, Ben Hogan was every bit as great as people say he was. But Tiger Woods is much, much better than Hogan ever was.

Everything about golf is better today, except the sounds. The click of a persimmon driver striking one of those soft balata balls and the sound of steel spikes clattering across the parking lot were heavenly. The plink of titanium does nothing for me.

Many old people take pride in saying they live in the present and think only of the future. They must have had a miserable past. I think of the old days all the time. I had a dream about Sam Snead the other night. I also dreamed about my mother, who died when I was 6. I saw her face; it was very comforting. I'm a very nostalgic person.

A teacher can get a lot of attention working with tour players, but the challenge isn't that great. What's hard is taking someone who is totally spastic and turning them into a 10-handicapper.

Boca Raton is the road-rage capital of America. Half the population is 80 years old and drives 15 miles an hour under the speed limit. The other half consists of 20-year-olds who think they're the reincarnation of Dale Earnhardt. You put those two groups on wide, flat, well-paved roads, and you've got something you could charge admission to see.

Men, your wife appreciates that you are a better golfer than she is. She also suspects you don't understand the golf swing as well as you think you do, and she's right. So, for the sake of world peace, keep your advice to yourself.

I've never been asked to refund money for a lesson. Please don't start now.