Pundits talk for dough and golf for show

December 28, 2010 

You might have seen the cartoon by Glen Le Lievre in the latest issue of the New Yorker that shows a city bus with a bubble on top, pipes running from two sides, encasing a couple of wildly gesticulating men seated at a desk. The lettering on the side reads, "This bus runs on punditry."

No pundits here, unless they get their words inside quotation marks.

They’re all smarter than me, and louder.

Hank Haney is no pundit. Some might call him a guru, and certainly he’s been visited by as many golf pilgrims as any Maharishi has spiritual seekers.

He’s coached elite professionals (Tiger Woods, for one), and lately, for public consumption, he’s taken on non-golf celebrities.

“The Haney Project” on The Golf Channel has been pretty entertaining up to now. Retired basketball pro (and now pundit) Charles Barkley let Haney have a crack at the ungodly hitch in his swing. Comedian Ray Romano asked Haney to help him break 80 for the first time.

It goes without saying (See? A real pundit would never let anything go without saying) that Barkley is funnier by far than Romano.

Haney’s next TV project is a guy who talks a lot on the radio, no doubt gesticulating madly, to a huge listening audience that presumes he knows what he’s talking about.

They say a student must come to a teacher humbly, sincerely, if he wants to learn well and deeply.

Golf teachers talk about the arc of a swing that has to get around certain players’ bellies. Rush Limbaugh has an ego even bigger than his oversized gut, and I don’t know how Haney expects to get around that.

THE OLD DOG PROJECT

The Old Dog Project, introduced in this space Dec. 14, pairs a seasoned teacher, local professional Tom Staskus, with a student who’s lost his golf groove, if he ever had one. Early work – some nine hours of practice and lots of conversation about putting – has yielded promising results.

The teacher: The student didn’t practice in the week between the previous session and Monday, so Staskus, who was inclined to move into some chipping and longer swing work, kept the whole lesson on the indoor green.

From the ground up, the student built on concepts introduced in prior lessons:

 • Weight spread evenly over feet;

 • Firm legs and core, held still through the stroke;

 • Solid grip, one that won’t let the wrists break down or the fingers guide the club;

 • Shoulder turn controls the swing back and through the ball.

As the lesson went on, a theme emerged: “Why not be in control of the situation?”

By this, Staskus meant reducing the possibility for breakdowns in the club path. In his own putting, he takes a tiny backswing and strikes the ball firmly, rather than pushing it, and the ball rolls crisply to the hole.

When every element of the putting stroke – the stance, the grip, the turn – is of a piece, it can only enhance the control a player has over the situation that arises on every putting green of every round of golf.

The student: I didn’t make the time to practice between last Saturday and this Monday. The case could be made that family comes first during the holidays, and man, it’s busy, you know?

But I want to hold up my end of the bargain, and that means putting in the work and being honest when I don’t.

It’s completely absorbing: the hours roll by, and Staskus is patient.

He doesn’t want to tell me, necessarily, what I’m doing wrong. He would prefer that I feel and recognize where a breakdown, no matter how small, might have pushed or pulled the ball past the hole. It’s getting there.

It’s eye-opening to realize all the different reasons I missed putts in the past.

What is more amazing is that I ever made a putt at all.

BEST DEAL IN TOWN

The Olympia Country and Golf Club is offering open play through March 31, 2011, which means public players are allowed on the private Cooper Point layout – for 30 bucks, including cart. If all goes well, club president Charlie Frank says, the offer might be extended deeper into the spring.

The course is in great shape, Frank says, and the greens, damaged in the 2009-10 winter, are back.

Take them up on this deal, and play the course you’ve always been curious about. Call (360) 866-7121 for more information.

Olympia freelance writer Bart Potter can be reached at greygoatee06@comcast.net

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