If it were his goal - and it's not - to conquer the golf world, the master teacher would do it one short game at a time.
He’s a man of the world, with golf-instruction footholds in Japan, Korea and Australia/New Zealand. He’s a man about town, with his home base in Olympia and Thurston County.
And now, with the recent publication of “A Master Teacher’s Secrets to Accelerated Golf Performance” (Xlibris, $19.99/$29.99), he’s an author, with his deeply held principles of the game of golf between the covers of a book.
He’s a guy named Joe.
“Golf is not a game of mechanics,” Joe Thiel said this week. “It’s a game of feel, and it’s got to be played by feel and by eyesight.
“You can learn a lot of things. The idea is to learn those things so well that they become habit, so we play the game instinctively without thought.”
Joe Thiel’s Worldwide Golf Schools have touched some of the top international players. He’s been ranked among the top 100 golf teachers in the U.S. by Golf magazine. Locally, he operates out of the PGA First Tee Golf Center, 8000 72nd Lane S.E.
Thiel, whose age has “hit the 60s,” is still relentless in pursuing the goal that all his students reach their golf potential.
He’s been at it 38 years. The native of Sharon, Pa., learned the game on the only free golf course in the U.S., Buhl Farm Golf Course. Sharon is near Latrobe Country Club, where Arnold Palmer’s father, Deacon, was the head pro and where Arnie learned golf.
Thiel remembers as a high school golfer at the Pennsylvania state championships when Arnie met with the players and gave a clinic.
Thiel’s book works from the ground up, beginning with mastery of the short game.
At least as important is the book’s emphasis on the mental side of golf.
“A person walking down the fairway can create an internal atmosphere in their body that will translate into a comfortable, more relaxed motion,” he said.
“They can adjust their internal climate, at will, by reading three pages in the book – not by trying at will.”
In Thiel’s opinion, the best example of a strong mental game is Annika Sorenstam, the world’s premier women’s player from 1995-2006.
“Annika was able to take her eyes and roll them back in her head and look inside her heart and her body and her mind and see it was off a little bit – and self-adjust in 15 seconds,” Thiel said.
“I believe that was why she was as good as she was. That set her apart from everybody who played the game, including Tiger.”
Testimonials for the book were offered by Bill Rogers, winner of the 1981 British Open winner; PGA Tour player Michael Putnam; and Cameron Peck of Lacey, the U.S. Junior Amateur champion in 2008 now playing at Texas A&M, who worked with Thiel for 10 years.
Theil would never say he has all the answers.
In fact, his message to the best players he’s taught is that golf does not define them as a person.
There are more important things in the world.
But he does believe his book can help golfers of all levels of athleticism play better, more instinctive golf, and have more fun doing it.
There’s no book like it on the market, according to a guy named Joe.
The key to Thiel’s philosophy of teaching is in the book’s subtitle: “Most golfers learn the game backwards.”
What he means is that most of us start to learn golf by taking a long club and taking big swings without first learning the foundation of golf: the short game.
“It’s incredible all the little idiosyncrasies you can learn in the short game that can be applied in the long game,” Thiel said.
“I just want people to give it a shot, to start in the game by learning small to big, by learning the little micro-movements in the short game that are easy for people to assimilate.”
A solid short game translates to a stronger long game – and not the other way around.
And what’s the worst that can happen, Thiel asks? Your short game will get better, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Olympia freelance writer Bart Potter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org