Sean Casey Interview – Part 8 – Instruction at Glen Abbey

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

A Quick 9 With Sean Casey, Director of Instruction at The Glen Abbey Golf Academy and Head Coach for the Canadian Junior Golf Association National Teams.

8. @36aday – You’re the Director of Instruction at The Glen Abbey Golf Academy in Oakville, ON. Is it possible for anyone to reach out to you to seek instructional support and how can people reach you if interested?

SC – Yes, people can certainly reach out. If I was to take someone in at this point it would definitely help if it was a referral; someone you already know that I’m working with. However, as I sit and speak with you today I really don’t have room. But that doesn’t mean I won’t have room next month. There is only so many people you can fit into a weekly schedule. The problem is, if I take someone new and squeeze them in, am I really doing what’s best for them? Because I may not be able to really give them my best. I might be tacking them onto the end of a long day and they might get better care and better coaching from someone who has more time. I’m hesitant at this point.

@36aday – I appreciate that. To follow up, is there a system in place among teaching professionals for referrals?

SC – I refer people. Sometimes, someone will write to me and say ‘I’ve heard of you from someone I know’ or they found me on line but they live in Toronto, and say ‘do you know of anyone closer to me?’ and I’ll give them the name of a few guys and let them find the person right for them. Recently I reached out on someone’s behalf to three different coaches in Toronto saying, ‘guys, here’s a potential student, who’s interested?’. It’s something we regularly do to get people linked up with coaching. At our academy some of our coaches are full; they don’t have room in their schedules while others are still building their business. We try to get a sense of the student, the personality, what are they looking for. Maybe ask them, what type of personality would you like your coach to be? Do you want someone who’s a little more laid back, do you need someone organized who will keep you on a program. Are you looking for someone a little more social, where you can talk golf? We try to get a sense from the student who they’re looking for. All of our coaches are good; good people, knowledgeable, but schedule is very important. When do you want your lessons? We will look to find a coach who can meet when you want to meet.

@36aday – are you starting to see people coming in and actively interview the coach? Are they asking about philosophy, technique – feel based or utilization of emerging technology? Is that starting to happen more?

SC – More so. But it’s definitely not the majority of people. There’s a confidence in people that know our academy and its reputation. They assume that if they come to us, they’ll get well looked after by any coach. So a lot of people don’t care. They’ll come in say, ‘look, I’m just trying to get better and I’ll take any one of you as I’m sure anyone here can help me’. But some people do ask more questions, it depends on the person. For example, some people will approach us and they’ll have heard about TrackMan and they’ll ask, ‘do you use TrackMan in lessons’ or ‘Do you use video?’ Yes. ‘Can you send those to me?’ Yes. Some people want access to technology through their lessons and if we know they really like those technologies than we will follow through and make sure we use that they’re looking for. Some come in and say, ‘look, I just want to get better. I’m a clean slate. I’ll listen and I’m willing to learn.’

Tomorrow – Part 9 – Dream Foursome, Bucket List Course

Sean Casey Interview – Part 4 – ‘The Future of Golf in Canada’

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

A Quick 9 With Sean Casey, Director of Instruction at The Glen Abbey Golf Academy and Head Coach for the Canadian Junior Golf Association National Teams.

4. @36aday – You have maintained a strong commitment to junior instruction. Much has been made about the future of golf. I’m interested in your opinion on the future of golf in Canada?

SC – Yeah, it’s definitely a positive outlook. I’m not going to give you a sob story here. Because the game is so good here. My greatest opportunity to do some good for that is to do really good things through Glen Abbey, and we’re doing a lot of good things and our numbers are there to support that. We have a lot of junior golfers and we’re not at a place where we’re trying to bring more in which is nice. We’re trying to figure out how to better service the ones we have. So it took a little while to get there because for a while it was ‘what do we have to do to attract these juniors?’ and we were definitely on a mission of improvement, and we still are, but it’s just changed a little bit because now we have some programs in place that are good and are helping the kids. Now we’re not going to drastically change the templates, but over the past few years there were massive changes in terms of how many private lessons do the kids get, how many group sessions, what age groups do we place them in because we changed all that. So we made a lot of change and now it’s like how can we make the two hour practices better and more influential. So it’s fun.

We became part of a pilot project three/four years ago. And it was called Junior Golf Developmental Centres, JGDC’s. I believe the concept was drawn out by Mike Kelly from the GAO (Golf Association of Ontario) and if it wasn’t him he was certainly the one that brought it to my attention. The idea would be that all across Canada someday there would be recognized junior golf centres where families and parents of junior golfers would know that they could bring their kids and there would be high quality coaching. Mike has a real passion to grow the game and I supported his vision and wanted Glen Abbey to a part of this future National Program.

@36day – Elite kids?

SC – All kids, beginner kids. Imagine if you’re a parent of a junior, it would be ‘where would I take my kid for coaching?’. Well in your town there might be a number of golf pros, some of these golf pros might just coach part time meaning they run their course and they give lessons. But is that coaching? No it isn’t. It doesn’t mean they’re going to help you draw up a yearly plan and when should your tournaments be and how many tournaments? They might be teachers. So in other words, in golf in Canada and around the world but definitely in Canada, we are leading the way in recognizing the difference between teachers and coaches. So, we used to be teachers here at Glen Abbey. We did not concern ourselves with the big picture, proactively developing yearly plans, etc…., how many tournaments they should play and so on. Looking back at when Sean and I first started here with the junior program it was just teaching. But, because of, really, Sean’s broad nature it became coaching. We were ahead of the curve in that nature meaning we were talking about psychology, eating, working out, probably a more holistic coaching view than other people in Canada at that time. But it’s catching up. We’re now not the only academy in Canada talking about more than technique so there’s lots of good coaches now and a lot of it is because of the PGA and Golf Canada and the GAO and everybody recognizing the need for a coaching model and supporting the kids more broadly which means a proper curriculum for them to go through throughout their junior career.
@36aday – Sean, was that developmental process, did that help to inform the work you’ve been doing with the Canadian Junior Golf Association National Team? Was there leadership from Golf Canada to integrate what you’ve already brought in?

SC – They knew that when we said yes and that we wanted to be part of their pilot project that and that we want to be a recognized JGDC, they knew that we were already ahead of the curve meaning that some of the academies in Canada were going to have to get up to speed with the list of requirements needed to be a JGDC. We had a lot of the pieces of the puzzle in place so they knew it would be easier for us to just check the boxes, go, ‘yeah, we’re already doing that and we’re good to go’. But now that we’re a recognized JGDC I will tell you, it wasn’t simple. We had to make some change around here. There was a lot of positive improvement in the things we were doing in an effort to be a JGDC. So it was really a good experience for us as an academy and that would be the most significant thing that has changed around here from a junior golf standpoint is the whole JGDC. Now we’re much more aware of the experience of the junior golfer going through their stages of development and making sure that we have programs that suite their needs. We used to often have parents say, ‘I don’t feel like the program my son is in is quite right for him. Do you have anything more?’ And we used to say, well, ‘sign him up for more lessons, more private time’. And that never hurt, that’s how we’ll service your child more. We used to have people looking for more but we didn’t have a program laid out, but now we do.

You would know because Christian (Grande), he’s your stepson (and is in the Glen Abbey Junior Program) – those kids, we have a plan for a fourteen to an eighteen year old and if they stay in it for those four years they’re going to hear and learn about the mental side, nutrition, working out, long game, short game, tournament preparation, how to do a practice round and so on an so forth. So, there’s a program there that addresses the needs of the teenage tournament-playing junior golfer. It’s fun, it’s exciting because as a coach you’re confident you have a structure in place.

@36aday – I think, too, you can look now and see that you’re part of a broader system and it links into a national system. I can appreciate your enthusiasm now. You’re proving a springboard and a system to support their long-term development.

SC – Yes. So that structure that I’m referring to is something one day that will be available within a town or two of your town. There may not be one in every town but we’re trying to have these JGDC’s geographically laid out across the country so that every family can get their child to one of these facilities to learn the game of golf and know that they’re learning the game of golf and they’re going to be exposed to knowledge and information that would be very similar to what they would get if they lived in the Glen Abbey community.

@36aday – It sounds fantastic and you’re right, I know from experience. I’m just kind of chuckling, when you start of middle aged golf development clinic than sign me up because that kind of comprehensive program where you’re not just dealing with issues of grip and swing path but putting people on a path to enjoy the game and succeed on and off the course.

SC – Yes. So it’s less reactionary which you might say is a little more teaching. Where it’s like, ‘ok, come on in and let’s see how you’re hitting the ball, what’s not good, what can we fix up’. Coaching is more proactive. Let’s have a long-term plan and what type of golfer do you want to be and let’s make sure we address all these things over the next eight years. That’s different than, ‘I’ve been slicing it lately, how do we fix it?’. It’s a different approach.

Tomorrow – Part 5 – Future Stars in Golf in Canada?

Sean Casey Interview – Part 3 – ‘Sean and Sean: The Early Years’

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

A Quick 9 With Sean Casey, Director of Instruction at The Glen Abbey Golf Academy and Head Coach for the Canadian Junior Golf Association National Teams.

3. How much fun were those early years together – Sean and Sean? Were they enjoyable for you?

SC – Yeah! Awesome, it was a blast. I was 22, he was 25. We had just finished that university age, we both probably had some debts and all of a sudden for the first time in our life we’re making decent money. That’s a fun time in life when all of a sudden you can afford, a good car, to pay rent at a decent place, so all of a sudden we’re moving into decent condos and apartments. We both have new cars, we have money in the bank; we are young. We don’t have much responsibility. We’re not married yet. All we really had to do was show up for our lessons on time. If you think about it responsibility-wise that is all we had to do. And we probably didn’t do that very well (smiles) but we were just going. We had 12-14 lessons a day – very busy – because we were the two young ones at the academy we would be available all day. Sean and I made ourselves available pretty much every day, all day. It was a like a clean slate so we would let the administrator just fill it, just go nuts, fill it from sun up to sun down. We had a lot of energy, it was fun. Somehow outside the hours of these long work days we spent a ton of time doing other stuff: socializing, road trips in the off-season, concerts, going out for dinner, whatever it would be. There was a lot of extra-curricular time and a lot of fun. Then getting out of bed and getting back here and teach another long day (smiles). There weren’t a lot of days off but I remember taking some time off in those summers to play golf. We still loved to play so when we took a day off it was usually to go play a tournament.

And we were playing decent back then. We were young, athletic, working out a lot, and hitting balls and learning about the game. We won the 2003 two-man event, teamed up and had a good day at Angus Glen that day. When we both played well, I mean we were both definitely decent players at that time. He and I were definitely two guys who had potential to play the game at a decent level but probably got in our own way a little bit and not have a real clean score card (smiles) but as a team, you know, for him for sure. Sean was a thinker; he could hit a golf ball as good as anybody. He hit the ball consistently, his swing was very simple, repeatable, one of the best swings that you’ve seen but his mind, because he’s such a thinker, he would have a hard time getting into that play mode where he just played. But when he and I teamed up together, he would just play. It helped that I maybe already had a ball in the fairway. So if I hit one down the fairway, Sean got into this play mode, the pressure was off and he could perform at a higher level.

@36aday – that’s quite a variation to ham and egging it

SC – (laughs) Yeah, and we would do well in our team events. It was definitely a fun time. There were a lot of fun times. I can’t remember them all but his wedding comes to mind. That was in either 2004 or 2005 he got married. Actually he got married right above where we’re doing our interview. He got married on the rooftop here (above the Glen Abbey Academy). But whatever we did it was big and it was fun.

@36aday – Do you guys still keep in touch?

SC – Sean and I would keep in touch through text mostly, these days. To be honest, I don’t message him a lot, just knowing how busy he is. I don’t want to be that friend from Canada that texts him every day and gets pissed that he doesn’t respond quickly. I respect the demands on his time and choose not to do that, but I’ll text when I need to. If I’m going to Orlando, obviously, that would be when. I generally would meet with him, most times in Florida. And that’s really when I get to see him in person is if I’m in his home town. We usually meet up there, or, when he’s here. But he doesn’t come back that often.

Tomorrow – Part 4 – The Future of Golf in Canada

Sean Casey Interview – Part 2 – ‘The Sean Foley Influence’

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

A Quick 9 With Sean Casey, Director of Instruction at The Glen Abbey Golf Academy and Head Coach for the Canadian Junior Golf Association National Teams.

2. @36aday – You’re quite clear that Sean Foley has been an influence in your career. What was it about Sean and his approach to instruction, his approach to people, that resonated so deeply with you?

SC – From an instruction standpoint he was just very broad in his approach. People would show up for lessons probably expecting a technical assessment and recommendations, what they need to do with their grip or their posture or whatever. But before you know it Sean is talking about Gandhi, or Jesus or something, or someone. His mind would go anywhere. He would talk about business. Businessmen would show up and they do well with their business but it likely took them a long time to get good at business. They failed, they bankrupted some companies and now they’re successful business owners and he would bring up that point, saying ‘why do you think you should show up here for a lesson and have instant success when it took you many companies to figure out how to successfully run a company and have it profit?’. He wasn’t afraid to tell a successful businessman that and he would maybe ruffle some feathers every now and then too where people would like, ‘listen young 25 year-old coach, I came here for a golf lesson and you’re, you know…’

@36aday – Yes, like ‘I’m pulling everything left and you’re talking to me about my business philosophy’. But it also sounds like he had a commitment to folks he worked with and dealt with the whole person.

SC – He did. Exactly. He’s dealing with the whole person and he’s trying to make them better, you know he would say things to people that would help them realize this shouldn’t be a short term venture, that you should develop a long term approach to improvement. Failure is ok. You can learn from your failures. Don’t be afraid to fail. You just have to get better over time. So he really has this long-term, get better over time attitude and he had to at times say things to people that were really making them realize that, yes, look over here at the rest of your life. Did you instantly get that good at playing guitar? How did your music sound in year one? Whatever he had to say, whatever they did successfully he would use those examples to them and as a coach buy himself time so they were buying into his coaching philosophy long term. He was just really good at having people look at golf as a long term process but he also just knew where to go to get better, understanding how are we going to get better, it was beyond technical. Sean was so good technically. And people would know him for his technical knowledge but then you get to know him and it’s like there is so much more to Sean than just his technical knowledge. It’s really all the other stuff that I think people enjoy. Most people I know that have taken lessons from him always say ‘I just enjoyed our conversations’. I can’t tell you how many people I know and still run into here at Glen Abbey, I teach some of Sean’s former students – Sean is not around obviously – and they always say I enjoyed my conversations with Sean. Because they spend some time working on the swing but then talk about Gandhi or Nelson Mandela and certain people really enjoy talking about those types of things. Its philosophy

@36aday – It sounds like you have some fond memories. If you look at your own strengths as an instructor is there anything you would attribute to the mentoring and support he provided?

SC – Yes, it’s just the overall care for the person. That holistic view of golf. I had a kid that was really good, and he’s still good. That young kid is now playing college golf very successfully in the States but at the time he was a six year old. He was one of the best six year olds in Canada, it sounds kind of funny but you know when he was six, seven and eight he was one of the top players in that age group and he got to junior world championships or the US kids championships and he was doing great. He was fun to work with. He was getting better; he was hitting the ball great. Sean, one day, made a comment to me about my lack of concern for his back, his lower back. And within his swing motion, this little kid, was doing something in his swing that was putting his spine in a fairly strained position. Of course the kid wouldn’t know it because he was so young and supple but Sean felt if he was to keep swinging that way that someday he may even be able to play golf. So Sean made some strong comment and maybe it was more bold than it needed to be but Sean felt I was not hitting in on this thing and he felt that I was not concerned about the little kid’s long term career, just that I was too focused on his current game. Sean’s like, ‘he may not even play as a teenager if you don’t take care of that’. So all a sudden I’m now looking at the swing in terms of where it’s putting pressure on his spine. I hadn’t been thinking of that. Just an example, it’s not all about current success with your students. It’s about being mindful of their future.

@36aday – Definitely with your commitment to working with juniors I could see how you would be focused on short term objectives while being aware of the long term goals.

SC – Yes. That’s just one example but I mean there were times where it was obvious that Sean’s mind was considering long term. And trying to influence the person and help them to where they will be 20 years from now and how will have helped influence them, not just in the short term about getting rid of their slice but maybe to do more such as ensure they are playing the game in 20 years.

Tomorrow – Sean Casey Interview Part 3 – Sean and Sean: The Early Years

Sean Casey Interview – Part 1 – ‘What drives you to be a great instructor?’

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

A Quick 9 With Sean Casey, Director of Instruction at The Glen Abbey Golf Academy and Head Coach for the Canadian Junior Golf Association National Teams.

1. @36aday – You’re a nationally and internationally recognized golf instructor who has been coaching full time for about 15 years now. What motivates or drives you each day to be a great instructor?

SC – Fortunately I haven’t gotten tired of it, to where I’m looking to do something else so it’s nice to still get excited about teaching and helping people each year. It offers an ongoing challenge and opportunity to help people improve and be better. At first you are just trying to fill your available time slots. After doing that, I really starting considering the whole experience for the student and how can I improve the experience and service. As the Director of Instruction, I also have the ongoing challenge of supporting our other coaches and programs and trying to grow the entire academy, not just my own personal coaching business. There are new technologies that come along and change the experience and the way we measure improvement. These days, it’s essential to take advantage of technology that allows us to accurately assess, measure and quantify improvement over time. TrackMan was a game changer and the latest one I am excited about is ‘force plates’ to help us measure where the pressure is under each foot during the swing.

@36aday- That’s one of the biggest advancements in instruction in a while and you obviously have that here

SC – So it’s the technology. If I went back over the 15 years there’s something new getting you excited every year, like ‘I can’t wait to use this new technology or I’m going to do this better’. For me, if there’s one thing, one quality that I have – and I see some questions coming up about Sean Foley – if there’s something I’ve gained through knowing him it was this desire to get better. And I had it to some degree, obviously, I think everyone at some level wants to learn but when I started teaching here my first year I had gotten pretty good, I felt I’d learned a lot. Year one, you learn a ton, because you’re surrounded by teaching pros; probably one of the only academies in Canada that had a bunch of golf coaches. Fifteen years ago there weren’t many academies with five, six coaches so I was fortunate to be here at that academy with some good coaches. And I learned so much that first year. I remember saying to Tom Jackson, our boss, and Sean, ‘I’m thinking of moving back to New Brunswick – I just moved here, like one year in – and I thought to myself ‘you know what, the people in New Brunswick are missing out. This type of coaching, this information doesn’t exist in the minds of golf coaches out east’, so in my mind I developed this little goal where I’m going to take what I learn here in Ontario and I’m going to go back and help east coasters.

@36aday – Do you think about that from time to time? You’ve been here for a while and you’ve created your own brand. Is there any time where you think, it would be nice to get back home, back east?

SC – To be honest, no. I remember when I suggested to Sean and Tom, ‘I might leave’. It’s been a great year, life was going really good and it was fun and I was learning, and all that. I was making money doing what I wanted to but then I thought ‘I could be the guy on the east coast’. I’m not going to be the guy here, heck, I’m not even the guy in my own academy so how am I going to be the guy in Ontario? But I can maybe go to New Brunswick and be the guy, help work with the top juniors and so on. Back then the east coast didn’t have a lot of coaches, full-time coaches, so anyway Sean basically made me realize and he basically said something to the effect of ‘Sean (ok, I’m going to put words in his mouth), he may have said Sean you really don’t know jack squat’. Or ‘Sean you don’t know shit yet’, or something to that effect, right? And I remember looking at him and I’m like, I was feeling so good, I was feeling I know so much now, I learned a lot from you and Tom and then for him to look at me and say, ‘you don’t know shit, like you’re just getting started here, and there’s so much more to learn’. And I remember that conversation and it kind of helped me plant my feet here, really stay and I changed my attitude about moving back to the east coast. You know when I look back it’s kind of funny, I did learn a lot that year but now I look back at how much I’ve learned over the last fourteen years that I’ve stayed here and yeah, I really didn’t know very much then.

@36aday – Do you ever talk to him about that conversation and how it really stuck with you? It sounds like a little tough love but also some, hey, you should stick around, and there may be an opportunity for you.

SC – But there was always a lot of tough love with Sean. When he had the chance to influence somebody, there was no holding back. He would say what seemed at the time like the most crazy, wild, unthoughtful things but he was just trying to help spur positive change and influence me to do what was right. At the time you think it is unthoughtful, you feel like he is being a little…inconsiderate of your feelings but you always look back and I would be like, wow, it took a lot of guts for him to, you know, in the moment, create a little friction between us but really he was doing and saying what was right for me. So I think, you know, a lot of people don’t like to have conflict, but – and I would be more of that nature – but sometimes a little, ‘hey, I have to put emotion aside here, tell you what you need to hear’ is a good thing. And Sean would say whatever he needed to say to me, emotions and feelings were out the door.

@36aday – laughs

SC – And it took me a while to get used to that but he influenced me a lot because he was so open and honest.

Tomorrow – Part 2 – Sean Casey: The Sean Foley Influence

Partnering with Canadian Golf Magazine

Partnering with Canadian Golf Magazine

I am pleased to announce that my writing will expand from this blog to another online forum, one which provides me with learning opportunities to expand my interests in golf writing along with an opportunity to connect to approximately 20,000 readers per month.

Canadian Golf Magazine provides comprehensive news, information and opinion about the game of golf for Canadians, offering a broad and comprehensive content in all areas of golf ranging from the professional game, instruction, equipment reviews, editorials and golf travel (among other topics). I will retain a focus on public golf in Canada and golf travel and with the team at CGM look to engage with golfers from across the country and beyond in their excellent forums which allow interaction and engagement on a range of topics.

I will not abandon my own site, this remains a labour of love. In fact, I see myself using this blog as an opportunity to expand my writing interests and experiences such as interviewing leaders in golf in Canada. Watch out for a post in March here on this site that will feature an interview with Sean Casey, Director of Instruction at Glen Abbey and Head Instructor for the Canadian Junior Golf Association program. Other interviews are in the pipeline.

But I want to thank the team at Canadian Golf Magazine for their support and making me feel welcome. My first post is live on their site and I invite you to view it along with the range of content they have. You’ll find me here, on twitter @36aday and on the CGM forums as, of course, 36aday. The pink on pink outfit was a look I should breakout more often!

Rocking the pink

Rocking the pink