Part 3 – Reflections on my ‘journey to better’

Enclosed is the third and final part of my reflections post on golf lessons.  Thanks for reading and I hope your game is progressing well this season.

It’s still early in the season. My friend and I have several lessons in our ‘package’ remaining from which we purchased. So how am I feeling today? Encouraged. I have a sense of my strengths and areas which I need to focus on. A plan? Sure, let’s call it a plan. I know that I can practice with purpose and on aspects of my game which require attention. I already have more of an ability to self-diagnose issues in my swing.

Are lessons for everyone? Like Sean Casey recently told me, they are certainly well suited for people truly committed to improve. In almost five months working with my new instructor I feel I have acquired confidence, tools to help improve, a professional perspective on my game and an opportunity to learn smart. I worked for almost 15 years in adult education so lifelong learning has been a tenet of my life. OK, that just sounds dramatic; fact is I love my golf lessons. I love the chance to learn, to improve and create a high ceiling for myself around a game I am very passionate about and really enjoy.

Which leads to ‘a-ha’ moment number 3 – golf is fun, so don’t take yourself so seriously. I turn 48 this summer and believe that with continued work on my game I can drop the handicap below 8. I don’t have a number which I am striving for as a handicap. I do know I’d like to work hard to break par for a round. That and ensure that the valleys in my game do not cause me to break out in the sweats anymore. But as my reflective ‘a-ha’ moments have taught me – give it time, relax and have fun and continue to communicate around the aspects of my game which provide opportunity for improvement. I’m still learning.

A-Ha Moment Three – Golf is Fun
I’m an avid player and I want to play my best. But poor play will not affect my tour earnings or my world golf ranking. I am committed to get better and play my best but I try to smile more on the course and I am able to let the odd double or triple bogey go and take things one shot at a time. Perhaps it has taken me 47 years to learn to truly play golf one shot at a time. It’s not as easy as it sounds but is very liberating when successful.

But of course, there is a balance between practice, confidence and performance. I like the line which Gary Player cites, “the harder you work, the luckier you get”. I believe that. But I am struck by the words of LPGA Champion golfer Paula Creamer, who says, “Find a good teacher that will keep the game fun. Work hard and don’t be afraid to have success or disappointment. That is what golf is all about.” I want to play to play great…not just ok.


Sean Casey Interview – Part 9 – ‘In Closing: Sean’s Dream Foursome’

@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.

(I would like to extend a sincere thanks to Sean for his time and  sharing so freely.  This interview series has been a pleasure to experience and share.)

9. @36aday – Lastly…your dream foursome and on what course(s) in Canada would you like to play?

SC – You always see one of two answers here. There’s non golfers; Jesus, Nelson Mandela, Lincoln, Obama. Those are the type of people Sean Foley would probably say. Like who would be cool to hang out with spend some time with. But from a golfing standpoint my hero in golf was Greg Norman. I loved the way he played the game. He was very athletic. He’d go for it. It was fun to watch. He was like a young Tiger or Phil and would hit shots you’d never even seen. He played in a way that got me attracted to the game and I enjoyed watching him play so I’d certainly have him in there.

Arnold Palmer more so for his character and I think as a human being. I would like to be like him and the way that he connects with people and that people know he cares and how it is not just a business and all about making money. He’s a genuinely good human being and he cares about people, cares about the game and its future. So Greg Norman for the way he played, Arnold for who he is and Tiger because I’ve watched his whole career as well. Just to do it (smiles), to say you’ve played with Tiger and watch him hit a golf ball the way he can.

Beyond that, someone else I respect and refer to often as a golfer is Annika Sorenstam. I feel she might be the best example for me as a coach, as a professional golfer that had a holistic approach to the game, worked on her technique, got stronger, was just so impressive mentally and emotionally, just a good person. Annika Sorenstam is as impressive a golfer to me as anybody so I would probably put her in there too.

@36aday – what about courses? If you’re able to get out there with these greats and play any course in Canada, where would you tee it up?

SC – Not that it needs anymore hype but Cabot Links / Cabot Cliffs. I’ve never been there. I’m from the east coast. It is the place everybody is talking about these days. It sounds like an impressive piece of land, it’s exciting to have a course in Canada that is getting attention around the world so at this point it’s on my list of places to get out and play.

@36aday – I tell you Sean, that could be a whole other 9 questions I could ask; about golf in eastern Canada because it is one of my favourite spots to play. I really want to thank you for your time. I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you and enjoyed the stories and information you shared.

SC – It was fun, thanks.

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 7 – ‘Equipment v. Instruction?’

@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.

7. @36aday – People seem comfortable paying $400 or more on a new driver each year but may be reluctant or unwilling to get instruction. From your experience why is this and what do you see as benefits for an instructional plan?

SC – First of all it’s not surprising. There’s a lot, I mean a very high percentage of people who are not comfortable with change. Being habitual beings we have systems that make our day to day lives easier. We’re so habitual and that is a good thing in many ways. We don’t have to learn to tie our shoes every morning or learn how to grab something with a fork and put it in our mouth. As the years go by we’re on autopilot and getting better at something means changing some of those habits to get a different outcome. It’s not easy. It isn’t easy but it’s also very simple. So the one’s that make change, I don’t want to say it’s this difficult process. It’s awareness and a realization that I need to change my habit. It’s a commitment and you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And the people that buy drivers as opposed to trying to change habits are people, from a personality standpoint at some level lack in my world what would be considered blue energy. They’re not planning; they’re not knowledge seeking people. They’re not process people; they’re looking for quick fixes. They’re looking for the easy route, and why not. I mean who knows, maybe there are diet pills that can help you lose weight but I know that knowledge seeking people that want to do it right would dig through all the information and want to learn if there was a side effect to such a pill. There are opportunities to get ahead quickly, and maybe a new driver will help you get a few extra yards but maybe it will just help you hit it further into the woods. Who knows? But its personality based.  When my students purchase drivers, they go through a fitting process where they learn about the new technology and do a comparison of their old driver to the potential new one. From there they can make a decision whether the spend is worth the yardage they’re about to gain.

The people that take lessons and stick to the process, those are the organized people and they realize that you need a plan. Those are the people coming in and out of our door each day. The people looking for a quick fix probably signed up for a few lessons and never took them all; they found it too hard or they weren’t comfortable with the change. They likely took three of ten lessons. The next year they show up, because they had a terrible round of golf and they have some lessons in the bank so they take lesson 4 of 10. They can stretch their ten lessons over 10 years. Each time they come for a lesson they’re looking for a quick fix. Compare that to a guy who comes in and says, ‘walk me through a process here, I’m in, I’m committed, I know it’s going to be uncomfortable but I’m going to come out of this a better, more aware golfer’. It is a completely different attitude and mind set.

Fortunately there are enough of these people that that are committed to the process to keep myself and our team of coaches busy.

Tomorrow – Part 8 – Instructional Support at Glen Abbey

Sean Casey Interview – Part 6 – ‘Holistic Golf’

@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.

6. @36aday – Your website, places an emphasis on Holistic Golf. What does that mean and why is it important?

Well, holistic golf would mean that we’re looking at all opportunities and anything that would influence the golfer. For me, there’s different ways to break that down. On my website, it would break it down to mental, emotional, physical and nutritional. But there would also be social and tactical, decision making on the course, how you socialize with others in your relationships through the golf experience, and technical, obviously. So clearly there’s more than the four I identified on my website but I feel those are the four that not everybody would consider. And obviously if you came for lessons you would get some technical as well as club fitting; we would assess your clubs, if we did on course lessons we would probably talk about decision making and tactical. So on my website, those four – mental, emotional, nutritional and physical – I’m just trying to throw out there: Hey, don’t forget about these ones.

@36aday – And I would contest they are all a part of the game and you’re creating that education and awareness for players to understand that you’re more than just moving parts, more than just swinging the club at the ball. I enjoyed reading that on your website, you presented it very clearly.

SC – I love it too. I feel you could do everything possible to develop a technically sound golf swing, and we’ve all seen guys on the driving range hit the ball very well, they have a really good looking golf swing but they don’t necessarily perform well on the golf course under pressure and the reason for that might be all those other things. You might have a good golf swing but if you’re tired or hungry, dehydrated or don’t have a good mental approach, don’t know how to manage emotions when things go wrong. You know, we’ve all seen golfers manage things well when things are good, if they have a good start they have a good day. Well, a really good golfer can have a bad start and still have a really good day. Jack Nicklaus, a champion golfer, would be very good at having a bad first hole and his record would show that does not end his day. He could turn it around. He can have a bad first hole and it’s not going to ruin his emotional state and there’s a good chance he’s going to play well on number 2. So there’s bounce back and the PGA Tour would have a stat that would be referred to as bounce back. You can see how the best players bounce back after a bogey. And the best players, but I mean we’re all going to have bogeys, are able to get their game on track and play well. But others who cannot manage their emotions well, a bad hole can lead to a bad round. The wheels fall of, sort of speak. So it makes sense that we should be aware of all these influences on your golf. The golf swing is really just one piece of the pie.

Tomorrow – Part 7 – ‘Equipment v. Instruction’

Sean Casey Interview – Part 5 – ‘Future Stars 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.

5. @36aday – The most recent Canadian professional wins were Brooke Henderson and Nick Taylor, both very young and very skilled players. Give us a name we may not be aware of to keep our eye on 5 years from now who could make the professional tour and possibly enjoy some success?

SC – Yeah, that’s an interesting question for me because I feel like all of the ones – and I could be wrong, I could be biased due to being in the industry – but I feel like we all know the list of up and comers, meaning Brooke Henderson, Augusta James, Albin Choi, Corey Conners, Mackenzie Hughes, Sloan, Hadwin. In the golf industry these are all nationally known, very good, well prepared, good solid golfers. I feel like Canada is doing a good job and these JGDC’s ultimately had nothing to do with them, let’s be honest. This is a new venture, but in the future I feel like the pool of kids coming up through the system will be very good and there will be a lot of great players. So the pool I think will be bigger. But the one’s now who managed to make it through maybe they happen to have a good coach in the area, maybe they were just very athletic, who knows? You know what it’s like, some golfers get great just by playing the game and they don’t have a coach so who knows. These days you’ll find most of them do have a coach because there is so much to navigate and the coach can help with that. Regardless there are a lot of great young players in Canada right now having success.

@36aday – It sounds like it is an expanding pool. The leadership that Golf Canada, and you, have been able to provide and the emergence of these JGDC’s, it provides more opportunities for kids will skill and passion to succeed.

SC – Yes. Exactly. There are more coaches, more passionate coaches than there used to be. There are more tournament programs and tours so there are more opportunities to play, there are a steadily increasing numbers of young, successful golfers in place now. So what was Mike Weir and Stephen Ames has really grown. There are just more Canadian flags next to guys’ names if you look through the PGA,, and Canadian Tour, there’s just more Canadian flags there and there’s a good chance there’s one from your area. We have guys from Ontario, from the prairies, from Alberta, BC, there’s good guys coming from all areas. And obviously that leads to inspiration right so there’s these young juniors who have players from their area making it all the way and that’s very inspiring and encouraging. It’s kind of like Sydney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon from Cole Harbour. You know, you never had a number one draft pick from Cole Harbour before and ‘boom’ one makes it and a few years later a little kid says, ‘he made it, I can do it’. That’s happening in Canadian golf right now.

So to get back to your original question, who do we not know of yet – and I feel odd going there, feel like I’m self-promoting here – but I happen to teach a young player that is so dedicated and he’s making his way up and he’s committed to being a golf professional that when I think to answer your question about someone no one for the most part has heard of that I believe might make it is Braeden Cryderman that I coach. So Braeden comes to mind. He’s very committed. He got up to being ranked 16th in the NCAA when he was a college golfer. He was the third of fourth ranked Division II golfer. So when he’s healthy he has played at a very high level. He has had some health setbacks with his back and then he got healthy around the end of his college career and got up to being ranked top ten amateurs in Canada. So not quite high enough to know him; you know the Corey Connors, the guys who are one, two, three, four. Not many people know the five through ten ranked amateurs in Canada but Braeden would be in that next group and he’s working his butt off and he’s very motivated.

He’s working on all aspects of his game and he pushes me as a coach because he is as hungry as I am make sure there’s no stone unturned. He is messaging me about eating and the physical side and the mental side. It’s not just me pointing him in the right direction. He’s more like, ‘hey Sean, we need to get going on this aspect of my game’, so it’s very much a team effort. It’s been a lot of fun and he’s been a lot of fun to work with because he works to hard. His club head speed went up from 105 ish to about 110 over the last year and that is an important jump if he’s going to have a future playing competitively. That’s a very big difference between 105 and 110. And we feel the best is yet to come because we know there is still some untapped potential physically as the years go by and he is further and further away from his back surgeries he had. He is getting more confident and stronger physically. So as the years go by, he is making progress. And I think as a pro that has a goal of making the PGA Tour the most important thing is probably that from year to year you feel that you’re getting better. It would be very discouraging if you said, ‘I’m in my 20’s, I want to make the PGA Tour’, and then years 20 to 24 you don’t progress much. That would be pretty discouraging and I think you would start lose your commitment to the goal but he’s experienced improvement every year so it’s like, ‘alright, let’s keep going’.

Someday maybe we’ll have all heard of Braeden Cryderman.

Monday – Part 6 – ‘Holistic Golf’

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?