The golf bug bit me at age 11, and I’ve loved the game all my life. As a freshman in high school, I found myself on the golf team in desperate need of hitting the ball further. At 5’7″ and 130 lbs., I needed to put on some weight and get stronger for golf. Oddly enough, one of the seniors who had befriended me was in a similar position. While Bill was a bit taller, he was just as skinny as me and needed just as much help.
So one day, out of the blue, Bill hit me with a question that would lead to a decision that would ultimately shape and define my life. He asked, “Would you like to join the local gym to get stronger for golf?” Can you say hook, line, and sinker? I was all in and only in a huge way.
And that was my humble start with lifting weights. I still remember joining The Gym and our first time being shown around by Wayne, the owner. He was an old-time bodybuilder and was nice enough to give us a general demonstration in using mostly the machines. There were free weights as well and in time we would learn how to perform more advanced exercises as we carefully mimicked the experienced lifters who frequented the gym.
To say we were fired up would be the ultimate understatement. With visions of 300-yard drives dancing in our heads, we dutifully made our way to workout three days a week in addition to our golf practice. Unfortunately, the rest of our team was not so enthusiastic about our new strength training pursuits. “Don’t you know you’re going to ruin your golf swing” they would say.
And it didn’t stop there. One father was particularly negative. His son Greg, a senior, happened to be the best player on the team and was a natural athlete. He was stocky and powerful and built like a running back with lots of speed and had never touched weights in his life. Greg had been physically blessed which gave him an incredible advantage in golf. Unfortunately, Bill and I had to earn our extra distance with good old-fashioned persistence and hard work.
Soon after Bill and I started lifting, I had the good fortune to play at Crown Colony in Lufkin, TX. Over the years, Crown has been ranked among the best country club courses in Texas and is a true treasure located in the heart of The Pineywoods. The head pro, let’s call him “Joe”, had been there for many years and he was the consummate professional. His golf shop was immaculate, and he was known for being a great teacher and player.
Now being young and a little naïve, I thought surely he would be able to give me some good advice on the best way to exercise for golf. You see, in the late ’80s to early ’90s, the bulk of the training information was largely influenced by the bodybuilding community. And while there’s nothing wrong with the sport or its training methods, training to gain maximum muscle mass is not what’s needed to nail 300-yard drives.
So when the opportunity presented itself, I walked up to Joe and introduced myself.
I then proceeded to ask my question about how to best exercise to support my game. Unfortunately, I also mentioned that I had been lifting weights and his response almost startled me. He said, “Son, lifting weights will ruin your golf swing! The only thing you should be doing is running to strengthen your legs and squeezing a tennis ball to strengthen your grip.”
At first, I allowed Joe’s negative comments to cause me to doubt my efforts in the gym. But after a few days, my gut told me otherwise. It just seemed to me that a stronger and faster athlete would be better able to excel in any sport including golf. And so I flushed the whole experience and never quit lifting.
In the months to follow, there emerged a tug of war between my two athletic pursuits. While performance in golf initially drove me to the gym, once I started to see my body change, the iron bug bit me as well. Unfortunately, as I grew to love the changes I saw in my body, my golf game suffered. Remember, I had the best of intentions, but my training was largely bodybuilder-based. And golf is an extremely jealous game, as the following quote from the late great Ben Hogan attests.
“If I miss one day’s practice, I notice it. If I miss two days’ practice, the critics notice it.
If I miss three days’ practice, the world notices it.”
The moment I slacked off on my practice for the sake of getting in more time at the gym, my game started to deteriorate. From there it was a quick fall to disaster. I left the golf team after my sophomore year and poured all my heart into the gym. One year later in August of 1987, I entered my first bodybuilding contest and placed third in the teenage division. It was a great experience and I will cherish the memories tied to this event for the rest of my life.
As it turned out, the Lone Star Classic in Fort Worth was my one and only show. In the years to follow, with no particular plans to compete, my first priority was school and study followed by my part-time job at the country club. I still trained 4-5 days a week in the gym but my sticks sat in my closet gathering dust until my junior year in college. It was a long season of drought from playing or practicing but I never forgot my first love.
And then due to an odd sequence of events, I found myself after six years of working on the golf course now working inside the clubhouse as the head bartender. I already missed the game working on the course every day and moving inside only made it worse as I had the opportunity to mingle with the golfers. But it would take new hires, Mark and Kyle, who would go on to become two of my best friends in the world, to get me back playing the game. Once they discovered that I used to play on the high school team, they wouldn’t take no for an answer and we set out for our first round together at a little public course in Diboll, TX called Neches Pines.
I still to this day, after all these years, remember walking down the fairway together on the first hole. Needless to say, the golf bug took hold once again. Two years later, I graduated from college with a degree in business and joined the PGA of America’s apprentice program. That summer, I moved to The Woodlands and found myself working in the golf shop of the Tournament Players Course where at that time, they hosted the annual Houston Open.
It was one of the best times of my life. I lifted in the early mornings and spent my days at TPC either working in the golf shop or working on my game. Unfortunately, my training was still not suited to support my game and so I struggled back and forth between wanting to be a great player and wanting to excel with my bodybuilding.
Ultimately, and for all the wrong reasons, I left golf in 1995 to go into sales. I continued playing and practicing and lifting, but these pursuits were now more in the background of my life. Then in the early 2000s, my lower back started failing. It was so bad at times that I could barely walk. Finally, after an MRI, the doctor said I had a herniated disc between my L4 and L5. He said surgery was probably not necessary and recommended physical therapy.
While I only did PT for a few weeks, it helped tremendously. It opened my eyes to core training more for stabilization and nudged me in the direction of my future career path as a fitness professional. The one drawback of PT was that it was recommended that I give up golf for a period of time to help my back heal. You see, the rotational forces of the golf swing can put tremendous pressure on your lumbar spine. I further compounded this stress from my years of whaling away in the gym.
Given the extreme nature of my pain, I took their advice to heart and my sticks went back into the closet for the next thirteen years. And that’s when I found TPI. Actually, that’s not completely accurate. I had known about the Titleist Performance Institute because there was a TPI-certified instructor at one of the facilities where I used to practice. However, I never did any digging to see what they were all about.
They say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Well, that’s where I found myself in early 2021. Starting with my back injury in the mid-2000s, I had managed to progressively tear my body apart all in the pursuit of muscle. To quickly recap, the following are my major injuries:
February 2010 – Torn left meniscus resulting in knee surgery
September 2014 – Torn left biceps which wasn’t repaired due to a lack of insurance as I was just starting a new job and my insurance had not kicked in
March 2016 – Right rotator cuff and biceps reattachment surgery
Fall 2016 – An MRI showed multiple tears in my left rotator cuff. After the painful surgery and lengthy recovery on my right shoulder, I made the decision to put off further surgery as long as possible
May 2020 through February 2021 – Increasing pain in my left shoulder and biceps due to the existing tears and the trauma I had experienced back in 2014
The great business philosopher, Jim Rohn, used to teach that you should embrace all of life’s experiences as you never know what you might learn. Well, the last spike of pain that shot through my left biceps and shoulder was the experience that pushed me towards change. It actually happened on a Monday during my leg workout. The pain wasn’t apparent while I was training, however it definitely kicked in later in the day.
It was so bad that I trained at home the rest of that week and most of the following using resistance bands and blending in some cardio at my apartment gym. I just didn’t feel like being in my normal gym environment and needed some quiet time at home. It was during that time that I started watching TPI videos on YouTube. I still can’t tell you the single thought that made me do a search for TPI, however, once I started watching, I couldn’t stop. The more I learned about what TPI offered the more intrigued I became.
After roughly two weeks of watching TPI videos, one thing was clear. They were the gold standard for fitness in professional golf as they had been working with the best players in the world for years. Seeing videos featuring the likes of Adam Scott, Roy Mcllroy, and John Rahm gave me a tremendous feeling of confidence. And so on March 7, 2021, I pulled the trigger on TPI’s Level 1 certification and was able to complete the course a few weeks later.
From the introduction of my studies, it was the story about TPI’s humble beginnings that gave me an overwhelming sense of peace about my decision. You see, when Dr. Greg Rose, co-founder of TPI, started his practice around working with golfers, his friends thought he was crazy. It reminded me of my beginnings with weight training so many years ago, and like me, despite his lack of support, he stayed the course, and time proved him right.
Timing is everything, and when Dr. Rose started his original practice in 1996, it was largely unnoticed by the general public. There was, however, one other event that occurred in 1996 that would turn the golfing world upside down…Tiger Woods turned pro and joined the PGA Tour. They say a rising tide raises all ships. Well, Tiger’s success and impact on the tour benefitted all the players as well as TPI which was later launched in 2003 by Dr. Rose and PGA teaching professional Dave Phillips.
From day one, Tiger stood out like a giant among his peers in terms of his ability. He walked onto the tour as an athlete, unlike anything the game of golf had ever seen. And in time, he would further push his body to the limits of his physical abilities as he strived to maximize his potential while systematically dismantling the record books.
Before Tiger, the “Triangle of Instruction” as described by Dr. Rose was made up of a swing coach, a mental coach, and an equipment representative. Well, Tiger changed that old paradigm completely. Today, players still work with a swing coach however they will often also work with a specialty coach for example with their short game or shot-making or course management.
As a singular sport, players will often still seek the help of a sports psychologist, and having a trusted equipment rep is vital. However, the one area where Tiger really changed the game is with the physical preparation. Today, every player on the PGA tour and other tours around the world works out regularly. The players are bigger, faster, stronger, and FAR MORE ATHLETIC than ever in the history of the sport. If you want to play on any professional tour today, paying your dues in the weight room is table stakes and the Titleist Performance Institute is the gold standard.
18 of the last 20 Major Championships were won by players advised by a TPI Certified Expert
25 of the Top 30 Players in the World according to the Official World Golf Rankings are advised by a TPI Certified Expert
47 of Golf Digest’s Top 50 Golf Fitness Professionals are TPI Certified or TPI Advisory Board Members
TPI has given me a second chance to train both for longevity and performance and to share my new skill set with all my clients as well as our overall member base who play the great game of golf.
Today, I feel like a kid again with a new and powerful set of toys to serve my clients and take better care of myself. My favorite is the screening app TPI developed to test a player’s ability to efficiently swing the golf club. This is the same exact tool they use with tour players, and in fact, it was developed by studying the best players in the world. Essentially, they’ve identified fifteen micro moves the body needs to perform to efficiently and safely swing a golf club.
The whole process takes under an hour and the app produces a detailed report based on how the player scores. It gives a handicap where players can work to reduce their scores by applying corrective strength training and mobility exercises. The science that TPI has thrown at the game of golf over the past 18+ years is truly amazing and the impact has forever changed the way the game will be played.
Closing thoughts for my readers:
On Sunday, May 23rd, Phil Mickelson made history by becoming the oldest player at 50 to win a major championship. Phil’s 2021 PGA Championship victory eclipsed the previous best set by Julius Boros some 53 years earlier at the age of 48. When asked during his post-round press conference how he was able to pull this off, he attributed much of his success to long and hard work on his game made possible by better nutrition and time spent in the gym.
“There’s no reason why the game of golf can’t be a game for a lifetime. If you take care of your body and do it the right way, and now with the exercise and physiology and technology that’s out there, like with TPI, you can work out the right way to get your body to function right and play golf for a lifetime. I’m very appreciative of that.”
As I think back on my journey, it’s been an interesting trip with its fair share of ups and downs. And yet, as I reflect back, everything I’ve gone through has brought me to this present moment better prepared to serve my clients. The knowledge that I’ve gained from TPI has quite literally changed my life, and thanks to their overall success and influence in the world of golf, time has ultimately proved me right.