written by Kendel Abrams, The First Tee of Greater Baltimore
How would you like to play in the Nature Valley First Open at Pebble Beach after being hand-selected from teenagers all across the country? Well…I actually had this opportunity along with 80 other participants from The First Tee. I not only learned skills on the course, but I also took a few of these lessons home with me.
Many of you may be familiar with PGA TOUR Champion Jay Haas, but in case you forgot, he’s one of the nicest professionals I’ve ever met (whose son also happens to be PGA TOUR player, Bill Haas). He and I were paired for the 2016 Nature Valley First Open at Pebble Beach tournament and throughout the two days, Jay and I played some great golf and benefited from each other’s momentum.
He taught me the following four tips that not only improved my game, but also changed my outlook as I play.
There may be times where the golf gods decide to give you a bad lie or two. As any amateur would, your mind tells you to swing and hope for the best. Nine out of ten times it probably won’t end up where you expected to. Luckily, Jay was there to share ways as to how to approach these shots. For example, when hitting a shot where your ball is sitting down in tall grass around the green, try opening up your club face while rotating your arms through the shot rather than trying to add more loft which can lead to the flipping of the wrist. This piece of advice has helped both my trouble shots as well as my feel for pitch shots.
Whether you are chipping with a sand wedge or short iron, it is crucial to keep your lower body as stable as possible. The next time you decide to work on your chipping, try to maintain an athletic stance throughout the shot. Jay shared with me that keeping my knees flexed can benefit not only my game as a whole but also save strokes in the long run. Even before a round, practice the position in which your club bottoms out to improve your chip shots.
Mastering a solid stroke can be hard for many amateurs, but making it consistent is even harder. Jay typically practices with a golf ball marked with a straight line around its circumference to visualize what the ball should look like following a true roll. Start by drawing a line around your ball and practice seeing the ball maintain its roll with a smooth tempo. It can shave strokes off your game while improving your confidence over a putt tremendously.
Don’t forget that your partner will always be there for you, just like you will be for them. Jay taught me that throughout your round, the golf ball may have its own mind, but it is important to not let that affect your performance. Try to find a time in your round to re-collect yourself and focus what you originally set out to accomplish. There will be times where you may not meet your expectations set forth, but you have to realize you can only control what you are doing. It is up to you to keep encouraging both you and your teammate so you can both bounce back from mistakes.