Teed Off (Sep 29, 2013)
with Robert Bicknell
One of my friends has a 2 and a half year old son and they take him to the driving range once a week or so to hit balls. Yes, both parents play golf rather well and would like their son to play the game eventually too. Whenever I see little Daniel whacking balls, I have to smile because, while his backswing form is non-existent, he attacks the ball with complete commitment and, incredibly enough, holds the finish pose quite correctly. Somebody grab a camera!
Normally, I would be hesitant to see parents teaching their kids golf, because most have swings which should not be copied by any human on the planet - except Jerry Lewis.
However, in this case, I know the father has very sound fundamentals and understands the golf swing somewhat. Yes, he takes lessons from me from time to time (yeah, I know…a shameless self-promotional plug. Nyaaaah!).
Unfortunately, this is an isolated case because I see a lot of parents who got excited about junior players from China making an impact on golf at both national and international levels and thought, if they can do it, why can't we?
The problem is that most players in Viet Nam do not have good solid golf swing fundamentals and so they pass their poor technique on to their kids, when the smartest thing they could have done was to hire a professional to teach the kid from the start - before bad habits become difficult to correct.
And, yes, there are a few good teachers here in Viet Nam.
Back in the 80's, in Florida, I knew of a junior player who could have been excellent. He had all the correct attributes - strength, natural ability, good eye-hand coordination and a strong work ethic. Unfortunately, he also had a father with a poor swing.
While the father understood the child needed to learn correctly and hired a professional to teach him, whenever they went to the range together, the child could not help but to emulate his father's swing because that's what kids do, and instead of insisting the child do the practice drills outlined by the pro, the father simply corrected the son as best he could, which, of course, was based on his own swing.
The result was that every time the child came in for golf lessons with the pro, half the time was spent undoing the mistakes grooved in by the parent. The child gets frustrated, the pro pulls his hair out and the father cannot understand why the child is not progressing as rapidly as he should.
This is a classic illustration of the phrase: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions…"
We all love our kids and want what is best for them, but there are times when parents have to put pride aside and do what is right for the child and some things are best left to professionals.
However, the parent should be involved during the child's lesson.
They should watch, ask questions and understand what each practice drill does, how it should look and what result should occur. Then, when they take their kid out for practice, they can help both the child and the pro by reinforcing correct actions. Parents should also request an email report from the pro of what their child has been working on, so they can follow up on that as well.
There are lot of kids here in Viet Nam who could one day earn themselves a golf scholarship to a university in the US or Australia, but they need to start now. There is a lot of competition out there and only the best will get chosen.
At this point in time, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and, especially, China have a huge head start on us in junior golf and this never should have happened. We should have been pushing this from the beginning.
On that note, I am very happy to report that the Vietnam Golf Association (VGA) has announced a series of junior golf tournaments here in the south. Up north, Kings Island started the ball rolling and I can only hope this positive trend will continue and more clubs and, more importantly, more corporations will jump on board to make Junior Golf a reality.
Junior golf needs support from all of us. — VNS