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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Mentors which Shaped my Teaching and Playing Career

I have been so fortunate to be able to play this game since I was 11 years old!  In that time, I have had many mentors which in the beginning taught me the fundamentals of the game and in later years taught me how to really play the game of golf.  I was hooked from the very first round I played.  I couldnt get enough golf and I read every golf magazine.  I played as often as I could at Butler Pitch and Putt, Hancock GC and Lions Muny all through my junior golf years.  Little did I know at that time it would fill my entire career starting at age 16 to now.

In the beginning I attended the junior golf camp at Lions Muny and learned from two Austin staples...Joe Balander and Lloyd Morrison both outstanding PGA professionals.  I mostly learned the basics which only made me love the game more as I improved.  When I turned 16, I got my first job in the golf business as a cart attendent at Lost Creek Country Club under then head professional and former PGA TOUR player, Terry Dill. He had just come off playing the PGA TOUR for ten years and built Lost Creek.  He helped me with my game initially for about 4 years.  There will be more to this particular story as we reconnected later in life and he helped me play the best golf I have played.

In 1978 I got my first job as assistant golf professional at Horseshoe Bay Resort and Country Club.  Head professioanl Bob Putt was my first mentor in teaching me how to run a really great golf operation.  His influence definitely helped me obtain some of the positions I held in golf.  In addition, it was the first opportunity I had to teach the game.  I had taken a few lessons from Bob in the mid 1970's as my dad had joined as a member at HSB.  Bob  helped me with my game and also, once I was on his staff, I learned a great deal about how to teach the game.  I was so nervous when I gave my first lesson but I loved the feeling of helping someone get better at golf.  As time went on I got much more confident in my ability to communicate with students.  I can't thank Bob enough for giving me my professional start in the golf business!  Thanks to Bob, I passed my PGA Playing Ability test at legendary Pecan Valley Golf Club (host to 1968 PGA Championship) in San Antonio on my first attempt.

In 1981 I accepted the assistant professional position at Shady Oaks County Club in Fort Worth, TX.  This is the club Ben Hogan retired to and I was fortunate to meet him.  Art Hall was the head professional and was a great player and teacher as well.  Art and Mr. Hogan played quite a bit of golf together in the early 1960's after the club opened.  I learned a great deal from Art about Mr. Hogan's golf swing theories.  This is where I met one of my mentors who probably watched me hit more golf balls than all the others combined.  His name was Raymond Gafford.  Raymond retired from the head professional position at Ridglea Country Club (Fort Worth) in 1976.  He served there from 1937-1950, then served as head professional at Northwood Club in Dallas from 1950-54, then he returned back to Ridglea in 1954.  He was elected to the Texas Golf Hall of Fame in 1983.  Many books about Texas golf will make mention of Raymond.  There were many matches played in Fort Worth between Raymond, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and many other fine players including reknowned gambler Titanic Thompson. 

Raymond putting during the Colonial 

Raymond at Ridglea CC in 1941

Raymond should have won the 1952 Colonial after shooting rounds of 68, 68, 69 and then a final round 80 handed the tournament to Ben Hogan.  Ben told Raymond's wife after the event that Raymond should have won.  Raymond lost his rythym after a poor chip shot early in the round and never got it back.

Raymond is second from the left after qualifying for the 1946 U.S. Open
He played in 14 U.S. Opens, 5 PGA's and 2 Masters

Jimmy Nichols, Raymond Gafford, Bob Hope, Byron Nelson
playing a match at Rivercrest CC in Fort Worth

Raymond would spend time at Shady Oaks practicing and we would go to the "Little Nine" at Shady Oaks to hit balls.  The Little Nine was a 9 hole par 3 course at Shady Oaks and Mr. Hogan would practice there too.  Raymond would watch me hit balls and we talked about everything.  I learned so much from him about teaching and playing the game, his experiences in the game and about life. In 1982, I won the biggest tournanment I had competed to that date, the NTPGA Metro Chapter Assistants Championship in Dallas.  I left Shady Oaks in 1984 to accept the assistant professional position at Ridglea CC.  It was here that Raymond and I played a lot of golf together along with the other professionals and members at Ridglea. It was a great experience I won't forget.  I teach some of the same things I learned from Raymond to my students and I am proud to continue talking about his legacy since he passed away in 1990.

Fast forwarding to 2004, I had an opportunity to finally try and play the game full time.  I was turning 50 in 2005 and wanted to give the Senior Tour a try.  Terry Dill enters the picture again.  Remember we first met at Lost Creek in 1972 when I was one of his first employees at Lost Creek.  He found out I was on this mission and he contacted me to help again.  I could not have been more thrilled.  Terry played the PGA TOUR for ten years and competed in 7 U.S.Opens, 2 PGA's and 1 Masters.  I knew his experience would be invaluable to me.  Terry played golf for the University of Texas in the early 1960's.

Terry is second from the left
He was the Southwest Conference Champion in 1960

He played the PGA TOUR from 1962-1972 before leaving to build Lost Creek Country Club. 

Terry competing in the 1968 Bing Crosby Pro Am

Terry putting in the 1970 Dow Jones Open

Terry driving in the 1966 Masters

In 1981 the Senior TOUR was established and Terry competed through the 1990's winning once and losing a playoff to finish second in another.


Perfect Impact for Terry Dill

Terry driving in the 2001 Countrywide

2001 Utah Showdown

After competing on the US Senior Tour, Terry qualified for the European Senior Tour 2006 and was the oldest rookie on that tour.  

With Terry's help, I played some of the best golf I ever played from 2005-2008.  I won the Southern Texas PGA Senior Championship in 2006 along with many other events over a 4 year period.  Our time spent together was precise.  I learned so much from Terry about teaching and playing as well as life.  He shared with me all of his experiences with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Ben Hogan, Harvey Penick, Jackie Burke and so many others.  Terry taught me simple principles about the set up and swing which I teach today.  He also shared with me some short game techniques which I have been successful sharing with my students.

My current mentor is Brech Spradley, Director of Instruction at the Barton Creek Golf Academy.  In 2012, Brech provided me the opportunity I had been waiting for a long time and that was the chance to be a full time instructor.  Brech is recognized as one of the top instructors not only in Texas but the nation as well.  His lesson book is filled with some of the most elite junior, college and amateur players in the state.  I have listened and watched him work with many of these players.  In addition I have assisted him with many golf schools and have learned so much about teaching.  

The bottomline is I have been so lucky to not only meet these gentlemen I just introduced to you, but so many others which helped me as well.  Just as I have had many mentors, these gentlmen did too.  The beauty of golf is we all share information which has been handed down.  

Be sure and click on the "My Golf Experiences" and "Competitive Background" tabs to get the whole story of my life in golf.



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