Monday, July 6, 2015

Hank Haney's The Big Miss Has Lessons for Golfers, Teachers and Life -- and Deep Insights About Tiger Woords

While I was growing up my dad and Mr. Brown next door were big fans of the PGA, their heroes being Arnold Palmer (dad) and Jack Nicklaus. I myself liked the South African Gary Player, probably because he always wore black. Grandpa had been a fan of Sam Snead and upon retirement went and played golf about four times a week, loving the challenges of the game and the green expanse beneath open skies.

Today's fans of the game may know Hank Haney, but you don't need more than a marginal relationship to golf to know who Tiger Woods is. Woods has been to golf what Michael Jordan was to basketball, Babe Ruth to baseball and Picasso to art: a transcendant, bigger-than-life public figure.

To get a sense of Tiger Woods' abilities you can begin by reading through this list of his achievements. For an even more incredible glimpse Google >Tiger Woods Ten Greatest Shots<.

The author Hank Haney, who was Tiger Woods' golf coach for six years, is considered by some to ge the world's best golf teacher. It was no accident Tiger invited him to be his coach. They had been crossing paths for years anyways, but there was a mutual respect here and the young superstar believed the veteran teacher could improve his already stellar swing.

The book then becomes the story of their relationship against the backdrop of the PGA. The stories reveal a complex superstar who has the weight of his fame to contend with as well as the challenges of trying to determine who he is and who he wants to me.

He has always been the greatest golfer at every level he ever played at. But what happens when all this fame starts to bore you? What if you have other interests? Tiger did have other interests. He loved war games and ultimately took steps toward being a Navy SEAL. And then there were his extramarital scandals.

In one story Haney shares how the National Enquirer acquired a compromising photo of the star, but rather than expose him "persuaded" him to do a cover story for one of its sister publications. Tiger was an exceedingly private person and would never have said yes to such a thing had he been requested to do so under normal circumstances. Haney was more than a little surprised when Tiger showed up on the cover of this publication.

The stories reveal as much about Haney as they do about Tiger. He shares his journey from player to pro to coach, how teaching eventually became his life.

One can't help the book was written in part to explain his side of the story why Tiger hasn't lived up to the greatness expected of him. If you return to the link above at the beginning of this blog post you'll see that Tiger hasn't won a major tournament since 2008. This is a significant lapse because up till then everyone who follows the game fully expected him to surpass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 wins in major tournaments. The longer Tiger continues without such a notch the less likely he will ever achieve this feat.

The book may not be for everyone as it goes into acute detail regarding the mechanics of golf and the game. I myself listened to the audio version and have also been a hack golfer for fifty years (a couple rounds a year for most years and a little more than that as a teen) so I connected with the story and the painstaking details about the game.

Whether books like this should be written is another question. How public should we be about others' private lives? In some ways, however, I got the impression that Haney wrote the book as a man still trying to guide his pupil so that the champion could achieve the impossible mountaintop that lay ahead, and perhaps also as a love letter to someone he cared about immensely.

It's all part of the game.

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