Ghost of Hogan Interview

December 06, 2017

Q&A with @clubproguy

When I started thinking about doing a blog that would include Q&A's with individuals within the golf industry my hope was to cover a vast array of individuals.  I have been fortunate so far to have great people who have been willing to take time out of their schedule to answer my questions.  Below is an individual who has played at the highest level professionally.  He has taken the mental beating this cruel game can give and hasn't been knocked down(only when he passes out).  He walked away from playing the game one night in a Mexican jail when he realized his true purpose in life was to give back to the game by being a club professional.  After serving his time in jail he headed back to the States and began the rewarding journey of a club pro.  Some of the tasks he does daily is giving individual and group lessons, conducting multiple summer junior camps, running club tournaments and corporate outings, selling merchandise, cleaning the pool in the winter for extra income, and picking the range at night after the shop closes.  CPG is very tuned into the golf business through years of experience, sweat, and dedication.  Throughout this Q&A you will come to understand that CPG wakes up everyday with one thing in mind, and that is to grow the game of golf. Club Pro Guy is not only a role model but he has become a mentor as well.  Please enjoy the first part of a two part Q&A series with @clubproguy 

1.  Have you ever had a student improve? 

If by “improve” you mean objectively lowering a student's handicap the answer is no. That being said, I don’t think this reflects poorly on me as an instructor because there is only so much I can control.  Golf lessons are a two way street.  I can’t control talent and I can’t control commitment.  I'll give you an example.  I teach all my students the 7-4-7 system.   This is a method I developed that requires the student to memorize and recite 7 swing thoughts from takeaway to transition, 4 swing thoughts during the transition, and 7 final swing thoughts from transition to impact. Hence 7-4-7.  (NOTE: In high pressure situations the 7-4-7 system becomes the 11-7-12 system but I don’t want to get too deep in the weeds here).  Anyway, many of my students struggle to mentally recite the swing thoughts in the precise sequence, which is an absolute swing killer.  Almost all of my students give up in frustration.  Their lack of commitment doesn’t make me a bad teacher.

2.  Did you ever in your life think this beautiful game would allow you to make $47,000 a year.

Listen, I’m very blessed.  The game of golf has given me so much.  I’ve traveled to amazing places (Juarez, Tijuana, Oaxaca, Mexicali, Wichita) and had a chance to meet some of the biggest names in the game (Len Mattiace, Craig Perks, Jeff Maggert’s brother).  Do I make a nice living?  Yes.  But I don’t feel guilty about it because I think my reputation as a former tour player gives this club a certain level of credibility that you can’t attach a dollar amount to.  Believe it or not there are guys out there making even more than me.  I heard once that Michael Breed makes over $90,000/year.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Listen, I don’t begrudge Michael for making that kind of money because I believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, but that’s a lot of coin.

3.  In competition, what’s your record for most pars in a row?

The answer is eight and its a pretty good story.  During the 2nd round of the ’98 Yucatan Masters I went out in 44 after making a really bad double on #9 that included a penalty for playing a range ball.  I get to the 10th tee and I’m just fuming.  I turn to my caddy Ernesto and tell him to get the scuba gear out because I’m taking it deep on the back side.  After tough luck bogeys on 10, 11 and 13, I par the last five including a nifty bump-and-run chip in on 18 to shoot 83 and miss the cut by 12.  I then par the opening three holes the next Thursday at the Matamoros 4-Ball to run the par streak to 8.  I’ve done a lot of special things on the golf course but that streak ranks right up there.

4.  Will Tawny become wife #3?

Who knows.  I will say that our schedules make it difficult to see a lot of each other.  I typically work 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM and she dances from 9:00 PM to 3:00 AM.  That doesn’t leave us with a lot of quality time together.  I had a similar issue with my first wife (Tammie) and my 2nd wife (Brandi).  Anyone in my line of work who is great at their craft has to be selfish with their time in order to achieve their goals. It’s what makes them great.  It’s one of the traits I think I share with Tiger.  Chipping yips being the other.

5.  You had more DUI’s than cuts made on the Mexican Mini Tour, how did that adversity help you to become a better club pro?

Well, I made 7 cuts in my pro career which tells you how much trouble I got in with the bottle. It’s not something I’m proud of.  Unfortunately, so many missed cuts left me with a lot of downtime and unwanted distractions on weekends. Now that I’m retired from playing professionally, it’s something I’ve gotten much more under control (I’ve only gotten 2 DUI’s stateside).  I stress to the kids in my junior camp all the time that drinking is fine, but drinking and driving is not fine.  It’s a little way I try to give back and help the next generation not make the same mistakes I made.

6.  What’s the longest nap you have ever taken in the bag room?

When I tell my assistant that I’m heading out for a “playing lesson” he knows I’m going to the bag room for a little R&R.  Listen, I work long hours.  I don’t have the patience or endurance to stand in the shop all day and listen to members tell me about their epic up and down on 16 or how many edges they burned.   If I take the GHIN computer back to the bag room to watch a update and take a snooze I don’t think it’s the end of the world.

7.  Do you have any selfies with Pablo Escobar?

No, but I once gave El Chapo a quick lesson.  True story.  I was Monday qualifying at the ’02 Culiacán Skins Game and I pull up to the drivable par four 12th and it’s stacked up with three groups on the tee.  This short stocky guy (who turns out to be El Chapo) notices my Cougar Staff Bag and asks me if I’m a pro.  I tell him who I am and he immediately starts hitting me up for swing tips.  After showing me his move I notice he’s coming way over the top.  I told him the 9mm Glock under his right armpit is causing his right elbow to fly out producing a big left to right ball fight and a loss of distance.  I had him move the holster to his left side he immediately starts hitting these penetrating baby draws.  Chapo can move it out there for a smaller guy but I later heard his short game is atrocious.  Long story short he took down my name and told me as long as I’m in Mexico I would receive safe passage.  Never had one problem after that. 

8.  You stated that you don’t believe in ‘turns’ regarding merchandise (please note that most golf shops like to turn their inventory 4-5 times per year).  Knowing that you have never made money in your shop do you feel like the 'no turn’ mentality is working? 

First let me say that I own the shop and take merchandising very seriously.  Unlike many of my fellow club pros, I don’t believe in fancy corporate buzzwords like “turns” or “profit” .  I believe in players looking their best so they can play their best.  It hasn’t always gone smooth.  Back in 2012 I decided to go 'all in' to transform our retail space in to a Tabasco/Chiliwear concept shop.  Turns out no one was willing to pay $119.99 for a full coverage graphic polo of an American flag mixed with a Hawaiian sunset being drenched in hot sauce.  After two seasons I discounted them to $109.99 and still couldn’t move them.  I eventually donated them all to the local First Tee Foundation and used the Woody Austin cardboard cutout displays as member/guest tournament grand prizes.  

I don’t carry most of the ‘major’ brands because I consider myself more of a boutique shop and I have massive credit issues.  PING, Taylormade and Callaway won’t call on me because they say I “don’t pay them”, whatever that means.  It’s all corporate double speak and the good ol’ boy network.  The golf merchandise world is so political.  It’s like the time I got accused of inappropriate behavior with the Cutter & Buck rep in her show van and the company totally cuts me off.  Makes no sense.  Anyway, merchandising is about staying just ahead of the trends.  I’m making a big bet on white belts this season because they are starting to show some popularity on the European and far east tours.  These are things I notice and have an eye for.  Here’s another trend you heard here first….ball markers that look like poker chips.  You’re welcome.

9.  With the pending lawsuits surrounding your junior camps, will you be conducting one this year?

I absolutely plan to.  My attorney won’t let me talk about the specifics of the case but let me just say this.  I love these kids and want them to get better as golfers and as people.  As a parent, if you don’t think it’s important that your child learn how to calculate a Nassau or how much to tip a stripper, then maybe this camp isn’t for you.  In any event, I expect the cases to be dismissed once it comes out that the girls in question told me they were close to 18.

10.  Do your parents feel like they really dropped the ball with you?

My father left when I was very young but supposedly was a hell of a player.  He actually played a year and a half on the Yukon Tour in extreme Northern Canada in the early 70’s but couldn’t keep his card.  He died before he ever really got to see me make it on tour and I regret that.  My mom is my rock and my biggest fan.  She keeps a book with my newspaper clipping in it.  It’s great living with her because I get to see her so often and her disability check helps to cover the lease on my ’07 Miata.

11.  You were a Yonex Advisory Staff Member and had input on several of their products that you couldn’t give away in pro shops.  Walk us through how you helped make these products so bad?

Back in the mid 90’s most of my income came from endorsements.  I had a deal with Nitro Golf Balls, a ball retriever company called “GotchaGolf” and of course Yonex.  The deal with Yonex was a nice collaboration but it ended badly.  Long story short I convinced them to make a line of “players” woodswithout a sweet spot.  The idea behind it was that the more difficult it was to hit, the more intriguing it would be for the better player (similar to forged irons.)  I even came up with the marketing slogan…..”You think you’re a ball striker?  Let’s see if you can hit this”.  Needless to say it didn’t work out.  Even though we parted ways I continued to play that driver for the next 6 years.

12.  Faith and prayer are important to many of today’s tour players. Is prayer important to you?

I’m glad you brought that up.  It’s vital.  Unfortunately, I’m unable to attend church because I have to work on Sunday mornings but my faith guides me in everything I do.  Most of my prayers are associated with a given college football team covering a point spread.  Or maybe a special prayer requesting that a member event gets rained out.  Sometimes I pray for more substantial things….like for one of my junior player's mom to be divorced, or that my General Manager contracts Hepatitis C, or that the beverage cart girl will somehow lose her moral compass…..stuff like that. 

13.  Is it true you started a golf pool at your Gamblers Anonymous meeting?

Yes, what a great bunch of guys.  At our Wednesday night meeting, we each throw in $200 and do a snake draft (plus side action).  Earlier this season I drafted Justin Thomas in round 6 at the SBS in Maui and nabbed him again in round 5 at the Sony Open and just cleaned everyones clock.  That felt good. 

14.  How have you not been fired.

I get that question a lot.  I’ve always been resilient I guess.  You’re talking to a guy who missed his first 47 cuts as a professional.  Sure, I could have given up, but I stayed the course and kept grinding.  The persistence paid off when I finally caught lightning in a bottle with a T-44 finish at the rain shortened ’94 Dos Equis Light Shootout.  The rest is history.

15.  What’s your "go to" swing thought?

I repeat “don’t go right, you f*cking hack” three times just before I pull the trigger.

16.  What advice do you give aspiring young players trying to make it on tour?
Study for the mortgage license exam because you have no chance.

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