The Unintentional Career Path

NPGIA Quarter News

   By: Joe Blanc, NPGIA Member

 

My journey to become a certified golf instructor through NPGIA was a unique path to say the least.  This brief article is about that my recent journey down that path.  

I was fortunate enough to retire from my first career as an executive with a fortune 500 company, at the ripe old age of 54.  I decided to assist my brother in building his business of selling golf supplies.  This endeavor  lead me to become a  sales rep for one of the hottest products in golf right now, which is the Clearview Putter,  that is how I met Patrick and Jeff.  

After working with Patrick and Jeff on the Clearview Putter, Patrick spent some time interviewing me of sorts during the Tampa Golf Fest.  Though at the time I did not know it was an interview, about my training skills and my golf knowledge.  My training past comes from training in industry in many different technical areas and people skill areas over the years in an adult training environment.  As for my golf past, I was a competitor for a brief time in Long Drive Competitions.  My father was one of the top golfers in North Eastern Ohio and two of my brothers were considered two of the top high school golfers in Ohio during the late 70’s.  One of them becoming a division 3 All American and then a PGA pro which he later relinquished.  I guess someone could say golf runs in the family.  

As we were shutting down the Tampa Golf Show, Patrick and Jeff mentioned to me the possibility of becoming a NPGIA instructor.  Patrick says he watched me interact with people on the putter throughout the 3 day event; he noticed my interactions with his staff and saw me hit some golf balls.  Patrick’s and Jeff’s initial assessment was as follows.  My interactions and basic communications with people were strong, my basic knowledge of golf was good and my swing was fundamentally sound although it would require some tweaking.  Though I tried to be calm and collected about this opportunity on the outside, on the inside I was anything but calm.  I signed up and my wife, Marti, has been my biggest cheerleader.

Now comes the important part the NPGIA certification class.  I first must apologize about the lengthy opening but I feel my background was important and the fact that Patrick and Jeff spent a lot time insuring I would be a good fit to the NPGIA family.   

The training program was one of a “relaxed intensity,” now there is an oxymoron.  Which is the way it should be.  At no time did anyone I work with ever loose sight of what we were there to do and at the same time never was there pressure to get through it.  Each of the pros I worked with, who were Mike Gooding, Jeff Estes and Tom Fleetwood spent every minute focused on insuring I had the tools to be successful.  Yet it never felt rushed or did I notice their egos getting in the way.  Their focus was on me and not how they were better than me.   

Each of them had a slightly differing approach to teaching and taught some differing aspects to achieve the base fundamentals.  But in all cases it was explained the NPGIA approach is to work with in skills and physical capabilities of the students and “not” to create a one size fits all robotic approach to teaching.  I have spent time talking to my friends about their past experiences with golf lessons and the biggest negatives are: too often the teaching pros egos impact the lesson and too often they train to a prescribed set of instruction and there is only one way to swing a club.  In short they forget about who is paying them.  This point was made clear throughout the process by my coaches.

I was very fortunate to have 3 highly qualified people to guide me first by helping me with my weaknesses in the swing which equated to a much greater understanding on how to teach the swing.  I mean my long drive swing which had way too much forward movement was no benefit to my short wedge game.

I also learned from each of them to have fun during the instruction process and it is a total benefit to first understand the student.  I will have students who are purely analytical and will want to understand every aspect of the swing.  The big watch out with this type of person is that being too casual during the lesson and this may turn that student off.  The other end of the spectrum is to understand the student who grasps the concept only through “nuggets” of information and are highly visual.  I got the tools in my tool bag from Mike, Jeff and Tom who each showed me how to deal with each type of student.  They each gave to me their tricks of the trade and their learning lessons so that I can be a complete instructor.  After all the adult learning process is one of being, hands on, one to one and a visual focus.  It is critical to first understand your audience and have the tools to deal with each type of personality and still make the sessions both productive and enjoyable.  Lesson number one know who is paying for the lesson and get to know the needs of the student.

I also appreciated the fact there was a written test which is designed to insure the student has and can recall the fundamentals of what we have learned.  The rules test also worked out well.  

To summarize, the course exceeded my expectations, the pros I worked with were fantastic in both their knowledge of the game and their ability to treat people with respect.  Now that I can go out into the world on my second career.  I feel comfortable I have the skills to go out and make people feel good about their golf game, show them how to improve and make each round more enjoyable.  

 

Joe Blanc, NPGIA
2012 National Golf School “Teacher of the Year”