Hanging with Butch Harmon at Gaylord's Loon Golf Resort a real hoot
After spending the weekend hanging out with the No. 1 golf instructor in the world, I can’t image a more accommodating, hilarious, fun-loving and laid back host for a celebrity pro-am than Butch Harmon.
Harmon charmed the 80 or so lucky golfers who signed up for Butch Harmon pro-am at The Loon Golf Resort in Gaylord in northern Michigan July 31-Aug. 1. Harmon was in town to celebrate the opening of his first golf school in the Midwest, but it seemed more like he was in town for a buddies trip. He was just one of the guys, telling jokes not fit for print, handing out free tips at the range before golf and sharing stories from his career that spans teaching Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and more.
His clinic was good - full of the usual trick shots and demonstrations - but it was the chance to talk to him among a small pool of reporters and his storytelling after dinner that I’ll remember most. I don’t want to steal all of Harmon’s thunder by exposing his best tales from the PGA Tour, but here’s some tidbits from my version of Butch live and unplugged.
• On his teaching philosophy: “My theory is simple. I don’t believe there is a system. If you go to somebody who has a system, I hope you have their body type.”
• On his longevity: “There are only two great players I did not see. Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Teaching has been my life. If they made golf illegal, I’d have to rob a 7-11 (store). I wouldn’t know what to do.”
• On why he split with Tiger Woods in 2002: “Tiger likes to tinker. He didn’t want to stay the same.”
• On Tiger’s woes: “I thought he was a lot better at St. Andrews (at the British Open). … His problem putting is his nerves are shot after all he’s gone through.”
• On Tiger’s chances of breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors: “It would be sad if the greatest player to ever play the game does not beat the record. It’s 50-50 right now (if he will).”
• On the loss of the Buick Open in Michigan: “It’s sad you don’t have a tournament here.” He went on to tell the story how he finished among the top 20 at the 1969 Buick Open, earning an exemption for the following year. The problem was that the following year in 1970 no tournament was held. The Buick took several years off until 1978 before the long run that ended in 2009.
• Who’s No. 1 in the world right now: “Lee Westwood. I believe Tiger Woods will be back. Phil’s head hasn’t been 100 percent this year with all that’s going on with his family. The world rankings are bizarre. I can’t figure them out.”
• On learning something at his clinics: “You can come to my clinic and you can blame me for every bad shot you hit from then on. I took two guys to No. 1 in the world and they fired me. You can’t hurt my feelings.”
• The Harmon list: Best putter: Woods and Nicklaus. Best driver: Greg Norman. Best long iron player: Nick Price. Best wedge player: Mickelson. “I’m not going to include Ben Hogan because he was in a different category by himself.”
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