Ronan Collins, PGA Professional at Fota Island, is trying to make a golfer out of Larry Ryan in six lessons at Fota’s state-of-the-art Golf Academy. But what else does he deal with every week?
Who takes golf lessons? What tests of ingenuity and patience and diplomacy does a pro encounter? Ronan talks me through an average week.
There’s the beginner, like myself. Everyone plonking a heap of pieces in front of the teacher and expecting him to put the puzzle together.
Different picture every time. With me, there was a lanky frame to straighten and chocolate wrists to tame. Next up might be a hockey player with wrists of steel but a tendency to jab as if converting a penalty flick.
Sometimes, not all the pieces are there. That’s when a knack for anger management counselling is useful too.
Ronan is also an on-call doctor. Dealing with emergencies.
There’s the middling player who has contracted a debilitating dose. Come down with the shanks. Ronan can usually apply some kind of prescription to make it go away. Though he sees more chronic cases — such as the yips — and would nearly have to admit the sufferer overnight.
There’s the good club golfer who has a competition at the weekend, has mislaid his game completely, and lands on the Thursday pleading for a remedy to prevent him making a holy show of himself.
Ronan usually has something for them. Some sort of sticking plaster to get them round. And you never know, they might find themselves again out there, if they can survive the first few holes.
There’s also the slightly delusional customer, though a diplomatic man like Ronan would prefer to describe them as ambitious.
The 24-handicapper who is forever “stripping down his game” to “take it to the next level”.
Typically, they come for a custom fit. Usually a new driver. The pricey titanium cure-all that’s missing from their lives.
In all good conscience, Ronan can’t always send them away with that silver bullet. Because sometimes he knows well it won’t make the slightest difference — and may very well make things worse — until something more fundamental has been addressed.
The pro must be careful too of these old campaigners, because they’ll invariably be found down the 19th blaming a new coach for ruining their game. And forcing them to strip it down again.
The top top player is a different beast. They often just want somebody to observe and raise any alarms.
In this most precarious of all the mind games, the most dangerous time is when you’ve never been playing better. When confidence just leaks into presumption.
That’s what worries the best players most, having no worries.
So they get Ronan to watch them for half an hour and fret on their behalf, and try to detect the part of their game where they’re pushing their luck, just before it breaks.
I’m digressing slightly from the matter at hand, you may detect. My gradual improvement may be slightly tedious for the reader, though I’m still enjoying slashing away with the big stick.
Where are we after five lessons?
I’ve developed a “nice little draw” with the irons, Ronan assures me. Due to weight transfer improving. Our GAA man John Fogarty says I have a finish like Palmer, though Carlton was never much of a finisher.
There are shades of Palmer too about the chipping, in so far as it can be second touch a tackle stuff, especially on the pacy greens at Fota. We need not worry about the three-putt until we’ve eliminated the three-chip.
The fairway woods remain a bit of a puzzle, though Ronan swears the rescue wood — or hybrid or whatever you want to call it — will be my best friend. Clearly, he envisages many rescue operations ahead.
Swing it like an iron, is his advice.
But keeping my hands ahead of the ball at impact remains the biggest challenge. Hopefully, it won’t take one of those orange straitjackets Harrington was flogging.
In truth, I’m at a stage now where I can hit roughly two out of six shots reasonably and two out of six respectably. On the other two out of six, our old friends may pay a visit.
The worry is, that puts two bullets in the chamber when I eventually step up for the first roulette.
That’s still two weeks away. Putting next week, then nine holes to blow a hole in my progress and Ronan’s reputation.
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