Thursday, January 12, 2012

Brian Moore, Instuctor at the Downs Golf Practice Facility

Tampa Bay Downs’ quest to stand at the forefront of the multidimensional leisure and entertainment market is reflected by today’s blogger, PGA Class A professional Brian Moore. The 38-year-old Moore is the newest member of the Downs Golf Practice Facility staff, bringing with him more than 10 years of teaching experience. Moore is a former Master Instructor at the Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Golf Resort & Spa in south Florida. He recently worked in Hilton Head, S.C. as Director of Instruction at The Junior Players Golf Academy, which is designed to prepare students for collegiate golf. Moore spent about a year teaching at the Professional Golfers Career College and Golf Digest Schools in Orlando. As a player, he won the PGA of America Hilton Head Chapter Championship two years ago.

There are not many places I know where you can practice golf, then come into the shop and watch and wager on live horse racing. Personally, I wouldn’t know how to place a bet, but there is one guy who comes here and seems to do pretty well, and he has taken the time to try to explain the racing program to me.
It still looks like a Greek dictionary to me, though, so I believe I’m going to proceed with caution. I don’t think you become an expert horse handicapper in one day. It’s sort of like golf – it becomes a full-time hobby, not something you pick up just once in a while.
My dream is to create a regional  learning center for the best young players in the area to come and get top instruction.  This whole Tampa Bay area is sort of an untapped market. There are not any fantastic learning centers here where leading juniors congregate, like in Orlando.
(Fellow instructor) Matt Mitchell and I have spoken about the idea of creating such a center for the top area high school players here at the Downs. We’ve got a great range and putting green and a couple of excellent short-game areas. Other than a golf course, I think we’ve got it all.
Everybody has a dream growing up. For me – like most little kids who take up golf – I wanted to play on the PGA Tour. I had a pretty good high school career in Birmingham, Mich., and I came down here and played at St. Petersburg Junior College for one semester. But I decided school wasn’t for me, so I started playing the mini-tours in 1993.
I guess I did reasonably well in stretches.  I won a couple of one-day Tommy Armour Tour events, which is not saying much. You could say my playing career started off very mediocre and tapered off from there.
When I reached my 24th birthday, my dad – who is a retired brain surgeon – said ‘You know, this tour thing is a great plan, but what happens if you don’t make it? What’s your backup plan?’ It sounds funny now, but the thought of not making it had never crossed my mind. My dad said he would continue to sponsor me, but only if he felt I was doing the right things. He also said he thought it would be a good idea if I took the steps necessary to become a PGA of America member.
I just never really got good enough to play on tour, but it has almost been a blessing in disguise. It has allowed me to ask ‘Why?’ and go back and analyze what I didn’t do. By not making it, I became more curious about what it takes to excel.
I quit playing the mini-tours at the end of 1997 and went to work in the business. My first job was in 1998 in the cart barn at Wyndemere, a private club in Naples. Next, I started working in golf shops as an assistant pro, but I didn’t like answering the telephone 6,000 times a day and folding shirts. I realized then that teaching was going to be my thing. I just wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get there.
I started traveling and asked several top instructors if it was OK to watch them teach. Most of them were very receptive. I took notes and when they finished, I asked lots of questions. It turned out to be a good way to get a first-hand education on how to teach. Lew Smither, who used to run the teaching program at Innisbrook, took me under his wing and let me get close. After a while, I could look into his eyes and know what he was going to say next.
When it comes to teaching golf, there is a lot of stuff I’m still trying to figure out. I try to absorb as much new information as I can. I once heard Butch Harmon, Tiger Woods’ former instructor, say ‘It’s the stuff you learn after you think you know everything that is really important,’ and that really hit home.
Form, to me, is not too important. The ball goes where it goes for a specific reason, and if we can fix the reason it is not going straight, that is what is going to make golfers happy. They are not really interested in making their swings look better if they can hit the ball better.
Swing tips have a shelf life. They work for a while, then they expire. They sort of dry out, and you have to go in a different direction.
Even though golf has been my passion, I played ice hockey avidly until I was 18 and still follow it. I’m into health and fitness and work out regularly. I’m currently single, but at my 20-year high school reunion last August I met a girl I knew from school named Dani. We got to talking, I sent her a text the next day and things have progressed from there, so I could be off the market soon.
When you’re a golf pro, everyone wants to ask about Tiger Woods. Now that he is healthy and has had a chance to work on the things he’s been working on, I think he is going to come back strong. I don’t know if he’ll win a major, but I think he’s going to win a couple tournaments this year.
Women’s professional golf in the United States needs a shot in the arm, and (16-year-old) Lexi Thompson could be the answer. She has been working with Jim McLean since she was a little kid and is exciting to watch. She would be a great ambassador for the game. I’m pulling for her as much as anybody.
Matt Mitchell and Jon Johnson are great guys to work with. We have a relaxed environment, but the best days are when our books are full. The other day I was here from 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. teaching, and I hope to have a lot more 12-hour days.
As an instructor, one of the best things that can happen is when someone says ‘I’m playing so much better. Thanks so much, I never would have figured that out on my own.’ Or when one of their friends comes by and tells me ‘Bob has been playing great lately; I need to see if you can help me, too.’ Those kind of testimonials make my day.

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