Stewart Hagestad won the U.S. Mid-Amateur for the third time on Friday, building a 7-up lead over Evan Beck and holding on for a 3-and-2 victory at Sleepy Hollow.
I needed to get the ‘baseball’ out of my swing. Here’s the best tip I received.
“You must play a lot of baseball.”
The comment came all the way back when I was playing a high school golf match, and a few things are in play here. Truth was, my opponent was right: I did play a lot of baseball growing up. And since I taught myself how to play golf, of course I would have a baseball influence, But the truth hurt. You don’t necessarily want to hear you’re a golfer with a baseball swing (or hear you’re a baseball player with a golf swing, for that matter.) The trash talk from a 16-year-old was pro level.
Today, my right-handed baseball ‘move’ remains, annoyingly, though completely my own doing. When I’m on, I hit a very playable draw; I slice about every other year. And when I’m not on? Straight-to-left hooks. I was a pull hitter in baseball — if you were to have lined up your defense against me, you would have been wise to line up all of your fielders left of second base — and so my miss in golf, especially off the tee, is a demoralizing low snap left. I also have a weird “dip” on my downswing, which probably has something to do with the thought of me ‘going to get’ the ball, as you would a low pitch in baseball. Over the years, I’ve made it all work, but consistency has been an issue.
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That previous paragraph was what I confessed to Nick Schiavo a few months ago.
Schiavo is a swing coach at GOLFTEC; his office is in Englewood, N.J. He’s a patient soul, too. During a series of my first-ever golf lessons, we went about un-baseballing my golf swing.
— We weakened my grip. I moved my right thumb a little to the right and removed the pressure I was applying; Schiavo said my knuckles were white.
— We created an ‘S’ curve with my back. I always liked an upright stance in baseball. .
— We moved my feet together a couple of inches. I always liked a wider stance in baseball.
But the biggest tip, to me, was all in the hips. Insert your Happy Gilmore line here.
To generate power, I swayed right to left — much like I do when I play slow-pitch softball. And I wasn’t turning as much as I should. My arms were doing a lot of work, and everything else was along for the ride. Schiavo and I joked that the tail was wagging the dog.
The fix was right hip rotation, and I worked to find the correct position. We also found a Butch Harmon Instagram post from earlier this year that helped illustrate the concept, and I’ve shared the video from Tiger Woods’ former coach below.
I’ll fully admit to you, dear reader, that this hasn’t been easy for me. Notice “hasn’t been” and not “wasn’t” — I’m still working on it, and I’ll often go back to what I know. But the results are some of the most pure strikes I’ve ever hit. No hook, either. And no dip.
And, and, and!
Below were some of Schiavo’s final words during my last lesson. They are taking up space in my head, right next to the baseball comment.
“This is starting to look like a golf swing.”