Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Luke Manning

Ah, the innocence of youth. Over the past several weeks, I couldn’t help but notice this blonde haired kid at The Legends. It seemed that he was spending an awful lot of time at the golf course and everytime I saw him he was flashing this contagious, toothy grin.
The young gent (and he has earned that title) always had his shirt tucked in. He was extremely pleasant and well mannered. The kid was hard not to notice because it seemed that he was at the course almost everyday and certainly on every weekend.    
Meet Luke Manning. He is an 11-year old student at Mary Bryan Elementary School in the Perry Township District on the Southside of Indianapolis. His dad, Don, is a teacher and former golf coach at Southport High School. Luke reached out to me after my appearance on the Golf Fix last week through an email. On Saturday I gave him a free lesson and decided it was time I got to know this guy better.
In his own words, the young Manning tells about his love for golf. “I can’t wait for school to be over, especially on Friday because I know I can be at the golf course all weekend.  I love it there and I want to be a good player someday.”
Manning’s normal routine finds him at The Legends at least three weekdays  as well as all day Saturday and after church on Sunday. “My mom bought me a golf phone, so she can call and check on me…… make sure I am alright,” offered Manning.
Luke’s mind is years ahead of his age. He is well spoken, articulate and driven in his quest to become a good golfer. “I want to get more of my friends to play. Some of them think golf is boring. I really didn’t like golf that much until I started taking lessons from Scott Downing (PGA instructor). When I started getting better my attitude improved and now I love golf.”
Luke recently made the trip to Augusta National with his dad for the Tuesday Masters’ practice round. They got up at 5 a.m. and drove straight to Augusta on Monday. The Mannings were at the course when the gates opened early Tuesday morning. They went to the practice range and watched the world’s greatest players hit balls. Luke eventually positioned himself in the autograph gate where the players exit. He collected nearly 20 signatures.
“I got a bunch of autographs, like Ross Fisher, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, David Chung, Peter Uilhein and my favorite player- Rickie Fowler,” said Luke. “I like Rickie because he is different and I like being different. His clothes are really cool and I wish I was bigger so I could dress like him.”
Fowler is noted for colorful wardrobes and flat billed hats. He is an Oklahoma State grad and always wears solid orange on Sundays at PGA Tour events. Luke proudly carries a golf bag that is mostly orange with an OSU Cowboy headcover.
“I told Rickie that he was my favorite player and he said, ‘Thanks and good luck with your game’. Rickie signed for everybody and other players didn’t do that,” observed Luke. “I like the way he plays and hope to make his style mine.”
Later in the day, Luke and his dad ventured into Augusta National’s famed Amen Corner, Holes 11-13.
“Amen Corner was awesome. That was really the coolest part of the day. It just felt awesome to walk there on that part of the course. I told my dad that my goal is to be walking inside the ropes in 2022!” proudly boasted Manning.
When asked if there was anything else he could remember about his trip to The Masters practice round Luke said, “Yeah, we stayed in a hotel that was not that nice and the room smelled like PineSol. I remember that.”
 You gotta love the impetuous spirit of youth!
As you would expect, Luke Manning has his goals lined out. He wants to win at least one tournament on the Aquafina or Mountain Dew Tour here in Indiana this summer. Manning is signed up for 12 events. Next year he plans to break 40 and earn the #1 spot on his junior high golf team. Long term it is college golf. And, oh yeah, that date at the 2022 Masters.
In the meantime, Manning is determined to get more of his friends playing golf. When he returned from The Masters, he took the official program to school. The goal was to show his buddies just how cool golf can be. In his third summer of playing the game, Luke has already discovered all of the great things the game has to offer and he is the sports’ newest disciple.
On Saturday, after Luke concluded his lesson, he did what any “golf course rat” would do. He hung out and hit some more balls. He played nine holes and proudly showed me the scorecard reflecting his “46 under pretty windy conditions.”  In between times, he had the watchful eye of Melvin Bullitt and Ellis Johnson, stars for the Indianapolis Colts.
“Pretty amazing that he hits it that far,” laughed Bullitt. “It just goes to show that having a good swing and great timing is what golf is all about. He could show me a thing or two!”
Seriously, does it get any better for an 11-year old kid than this? Smacking golf balls with NFL stars; rubbing shoulders with his golf idol and roaming the hallowed ground of Amen Corner with his dad- that is a pretty solid 30 days for any golfer.
The best shot of the day by Luke Manning? It was his parting shot as we concluded the kid’s first and probably not his last interview.
“Golf is a blast,” said Manning. “Nothing compared to The Masters. I would rather go back to Augusta National than go to Disney World!”
In my opinion, that will be Luke’s best shot of the whole year- maybe his career!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Get Golf Ready

You saw it again on Sunday at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans. Webb Simpson, PGA Tour Player, called a penalty on himself on the green at Hole 15. Conditions were windy. The greens were crusty. When Simpson walked up to tap in his second putt of the par 4 hole, his ball moved ever so slightly. Simpson called over his playing partner, Bubba Watson, and a PGA Tour rules official.
The ruling was simple. Simpson incurred a one stroke penalty and replaced the ball to its original position and tapped it in for a bogey.  Simpson was trying to win his first PGA Tour event and the self-imposed penalty ultimately cost him an outright win and over $600,000 plus his first trip to The Masters. This is the type of thing that separates golf from other sports.
Golf is a game that obviously builds character. Over the years, golf has been saddled with some stigmas that are absolutely not true. This is a game for anyone. Golf is affordable. Almost 90% of the golf played in the United States is done so at affordable public courses. There are creative ways to enjoy golf and not have it take all day to play.
I want to use this forum as an opportunity to make you aware of Get Golf Ready- the greatest player development initiative that I have seen in my 35 years of golf. This program offers the consumer the opportunity to get five golf lessons, 1.5 hours each, with an on course experience for the cost of $99! Participants do not need to have a set of golf clubs.  All of the instruction, which includes putting, chipping and short game, full swing irons and full swing woods is conducted under the watchful eye of a PGA or LPGA professional.
On Monday night, I joined Michael Breed on The Golf Fix to promote Get Golf Ready. Breed’s high energy instructional show airs each Monday on the Golf Channel at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. This week we had a chance to speak the virtues of Get Golf Ready to the nation and the PGA saw a spike in consumer hits to the web site.
I want to share a very compelling Get Golf Ready story with you. Late in February, I was flying back to Indianapolis after our PGA planning session. As luck would have it, I got hung up in the Charlotte, NC airport. It was during my flight delay that I called Breed and asked him to consider doing a Get Golf Ready segment on The Golf Fix. He consented to do so and when I ended my phone call with Breed, I was approached by an attractive young blonde.
“I wasn’t eavesdropping on your phone conversation, but I could not help hearing you talk about Get Golf Ready. I just want to tell you that the program is great and it is the reason that I am playing golf today,” said Jenna King, a successful trial lawyer from Charlotte.
King went on to say, “Golf can appear too intimidating. It requires you to go to an unfamiliar location. It has a reputation of requiring expensive equipment and being a difficult game. There was a perceived cost issue for me with golf and the $99 fee for Get Golf Ready broke that barrier.”
Long story short, King joined her friend Lindsey Johnson, a banker, in the Get Golf Ready session. Neither woman had golf clubs. Both enjoyed the GGR session so much that they signed up for a second GGR tour of duty. King and Johnson now own golf clubs and both have found golf to be valuable to their respective professions.
“Our original class was small and it was all women. The pro made it easy and everybody progressed at their own speed. I had never played before and was afraid that I might hold the other ladies back, but that never happened,” recalled Johnson. “The best part is that I made some new friends and we now play golf together.”
The success of the Get Golf Ready program is in its staying power. Statistics gathered by the PGA of America indicate that 84% of those who submit to the five GGR lessons will stay in the game. So, if you have friends, a wife, kids or a significant other and you want to introduce them to golf- there is no better way than through Get Golf Ready.
“Professionally, it has given me the confidence to go out with a group of people I am in banking with and participate in golf outings. I now feel comfortable taking clients to the golf course- something I would never have done before Get Golf Ready!” said Johnson.
I encourage you to share these stories with your friends. Get Golf Ready is available at local golf courses. To be able to get 7.5 hours of instruction with PGA/LPGA professionals for only $99 is a steal. The program will teach you how to have fun with the game. The on course experiences will peak your interest as you actually experience the beauty of our golf courses.
For more information on Get Golf Ready contact:
The Legends GC                               317/736-8186     Ted Bishop, Frank Chieppa, Tony Clecak or Scott Downing
Hickory Stick GC                317/422-8300     Keith Clark
Otter Creek GC                 812/579-5227     Chad Cockerham
In addition, join us at The Legends on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. as we offer FREE 10 minute lessons in conjunction with the PGA’s Free Lesson Month. We will also be featuring a Titleist Demo Day, which will give you the opportunity to experience the latest and greatest in Titelist equipment
Come to the Legends on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. and meet Melvin Bullitt and Ellis Johnson, both have been star performers for the Indianapolis Colts. These two men have a passion for golf and they will sign autographs and share golf stories.
Finally, now is the time for you to get yourself or some friends engaged in golf. Saturday at The Legends is the perfect time to use the 10-minute free lesson as a spring board to Get Golf Ready programs. We can sign you up and put you on the road to enjoying a game that is worth being a part of.
Just ask Webb Simpson. “Sure the penalty was tough. But, it was the right thing to do and that is what separates our sport from all others.”