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Tuesday, May 11, 2004 - Page updated at 03:11 P.M.

Golf
Pro tips: Tom Sovay


SEATTLE TIMES
Tom Sovay says many average golfers play with a weak grip.
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Profile: Tom Sovay has been named Western Washington PGA instructor of the year five times. He also is listed in Golf Digest's list of the top teachers in the state. He started teaching golf in 1981 when he worked at Jackson Park. "I found out I could teach after my shift in the shop," he said. "I loved the money at first, but then I liked making an impact on people better." Sovay teaches out of the public Harbour Pointe Golf Club near Mukilteo. He can play as well as teach, and last month won the Giusti Memorial, which is one of the "majors" in Northwest golf.

Q: How do you find the right instructor?

A: Approach it the same way as picking a doctor or personal trainer. Ask around. Be willing to try a couple of different instructors if necessary. You can't be afraid to leave one instructor for someone else. If the person you are leaving is a good instructor and secure with their teaching, he or she will understand. Some instructors and students click and some don't.

Q: What is the most common mistake of the average golfer?

A: A weak grip (hands turned more toward target than in neutral grip) if we're talking mechanics. Also, many average golfers hold the club too much in their palms and not enough in their fingers. For course management, it would be trying something he or she only can pull off less than 10 percent of the time. Average golfers should play the shape of the shot they have, not the shape they want.

Q: What must a golfer do to strike the ball better?

A: Learn the foundation of the golf swing, especially grip and posture. Bill Tindall, a wonderful teacher now at the Members Club at Aldarra, said, "A good grip never caused a bad swing." Maintaining a proper spine angle throughout the swing eliminates extra movements. Sorry, nothing magical here, never will be.

Q: Give us an example of an unusual golf tip that you like.

A: I got a tip about pitching from the book "Getting Up and Down" by Tom Watson when I was about 12. I still use it and I love it. Watson said that when he makes a chip shot, he likes to have his right knee point to the ball at impact.

Q: What are the best instructional books you can recommend?
 
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A: For simple mechanics, Ben Hogan's "Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf," with Herbert Warren Wind remains my top recommendation, even though thousands of golf-mechanics books have come out since Hogan's was first published in the 1950s. For course management and the mental game, "Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect" by Bob Rotella is No. 1.

Q: What was the best golf tip you ever received?

A: The tip was from Phil Rodgers, the former Tour pro who is best known for his short game. In fact, Rodgers helped Jack Nicklaus with his short game. Rodgers said to open the sand wedge slightly on a shorter shot in the grass. This will have the bounce (the part of the clubhead on a sand wedge that hangs lower than the leading edge) resting on the ground. This will make the club slide along the grass instead of digging in. So even if you hit slightly behind the ball your shot won't suffer.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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