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Teaching with a club, and a keyboard

Tom Stickney, director of golf instruction at Cordillera, lines up a swing. (Dominique Taylor)
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Go to any news stand, and youll see them.The golf magazines will shout: Fix your slice, Ten steps to improving your short game, Hit it 20 yards longer, and so on. Just plunk down a few bucks and your golf game will be cured. Thats obviously overly simplistic, but the golf how-to industry is big business. Eagle County has its own magazine sage in Tom Stickney II, the director of golf instruction at Cordillera, the four-course resort in Edwards. Hes been teaching since 1992 and writing for golf magazines since 1996. Though working with a golfer in person, one-on-one, and writing for the masses are different animals, the goal is the same. More than anything else, the greatest thing is seeing how jazzed up people get when they hit a long drive, they play their best game or do something theyve never been able to do in the past, Stickney said. Its like any other endeavor you help people with. The smile on their face makes it all worth it.Stickney seemingly was born into the game of golf. His familys home was on the 15th hole of the Colonial Country Club, home of what was known as the Memphis Open, and then the FedEx St. Jude Classic unitl 1988.Stickney played at Memphis State and dabbled with the mini-tours until he got an offer. I was offered a chance to teach at my home club. I tried it, he said. It was a lot more fun to make money all week that it was to spend it all week.Of course, being a golf pro is not a license to mint money. Stickney has lived the nomadic life of pro, now settling between Naples, Fla., and Cordillera. Hes now one of Golf Magazines top 100 instructors in the country.

At Cordillera, he teaches at complexes at the Summit and Valley courses. At these stations, there is seemingly enough technology to launch rockets. He uses three-dimensional motion analysis, a digital video system, as well as monitors that break down a golfers center of gravity and ball launch. All that is conglomerated into something that helps to analyze your motion, Stickney said. The bottom line is that they help us focus on the most efficient path in order for people to improve. Stickney can pick out the usual flaws in a golfers swing. Then, theres snagging what he calls contra-indications more-advanced errors in the stroke of an average duffer. Most people have three things, he said. They have inefficient setup. They have a very loose lower body motion they flop all over the place, and they come over the top of it. He describes the range of golfers with whom he has worked from Ive never seen a club to professionals. He says the best way to go about mending problems like the ever-present slice or that hook (a personal favorite of the author) is a set of four-hour lessons.The gratification comes when the golfer returns with straight ball flight.Theyll come up and say, God, that worked, Stickney said. I say, Good. Otherwise, wed both be in trouble. Clicking awayStickney notched his first cover with Golf Magazine in 1996. The magazine hangs in his office.I have it up on my wall in the learning center. It was the catalyst, he said. It was very flattering and hard to believe. I still laugh every time I look at it because I still cant believe I got something published. Since then, hes been featured in numerous magazines, including Golf Digests Breaking 100- 90- 80 in last Marchs issue. Appealing to a broad audience requires taking on the basic issues which affect most players. Curing the slice is usually at the top of the list, not to mention more power off the tee. I try to pick very general topics which cover a wide range of players and then I try to tailor articles, Stickney said. Ill start with a more basic article. Then, Ill do a medium article. Then Ill do an advanced article. I try to write in a way where I cover as many phases as possible. He did have an article in Golf Digest, How to hit it 1,760 yards. The title had a little fun with the math of 5,280 feet, but the piece was designed to teach people how to adjust for altitude in the high country.Stickney admits there is an ego boost to be had in writing articles for major golf publications. With each article, he sees his reputation increase. At the same time, he does derive the same gratification through print that he does from a one-on-one lesson.Its really cool when someone actually takes the time to contact me via e-mail about the article, Stickney said. Thats whats really neat. People read what you write and they take the time to come by and say something.But, be it in Golf Magazine or on the range, the job is the same for Stickney find a way, any way, to get a point across that will be the magic potion to improve a golfers game.His best tip? Any one that works, Stickney said. Im not being facetious. It can be tips I think are basic or tough. Anything I can say to help anyone get better is it.


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