Lehman, Gibson and the art of ball striking
Aspen Times Staff Writer
PGA players Tom Lehman and Kelly Gibson could have talked for hours about grip, posture and alignment. Instead, the duo, alongside Colorado Avalanche defensemen Brad Larson, talked softly and carried big sticks in staging a masterful clinic in the art of ball striking Tuesday morning at the Aspen Golf Club.
A youthful crowd of about 300 turned out to the free clinic sponsored by the Aspen Junior Golf Foundation primarily to see Lehman, the 1996 British Open champion and three-time Ryder Cup player for the U.S., in action before he travels to nearby Castle Rock to compete in The International later this week.
Hitting with a variety of clubs, Lehman and Gibson broke down a few mystifying fundamentals – strong grip vs. weak, hitting from a centered, athletic position and approaches to shots that breed consistency. And with each tip, Lehman and Gibson teed off on perfect shots, whether a controlled fade or hook, an iron or wedge struck high or low.
“Starting out as young players,” Gibson said, “we like to see people using a strong grip – meaning your left hand [for righties] is rolled over so you see your knuckles. When you get to a certain skill level, you can experiment.”
Lehman, who uses an overlap grip as opposed to Gibson’s interlocked style (except for chipping, when he goes to the 10-finger grip), hits from a neutral grip, with his left thumb pointing straight down the shaft.
“Proper grip means you have equal pressure on both sides of the club,” explained Lehman, a PGA Tour player since 1984. “So I’ll take my thumbs off the club in practice to make sure it’s equal.”
After a crowd-pleasing driving demonstration – wherein Lehman, Gibson and Larson, the hockey player, each recorded shots of 300-plus yards over the farthest embankment in sight – the pros brought up several Aspen Junior Golf participants to tee off under their tutelage.
Teddy Karlinski, 14, a freshman-to-be at Aspen High, hit his first drive straight down the range, suggesting that he’s a prime candidate for the AHS team this fall. But after his second long drive with a brand-new driver, Gibson told him to widen his stance. He’d noticed Karlinski was off balance following the previous shot, and his next one went even farther.
“I’ve seen a couple of clinics on TV, but this rocks,” Karlinski said. “The wider stance – it helped me with my balance. I hit it right in the sweet spot.
“Just watching how they come up to the ball, their approach to each shot, it’s neat. And Lehman, he won the British Open, so he’s cool.”
After several youths hit, Lehman interrupted: “These kids, I gotta say, have a lot of natural talent. But you, Alden,” he said, pointing at Aspen Junior Golf’s executive director, Alden Richards, “have done a great job.”
Patrick McLennan, who graduated from AHS in June and played for Richards on the AHS team, was also on hand for the clinic as an interested bystander. McLennan won the Aspen City Stroke Play tournament last summer and the Aspen City Match Play tournament this past weekend, and in mid-August he’s off to Faulkner State College in Alabama to play golf.
“They’re so consistent with everything they do – every swing, every shot is the exact same,” he said. “They execute shot after shot.”
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