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PGA pros teach next generation

Tim Mutrie
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Two days removed from a second-place finish at the Buick Open, a result shared with Tiger Woods and two others, Florida’s Chris DiMarco stuck four straight sand-wedge shots within a Hula-Hoop’s distance of the 100-yard pin at the Aspen Golf Club’s driving range.

And, of course, DiMarco was just warming up.

One of the hottest players on the PGA Tour this year, with three thirds to go with the second, DiMarco’s game is on the brink of perfection. Each shot is a mirror image of the last – a ritual that seems to produce almost preordained, straight-and-true flight paths.

But on Tuesday, during a free clinic for the Aspen Junior Golf Foundation, DiMarco, 34, stressed the importance of not striving for perfection to a group of about 150 golfers, young and old, on hand.

“Not matter how it feels sometimes, if it’s 10 feet from the hole, it’s good with me,” said DiMarco.

“Amateurs are fixated on the notion, but no one hits it perfect every time.”

If that is the case, DiMarco’s imperfections were indiscernible to the untrained eye. And the same can be said for the three other PGA pros that joined him in hosting the Aspen clinic – 1996 British Open champion and golf icon Tom Lehman, and Brian Henninger and Dan Pohl, both two-time PGA Tour winners.

Focusing on fundamentals, the foursome shared their secrets for success and put on a dazzling exhibition in the art of ball-striking.

Henninger, in stature one of the smaller professionals, is better known as one of the longest hitters on tour.

“That wasn’t arms and hands,” Henninger said after crushing one shot some 250-plus yards. “It was rotation, and club speed comes from the core – that’s the bellybutton of your golf swing.

“Golf is baseball bent over,” he added, making a comparison to San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds.

“The two most important things,” added Lehman, “are posture and backswing. Then all you gotta do is face the target and the ball follows.”

In between exhibitions with irons and drivers, the pros called up several young players from the Aspen Junior Golf Foundation. Now in its 14th season, the foundation provides youths in the valley with an affordable and accessible avenue to golf. This summer, between the regular summer camp session and competitive tournaments, Aspen Junior Golf serves 270 youths ages 5 to 15, said Alden Richards, the executive director who organized the free clinic.

One youngster, a past winner on the Aspen Junior Golf’s Junior Tour in the Rockies summerlong tournaments in the greater valley, was Liam Fine. The 8-year-old wasted no time in stepping up to a ball and driving his first shot 120-plus yards.

“Who’s your favorites golfer?” Pohl, the emcee of the clinic, asked Fine after his third or fourth impressive shot.

“Tiger Woods,” Fine responded.

“Who!?” Pohl chuckled.

“Oh, I mean Tom Lehman,” the young Fine said, prompting a chorus of laughter.

[Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is mutrie@aspentimes.com]


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