Hank Haney is not Butch Harmon
This past weekend in the middle of this winter freeze I did what many snow bound golfers do, I went to a Golf Show. My son and I drove two hours to a convention hall for an indoor golf show. There were over 250 vendors selling and displaying everything from $5,000 autographed pictures to $5.00 putters and they even had a vendor hawking the “ShamWow”.
It wasn’t eighteen holes of golf, but it was fun. We tried out some new equipment and bought a couple of clubs to add to our bags. So we will not be able to use them for awhile, but it satisfied our golfing hunger. The highlight of the show was the live attractions on the main stage. There was a trick shot artist and a long drive champion that were very entertaining but the headliner was the coach to the world’s number one player, Hank Haney.
Hank Haney was to be on stage at 5:00 pm but he was late so the long driver kept us appeased with his skill and humor. When Haney finally arrived at about 6:30 pm, not many people had left but we were all hoping it he was worth the wait. After a few moments I knew he was.
I was struck by the humility and modesty of Haney. The first words out of his mouth were “I’m sorry I’m late” and he went right into his presentation and all of us quickly forgot we waited ninety minutes. He started off giving what seemed like a big group lesson; discussing swing plane, take away, downswing, follow through and speed. The most important factor he said is distance and speed gets you distance. I soaked up all the tips he was giving us, but throughout his speech I kept marveling at how down to earth and humble he seemed. Haney is very skilled in giving his techniques in plain uncomplicated terms. Make no mistake, he knows his golf and he has his opinions and will let you know what he thinks. At the same time he says “I’m full of opinions, but it doesn’t mean they are all right.”
I doubt that many people with as big a reputation as Haney would have made the effort to apologize. I have been kept waiting by plenty of entertainers and not a one ever apologized. They show up and start their show with no thought of how long they kept the crowd waiting.
Of course during the question and answer period the subject was Tiger and his return. He addressed it in what appeared to be an open and honest way. He said Tiger was healing well and working out very hard. Haney was leaving to meet up with Tiger in Florida in a few days to work on his game. He also said that Tiger will come back when and only when Tiger felt he could win.
He then said something surprising. He said,” I have learned more from Tiger then he has learned from me.” I think that is shocking, not the fact that Haney was learning from Tiger but the fact that he said it in public. Haney has a temperament that is different from his peers. You would never hear something like that from Butch Harmon or David Leadbetter. They both have their own way of teaching successfully, but Haney lacks their ego.
Butch Harmon was Tiger’s coach for many years and they won many majors together. When Woods switched to Haney and left Harmon, many of us wondered why. I think it may have come down to personalities. Harmon is not afraid to let his opinions be known on any subject. Haney is more reserved when commenting on his boss and does not seek the spotlight. In an interview, Harmon has come out and said that he hopes Tiger has not hurt his career and his chances of breaking Nicklaus’s major record. He said;
“We hope that what he did by playing at the US Open with a broken bone and a problem with the cartilage in his knee, we hope that doesn’t take away his chances to win it (the record), but we don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see. It’s either the most phenomenal feat ever in the game of golf or not a very smart thing if he played and he doesn’t come back healthy.”
I know that Tiger’s health and return to the course are the subjects that make headlines, but I couldn’t figure why Harmon would comment now. It’s been eight months since we found out the depth of Tigers injury and now Butch expresses his worry for his ex-pupil. Doesn’t Butch have more pressing issues to tend to, like helping Phil Mickelson find a fairway? Then I see in the interview that Harmon is in Thailand to open his first golf school in Asia. Tiger Woods makes headlines. We all know it, so does Butch. He needs a little press to announce his new school so he drops Tiger’s name. Butch Harmon is a very successful coach, he is ranked as the number one coach in the world by Golf Digest, but he is not Tiger’s coach and he is not Hank Haney.