Eddie Merrins, aka the Little Pro, is best known for his "swing the handle" teaching philosophy, but former student and PGA Tour player Bob May remembers a more lasting lesson from the soft-spoken, diminutive instructor known for wearing a blazer, tie and cap on the lesson tee and the course. "I'm very much an old-school player, and I still think of this as a gentlemen's game," May said. "That's what the Little Pro teaches: etiquette and respect. It's why our game is different than the other sports, and I can't think of a better ambassador for the game than Pro." Merrins first picked up the game as an 11-year-old in Meridian, Miss. He won two SEC Championships at Louisiana State, played in more than 200 PGA Tour events and made eight U.S. Open appearances. But he discovered that he enjoyed teaching as well when he took a job as a pro at Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia in 1957, and by 1962 he was at Bel Air Country Club in Los Angeles, where he remained for the rest of his career. He retired in 2002. Merrins avidly studied Ben Hogan's swing ideas, and they helped form the foundation of the advice he shared with his pupils. In 1973, he published his best-selling teaching book, "Swing the Handle, Not the Clubhead." Merrins also coached the men's UCLA golf team from 1975 to 2002; he led the Bruins to the NCAA title in 1998. In 1981, he founded the Friends of Golf, a charity that has raised millions of dollars for collegiate and high school programs nationwide. FOG also has endowed all the scholarships for the UCLA men's program. Read more on Eddie Merrins.
BILL STRAUSBAUGH JR.
Strausbaugh did as much for the education of teaching professionals as anybody in history, which is why in 1979 the PGA of America created the Bill Strausbaugh Jr. Award, given to a PGA club professional who distinguishes himself in mentoring fellow PGA pros on serving their communities.. This is one of the PGA's highest honors. Strausbaugh was a Marine during World War II and served in the Pacific. He graduated from Loyola College and then began his career as a club professional in Maryland. For 34 years, he was the head pro at Columbia (Md.) Country club, retiring in 1995. He was the PGA's Teacher of the Year in 1992 and died in 1999. Born and raised in the city's Pimlico section, Mr. Strausbaugh began caddying as a youth at Bonnie View Country Club. He was a graduate of Calvert Hall College and interrupted his education at Loyola to serve in the Marine Corps, where he served aboard the carrier Wasp in the Pacific. Strausbaugh was deeply involved in PGA section activities and management, especially in the education areas. He led education seminars throughout the U.S. and in many other countries including Canada, England, Germany, Italy, Japan and Switzerland. Stausbaugh also spent considerable time giving lessons, perhaps more than 50,000 during his career. His teaching philosophy relied on his "pie"" system, which broke down the swing into five parts: (1) Launching pad; (2) creation of target line awareness; (3) pivot flat-footed twist of trunk; (4) plane wide to shallow; and (5) position flat left and bent wrist and tucked right elbow. He also had his "postage stamp" theory about teaching, which he described thusly: "I remind our fellow professionals that of all the knowledge we accrue, we can't be successful in communicating that knowledge unless we have the ability to put that on the back of a postage stamp. Much of the information on Strausbaugh came from the Baltimore Sun.
Born in Haydenville, Mass., Toski was one of nine children raised by his father. (His mother died when Toski was 6.) Two of his older brothers, Jack and Ben, assistant professionals at nearby Northampton Country Club, would take young Bob to the club, where he caddied and learned to play. Bob joined the PGA Tour in 1949 and gradually worked his way to the top. Five years later he became the leading money winner for the 1954 season. At his peak as a player he weighed only 118 pounds with his trademark white cap on and was best known as the longest hitter pound for pound in pro golf. But with three young children of his own, he chose to leave the Tour when he was only 30 to spend more time with his family. He moved to South Florida and took a series of club professional jobs in Miami and Key Largo. Later jobs took him to North Carolina and Wyoming and then back to South Florida. While his playing career was a success, it was his second career as an instructor that truly brought him fame. Toski was the teacher sought out by touring professionals. He helped dozens of the world's best players including Tom Kite, Judy Rankin, Jane Blalock, Pat Bradley, Bruce Crampton and Bruce Devlin. With an animated style and a healthy dose of showmanship, Toski became a media darling. Since 1960, his instruction has appeared on scores of magazine covers. He has written all or part of more than a half-dozen books and was starring in videos before most people had seen a VCR. He was also a pioneer in bringing golf instruction to television: In the late '70s, he was a regular on NBC golf telecasts, dispensing tips to millions. His celebrity status traveled well, putting him in demand in places as far away as Japan. By the early '80s, Toski had become the undisputed dean of golf instruction worldwide. Read more on Bob Toski
A PGA Master Professional with a Ph.D. in sports science from the University of Oregon, Wiren is seemingly always open for business. For decades he has been a tireless proponent of educating other golf instructors with the best and most comprehensive information. Most famous for editing "The PGA Teaching Manual," the landmark teaching volume distributed to all PGA members, Dr. Wiren has taught more than 250,000 golfers around the world in both individual and group settings. Between lessons, Wiren was the PGA's director of education, learning and research for more than a decade, and he has been a featured speaker at five PGA Coaching and Teaching Summits. He has spoken to teachers in nearly every country with an organized golf program, including a keynote address at the first Scientific Congress of Golf. Named PGA of America National Teacher of the Year in 1987, Dr. Wiren is a member of the Nebraska and South Dakota Golf Halls of Fame and the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame. Dr. Wiren's written work can be found in more than 200 magazine articles, and he has been a featured instructor on The Golf Channel and ESPN.