Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Americans 16 1/2Europeans 11 1/2
That's a pretty good start for renewed and refreshed Ryder Cup play. The American team has its pride back, and I give much of the credit to my friend Paul Azinger. I first met Paul when I coached him at Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Fla., and I can tell you that it takes someone like Paul to create team chemistry. Three moves made the difference: 1. He had the courage to ask the PGA for four picks instead of two; 2. He had the insight to play poker with the media by continually saying Team USA was the underdog.; and 3. He created the inspiration by telling the crowd that they were his 13th man.
Nobody knows the power of a great attitude better than Paul Azinger. He beat cancer so how hard could beating a great European golf team really be? If you want to take the measure of this man, think about him in downtown Louisville at the Thursday night pep rally leading the cheers in front of 15,000 screaming fans. Then think about Paul riding with Payne Stewart's son during the final round on Sunday. What a great gesture on his part.
Yes, the captain doesn’t hit any shots for their team, and the American players are the ones who won this Ryder Cup. But you can’t put a finger on the importance of the right coach. In 2008, Paul Azinger was the right coach for this team loaded with rookies. He inspired them and gave them the confidence that they needed, while at the same time, he kept them loose enough to bring out their true talents. All the players agreed that Paul was a great captain. As a spectator, it was fun to see somebody who I had watched grow up take the sport to the highest level. It would be great to see more events like the Ryder Cup, where the crowd can be more of a factor.
When looking for a coach in 2010, the PGA should look at some of the great character qualities that Paul displayed in this Ryder Cup. You know, Paul got it wrong when he said the crowd was the team’s 13th man. He was the 13th man. Good job, Paul! He still calls me coach, and if I taught him anything it was to be his own man and to always believe in himself. Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jim Suttie, Ph.D., is director of instruction at the Jim Suttie Golf Academy at Twineagles in Naples, Fla.

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