The acclaimed instructor, 62, sounds off on his treasured book collection, his soft spot for animals and why an actor once cast as James Bond is best-suited to play him in a movie.
If you could only play one golf course forever, which would it be?
I have a lot of favorite courses, but the one I really love is Royal County Down in Northern Ireland. You can play in the morning and the afternoon, and it’s like two completely different courses because the wind is always coming from different directions. The views are amazing, and the food is great. Not to mention the Guinness.
If you weren’t a golf instructor, what would you do for a living?
I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian. I love animals. I seriously considered becoming a vet, but if you don’t like the sight of blood it’s not the best profession.
What are your hobbies?
I like to fish, I like to ski. I actually like to watch cricket, believe it or not. Most people in the States find it very boring, but it’s a recipe for me to relax.
What is your most prized possession?
I’m a collector of instruction books, and one of my favorites is a limited edition copy of The Art of Learning Golf by Sir Walter G. Simpson. It’s probably one of the first golf instruction books; it was written in the late 19th century.
Are there any young instructors who remind you of yourself?
I look at Sean Foley. He always credits me as one of the reasons he got interested in teaching. I see a lot of me in him, because I was always excited about learning and seeing what I could do to help people. He’s done a great job; obviously his situation with Tiger didn’t last. But sometimes these relationships don’t last.
At what point did you realize you could be an instructor for a living?
Well I often joke about that. I used to play a lot of tournaments in Europe and South Africa, and after missing yet another cut, I went back to my hotel. It wasn’t of the highest quality. When I found out that my towels had been stolen, I figured I needed a change of vocation. But I’ve been teaching since I was 18. I love to help people. At the time I was a little too left-brained as far as playing the game, but it helped me with my learning. My great-grandfather was one of Britain’s leading osteopaths and was also blind. He had the ability to feel his way through things, and some of that must have crept into my DNA.
Dead or alive: Who would you most like to play golf with?
Sir Winston Churchill. He’s one of the funniest men in the history of politics. Also the Dalai Lama, he’s just an amazing man. And the third, because I grew up in that part of the world, would be Nelson Mandela.
Who would play the lead role in a movie about your life?
Well, he’d have to have my accent. I’d have to say Sean Connery because I love the guy. I’ve given him lessons, and he’s always been a funny guy. I love his sort of subtle sense of humor. He’s a good player too.
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