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The Miami Herald
December 26, 2003 Friday FINAL EDITION

ONE-TIME GOLF SCOFFER HITS THE MIGHTY GREEN

BYLINE: NATALIE P. McNEAL
SECTION: TROPICAL LIFE; Pg. 5G

When I was growing up, my father always dragged my brother and me to the golf course. Long lectures ensued as my dad would hit balls at the range. Our eyes glazed over as he tried to teach us the game.

Much to my father's chagrin, neither of his kids picked up on the sport that he loves. So, here I am years later, willing to give golf another shot (no pun intended).

My social life consists of parties and quick visits to the mall or cheap flights to major cities where I party and visit the mall.

I'm ready to grow up a bit. I'm holding onto my 20s but need a sign of progression.

I call the Miami Shores Golf Learning Center and schedule a private lesson with David Gall, director, patient man, and kind instructor.

For $80, you can have a one-hour private lesson that's videotaped. For $65, you get a one-hour private lesson. There are also group lessons for $15 per week. It all depends on what you want. Private lessons, in general, range from $50 at a city facility to $200 per hour, for a pro who teaches PGA-level talent.

"The smartest thing to do," Gall advises, "is to take a couple of private lessons and learn how to golf properly. If not, you can create bad habits you never overcome."

I opt for the $80 lesson. I want to see if this is something I can do for fun.

Before we get started with the swings, Gall instructs me to do some warm-up exercises. With my hands held on each end of the club, I twist and turn my waist and stretch my arms. Then, it's time to rock, or rather swing.

Let's be very clear about my first golf lesson. We don't jump on the cart and play 18 holes. We run through the extreme basics from how to put a golf ball on a tee to the different parts of a club (face, head, shaft and grip.) We don't even attempt to hit the ball into the hole. We work on techniques such as my "set up" or stance.

"Set up is the key to every shot," Gall says.

Gall molds my body into perfect form through his direction. My left foot angles at 11 o'clock, my right foot points straight in front of me. The golf ball is front and middle.

"Not so wide," he says, looking at my feet. I scoot my feet a little farther in.

"Pull the trigger," Gall tells me.

I swing the 9-iron, a club with blade-type head. Wooosh. Oops, that ball didn't go too far. I'm sure the groundskeeper will eventually have to buy bags of seed to fill the mini-ditches (aka divots) that I've chopped into the grass.

We do it again. I make contact several times, with Gall tweaking me all the way. I'm giddy now. I quickly hack a few balls.

"Hold on, machine gun," says Gall. Take a step back, he directs.

In a soft, "inspirational guru" voice he instructs me to smell the air. Look at the beautiful sky. Watch the birds. Enjoy the lush grass. Take a few breaths. I do.

"This is part of the game," he tells me between deep sighs. "Golf is mental."

I swing again with a metal wood, a club with a larger head, and it's a beauty. This shot is right down the middle or down the target line. It has such a pretty arc. I clap like a high school cheerleader at the state finals.

My mind is clear the whole time I'm practicing. What a logical existence there is at the golf course. I'm hooked.

Afterward, we view the videotape of my shots, stance and instructions. Gall and I look at pictures of professional golfers and their form.

Golf rocks. I hate that my lesson's over. I'm going to call my dad and ask him why he didn't teach me golf sooner.

Jump Start is a bimonthly feature about trying something new. Send your ideas to weekend@herald.com.

 

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