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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF

Game Ailing? Take It to a Clinic

March 07, 1997|THOMAS BONK

The fuse stretched 100 miles, from Santa Clarita to Pelican Hill Golf Club.

Mission: Impossible.

Cure 28 years' worth of golf faults in one day.

Seth Glasco, should you decide to accept this mission, this swing will self-destruct.

Hopefully.

This was Tuesday.

"Sure, and that day is a week from Sunday," he said, laughing as

he stood facing seven men of varying ability.

Makes sense. If he could do it in one day for $350, why would Jack Nicklaus and Jim Flick have joined marketing and teaching forces to set up three-day schools and charge $3,000?

No, this was a refresher course, the Nicklaus/Flick Faults and Cures Clinic. Glasco was going to take apart the game and put it back together in eight hours, then send his charges on their way with some ideas on how to shear a few Friday-morning sheep of a few bucks on a golf course.

First, explode some myths.

You know the business about power from your legs?

"Your body works in response to, rather than in support of the swing," Glasco said. "You aren't hitting the ball with your body. You're hitting the ball with the club."

Seven men with varying physiques breathed a sigh of relief.

And you know the bit about sitting down in your stance?

"I call that the bar-stool theory," Glasco said. "It works great at happy hour."

He was swinging a pendulum as he talked about power, about relaxing muscles and letting the club do the work, and later about equipment, thousands of dollars of which were on the hill, downrange of the practice facility.

It's the swing, stupid, and all of the megabucks a golfer puts in his bag to try to buy a game might have been better spent in $50 half-hour lessons. Or at the 19th hole.

The guy with the Callaways frowned.

The one with the Ping knockoffs smiled.

Glasco has been preaching the gospel of Flick for many years, the last seven in the employ of the master.

Flick had joined Nicklaus after saving him from embarrassment at his first Senior PGA Tour tournament, at Shadow Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz. Nicklaus had disparaged the seniors as a PGA Tour youth, and now he had to put up or shut up. But his game had shut down.

Enter Flick, who had spent part of the morning with Arnold Palmer. Nicklaus asked him to take a look.

"He's the only man ever to give Arnie and Jack a lesson in the same day," Glasco said.

At the end of the week, Nicklaus had won by four shots, and he had a business partner in the Nicklaus/Flick Golf Schools.

Glasco spends time with Flick, who at 67 teaches 300 days a year, traveling from Palm Springs to the senior tour locales the clinic has latched onto as a way to find desperate amateurs, and sometimes those given golf days as a business incentive or reward.

This week, it's Pelican Hill, just south of Corona del Mar and down the road from Newport Country Club, site of next week's Toshiba tournament. Next week, it's Palm Springs, before the Legends. Later this year, it's back to Los Angeles, before the Ralph's.

Glasco teaches that swing principles are the same, even if swings aren't.

"You know Jeff Sluman?" he asks.

Yeah, short guy, maybe 5 feet 7. He has won some serious money.

"And you know Phil Blackmar?"

Yeah, tall guy, maybe 6-7. He has won a couple of tournaments.

"You think they have the same swing?"

No way.

"But they do some of the same things. They have a single arc, a repeating swing."

Glasco worked with the pupils individually and in groups, showing them, telling them and taking each aside for swing dissection and videotaping.

One guy who had been told on dozens of first tees that he had a good swing by guys he was paying off alongside 18th greens learned the truth. You can't fool the camera and Glasco's telestrator. The guy was on his heels, out of balance and hitting a six-iron 125 yards.

"Try this."

Six-iron, 150 yards. Not Tigeresque, but not an embarrassment either. It felt awkward, though. "Go out tomorrow and hit a bucket of balls," Glasco said. "It will start feeling better."

It did.

A morning on the swing, an afternoon on trouble shots--sand, pitching, putting, all in capsule form but with a little something to work on for every shot.

And hundreds of balls, more balls in one day than the guys had ever hit.

The sun was getting lower when Glasco finished. A left-hander, he hit a ball 275 yards with a right-handed driver. Then off his knees with the right-handed club. Then with one hand. Then with one finger of each hand. The balls never knew the difference.

It's the swing, stupid.

He talked of his irritation with the way the game is going.

"Golf Digest and Golf magazine are ruining the people out there," he said. "Everybody has a tip. And players get tips from somebody in their foursome who has found something that works for him. And they try it and get confused. . . .

"Ten years ago, the average handicap was 17. Now it's 19, and with the advances in technology, in grass, in balls that go farther and straighter."

Yeah, but more people are taking up the game and . . .

"Last year, 11 million took up the game," he said. "Nine million quit."

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