I have been fortunate to work with juniors of all levels, from those that just like playing the game for fun, to some that are nationally ranked and who share my deep passion for the game.
When I heard about Andy Zhang qualifying for this week’s U.S. Open at The Olympic Club, I was ecstatic. What refreshing news for a game that has become so businesslike. It reminded me of all the 3-foot putts that I made “to win The Open” when I was fourteen. There is, of course, one big difference: His putts will give him the opportunity to actually win the Open!
As a coach, it is thrilling to have a student win any tournament at any level. Of course, Andy did not actually win his qualifier, but for him it is just as good as a victory. The satisfaction is the same.
When working with talented juniors, it is difficult to maintain the interest level and intensity necessary to improve without adding an element of stress--stress that may lead to burn out.
At 14 years old, after all, Andy’s competitive career is really just beginning. He is already so close to the peak of competitive golf.
Where does he go from here? Of course, he will have a lot of junior tournaments to try to win.
Hopefully he will take advantage of the fun that playing golf can bring. I wish him a lot of patience, knowing that if he is truly meant to play this game at that level as a career, it will only happen if his motivation is based solely on the love of the game.
What can he expect this week at The Olympic Club?
First and foremost, a very difficult golf course.
Listed at 7,170 yards, The Olympic Club always plays longer. The heavy San Francisco air makes it like hitting through some kind of gravity-like force field. He may encounter shots from the rough that may be nearly impossible to hit from. We all know that U.S. Open greens are fast. From TV, we don’t see how they can get a little crusty as they dry out. It becomes like putting on peanut brittle.
He can expect to get a ton of attention.
But he can also expect attention to disappear as people start talking about the leaders. He'll be nervous, for sure. But that is the fun part.
Hopefully Zhang has time to read about the history of the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club. He should know the importance of the legendary Ben Hogan walking off the 72nd green and handing his ball to a rules official saying “this one is for the Golf House” (implying that he had just won his record 5th U.S. Open, only to be denied the next day as if he was being punished by the golf gods for his lack of humility).
In fact, The Olympic Club has a history of denying the favorites. This history just might play in Andy Zhang’s favor!
Stephen Moskal is currently the Director of Instruction for Golf Swing Exchange, an innovative on-line coaching platform whose goal is to revolutionize the ability for people to learn golf. A former professional golfer in Europe, Moskal turned pro in 1993 as a member of the French National Circuit and also spent time on the United Kingdom Mastercard Tour and the European Challenge Tour. Following a seven-year professional career, Moskal turned to teaching full-time in 1999. A 1990 graduate of Furman University with a degree in philosophy, Moskal was a four year letter winner with the Paladins and was a member of the academic honor roll. Most recently, Stephen studied under Top 100 instructor Mitchell Spearman, best known for working with major champions Nick Faldo and Ian Baker Finch. Stephen is also the Head Golf Coach at Marymount University in Arlington, VA.
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