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Haney tells Tiger tales in visit to town

October 06, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

Hank Haney travels the globe about 200 days each year - with about 75 days spent tutoring Tiger Woods, the No. 1 golfer in the world.

For the past 18 months, Hank Haney has been Woods' golf coach, working with who he says "could be the greatest athlete of all time when he's done."

Haney was in Hagerstown on Tuesday to speak at the Rotary Club's weekly luncheon in advance of today's 10th Antietam Healthcare Foundation tournament at Penn National Golf Club in Fayetteville, Pa. Haney will conduct morning and afternoon clinics today for participating golfers.

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One of the most renowned golf instructors around the world, he operates the Hank Haney Golf Ranch in McKinney, Tex., just outside of Dallas, where he has put together an elite staff of instructors over the years, while he serves as a coach to many professional golfers on tour.

Haney's desire for golf, which led him to Tulsa University on scholarship (he graduated in 1977), then to Southern Methodist University as its coach, helped him master his teaching abilities.

He has been instrumental in the success of more than 200 professionals throughout the world, notably Mark O'Meara, the 1998 Masters and British Open champion.

His resume drastically changed when he received a phone call from Woods, who had ended an association with Butch Harmon and was going through a winning drought, taking criticism from skeptics that "he was becoming his own man."

"Tiger called one day and asked for help," said Haney, who knew Woods while he was playing college golf at Stanford while Haney was at SMU. "He only had a short list to work on and he knew my personality."

Haney said the main course of action was working on Woods' swing. Part of Haney's teaching philosophy is to get his students to become their own best teacher by getting them to understand the flight of the ball and how it relates to swinging the club on its correct swing plane.

"I saw what he needed to correct and (Tiger) sees the difference what we've worked on," said Haney. "We worked on a different focus of his swing plane. That was his issue."

Haney said Woods' swing speed is normally around 130 miles per hour, "but he has so much control and can easily get into another gear."

Woods has 10 major championships under his belt, and a goal of reaching and passing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18. Haney maintains his star pupil is right on track.

"Tiger eats, sleeps and lives to continually get better and better," said Haney. "His future is up to him and in his mind, he will keep getting better."

When Haney is with Woods during tournament play, Haney said he needs to stay ahead of Woods each hole.

"I'll walk the course during competition and always get in a position to see his shots," said Haney. "After a round, Tiger will practice, eat dinner, and then he goes and swings a weighted club for about another hour. He lifts weights all the time."

Haney said Woods is like "a rock star."

"He doesn't have a huge entourage. ... Elin (his wife), his caddie and some security and me (when together) will fly together," said Haney, joking on traveling on TWA (Tiger Woods Airways). "It's amazing how many people are enthralled with him, but he really handles it good and understands (popularity) is like this. He really works hard and he's really a funny person.

"He doesn't look back on anything. He doesn't second-guess himself and he's the most exceptional athlete I've ever seen."

Haney told the Rotary audience of a particular incident that magnifies Woods' persona.

"At Tiger's wedding in Barbados, I asked Earl (Tiger's father) how it is that Tiger is so focused," said Haney. "Earl told me of an incident on Tiger's 13th birthday playing in a tournament in Miami at the Orange Bowl. Tiger three-putted the first hole, kept hitting bad shots and was five over (par) after eight holes. He was pouting and had an attitude. After the round, Earl said, 'I took Tiger and for the first time ever, read him the riot act ... that golf didn't owe him anything.' Earl said Tiger was scared, and two days later after returning home to California, said he came up to him and said, 'Dad, I heard everything you said. I'll never quit on myself again.'

"That is why he presses forward in everything he does," said Haney.

- Those interested in participating in next year's tournament, tentatively slated for Sept. 25, 2006, can contact the Antietam Healthcare Foundation at 301-790-8631.

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