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RAY SWANSON Keystoner Mercer banquet another success

Sunday, February 3, 2002

The 55th Mercer County Hall of Fame banquet is history, but the warmth of the evening continues to toast the hearts of the many in attendance.
The board of directors is already meeting, getting a line on next year's event, hoping to make the 56th even bigger and better, if that's possible.
Featured speaker: Sharon native, Joe Thiel, a PGA master golf instructor and one of the tops in his profession in the United States, was the featured speaker of the evening.
The night prior to the banquet an "ice breaker" was held at The Radisson, an evening when the 11 inductees and their wives could get to know one another, mingle with the banquet speakers and member of the board of directors.
It was during those hours that I had an opportunity to go "one on one" with Thiel. So what do you ask a master golf instructor?
My first question was a general one: What is the major flaw you find in the game of your many students?
Thiel has instructed over 200 players in the LPGA and PGA. It seemed like a good question at the time. What is the big flaw that most golfers possess: the grip? ... the stance? ... the approach? ... the swing itself?
Thiel's answer, not exactly what I had expected, was, "It's dedication. Total dedication to the sport. One has to ask himself 'Where do I want to go in this thing.' I don't understand why people lack a plan. They must be dedicated, have a plan, and build on that motivation. You have to have a plan, especially in practice routines."
He pointed out that some of the top women golfers in the LPGA are from foreign countries.
"[Annika] Sorenstam, [Se Ri] Pak and [Karie] Webb are right up there with the leaders each week in tourney play. They work very hard and their desire is great. They are dedicated and they have a plan."
Lauds Woods: Thiel also pointed out the success story of Tiger Woods. "Talk about dedication and having a plan. Tiger is the first one on the practice area each day and he's usually the last one to leave. He has a purpose and he plays with that in mind."
Thiel is a busy man.
"I've been in this business, which I love very much, for 31 years. I'm busy every moment of every day and I wouldn't want it any other way," he said.
Now living in Washington state, Joe has instructional golf schools there as well as in Florida and the Far East. He also writes for several of the nation's top golf magazines.
In the mid-'70s, was cornerman for Lyle Alzado, the former NFL standout when he went up against the great Muhammad Ali in a boxing match at Mile High Stadium in Denver. Alzado, however, was no match for Ali.
"Lyle trained so hard for that fight, too," Thiel said.
OSther speakers: On banquet night, two other speakers were at the podium, including former Browns player and now team radio announcer, Doug Dieken, and Tom Donahoe of the Buffalo Bills.
Dieken was a big hit with the gathering as he talked of his days with the Browns.
"This program booklet is much larger than some the Browns printed when I was playing with them," Dieken joked, as he held up one of the Hall of fame brochures.
He also talked of his younger days when he and Bill Cowher, now the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, were roommates.
Said Dieken, "Bill and I used to have this thing going where we would bet on who was going to score the most points in some basketball games we had been playing in. We were on the same team.
"So this one night, I was driving for an easy layup when I got clobbered and crashed into the wall. When I rolled over on the floor and looked up, guess who was hovering over me. You guessed it. Bill Cowher. That's the kind of competitor he was ... still is," Dieken laughed.