Hands full for Tiger’s teacher
Hank Haney doesn’t expect his time with the famed golfer to conflict with his new duties.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Hank Haney was eager to meet his new students at the International Junior Golf Academy and hoped they wanted to get to know a little about him. Instead, he got peppered with questions about his most famous pupil.
“Every single person asked a question about Tiger Woods,” Haney said this week.
Haney, who helped groove Woods’ swing the past 31⁄2 years, took over last month as the academy’s director of instruction, hopeful he can bring some of what he’s taught Tiger to a new generation of ball strikers.
When academy officials wondered if Haney, 52, wanted to squeeze in teaching 160 or so juniors while refining Woods’ swing, running a Dallas golf instruction business and heading up the ESPN Golf Schools, Haney made one request: He wanted to dive in full time.
“If I’m going to do this, I want to be involved a meaningful amount of time with the kids,” Haney said. “I’m not interested in just putting my name on something.”
Haney has already purchased a house here and figures his plan to spend at least two days a month at the academy will grow over time.
“I like teaching kids,” Haney said.
Academy students and teachers were thrilled that Woods’ swing coach will work with them.
“I get goose bumps talking about it,” said Matt Fields, the academy’s assistant director.
Haney has a long connection with Woods. He taught Woods’ junior golf friends, the Kuehne kids — LPGA player Kelli, 1998 U.S. Amateur champ Hank, and 1994 U.S. Am runner-up Trip. Haney was SMU’s golf coach while Woods played at Stanford and perhaps most importantly, Haney taught Woods’ pal and two-time major champion, Mark O’Meara.
“Mark was obviously the one that really made my career go,” Haney said. “I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to help Tiger” if not for O’Meara.
Haney doesn’t expect his time with Woods to conflict with his new duties.
The revamped PGA Tour schedule and FedEx Cup competition ends with the Tour Championship in mid-September, about the start of the academy’s school year. And Haney’s association with ESPN schools ends after this year.
A good working schedule with Woods should also leave Haney ample time for the juniors, some of whom pay as much as $47,000 a year to live, go to school and train at the academy’s facility on Hilton Head Island.
Haney worked with students Monday and Tuesday before joining Woods for a week of British Open prep work.
“Tiger’s like the best player and he [Haney] can still get him to improve,” said 17-year-old Jenny Feng from China, at the academy the past four months. “He’ll really make us improve, too.”
Haney plans to review each student’s form every month. One of Haney’s gifts, he says, is sizing up someone’s game after watching one swing. A video center at his Dallas facility will make podcasts and Web-based instruction available to the juniors “even when I’m not with them.”
Haney takes over for Gary Gilchrist, who left to spend more time working with his pro students, including recent LPGA Championship winner Suzann Pettersen.
Academy founder Ray Travaglione said he’s faced many difficult decisions since starting the venture 12 years ago. “This was not one of them,” he said, chuckling.