How I Learned To Break 80

The big muscles in the back and muscles in the shoulders, arms, and hands are properly delayed so that they can produce their maximum performance at the right time and place.Ben Hogan

In the year 2010, I had gone over 20 years without breaking 80. I had only done it twice before and the last time I did it was after 4 years of playing on the high school golf team back in 1988.

When I made a conscious decision to start My Swing Evolution, I knew I would not be able to just take lessons from any old pro. I had taken many lessons from golf pros of the years and it had not helped my game in any measurable way. At this point I had 5 Lessons and I knew what I wanted to do with my swing. I just didn’t know how I was going to do it.

I still remember making the call to my first MSE teacher, Tim Terwilliger, at Brookside Country Club in Pasadena. Tim is a great golfer and a fine teacher. I told him I wanted to learn to swing like Ben Hogan, and there was a chuckle on the other end of the line. Then, Tim explained that he had learned the swing in Texas and had a strong understanding of the Hogan golf swing.

I told Tim that I was a TV producer and he asked me if I happened to have any video of my swing, and I told him I did so I sent him a video link.

When the day for my lesson came, Tim told me he had a chance to view my swing video and there was something in particular that he noticed. He saw that as I reached the top of my swing, in the next two frames I was already pulling the handle very aggressively. He suggested that I would need to learn to make a smooth transition and not jerk the club while throwing my hands and club head. Tim went on to make a point that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “When the pros are on the range the two things they are thinking about the most are their tempo and their transition.” Good thoughts for any golfer!

The next week I was working on my transition at a driving range called Whitley in Studio City, CA. I was frustrated but I kept my head up and kept swinging.

I noticed an old man wearing all khaki that was walking up and down the range looking at the various golfers giving it their best. I tried to make my best swings when he passed by. Out of everyone, he finally approached me and asked to watch me hit a couple of golf balls.

I made a swing and hit a poorly struck shot. “Okay,” he said. “Hit another one.” I lined up and hit another one and immediately the old man had made his diagnosis. “Your head’s in front of the ball! I can help you with that.” I had always heard that you should keep you head down, which I could not do. But, keeping your head behind the ball helps you do both. Then, the old man reached out his arm and handed me a card. It said, “Roger Dunn” with his number.

Roger Dunn is a Southern California legend. He has a chain of large retail golf stores in a number of states in the Southwest that bear his name. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2012 but I will always be indebted to him for his generosity and kindness.

Roger asked me to meet him on Tuesday and we spent the first hour and a half of our lesson discussing the principles of the swing itself. What pro does that? He showed me pictures of pro golfers and talked a lot about Ben Hogan. He wanted me to be a better golfer and I knew it. He told me I would have to learn to thrust the same way I thrust in martial arts. (I had been the Florida Open Karate Champion in 1989.)

Roger then had me hit golf balls off a tee with only my right hand, as I am right handed, using a child’s club that was light enough to handle. He wanted my head behind the ball and I felt more like a tennis player hitting a forehand out in front of me. It was a magical lesson that I will remember for the rest of my life.

The next week I was standing on the 18th green at Balboa Golf Course with a tricky 5 foot, left to right putt to shoot 79. My heart was racing. My hands were shaking. My resolve was absolute. I picked a spot and stroked the putt at a speed I believed would let it break in the top of the cup. I kept my head down and only picked it up to see the ball as it fell into the hole.

I did it! I had finally broken 80 after nearly 22 years. My relief was profound. Then, much to my surprise, I started breaking 80 all the time! I went on to break 80, 14 times in 2010. The next year, I decided to start my YouTube channel and the rest is history. Looking back, I can owe it all to two key concepts.

First, make a smooth transition. And second, keep your head behind the ball.