Thursday, April 12, 2012

Golf Student-Teacher Confidentiality

With Hank Haney’s book ‘The Big Miss’ release, I thought I would give my thoughts on what some people are calling ‘teacher-student confidentiality.’

Some call it an ‘unwritten’ rule when it comes to golf. However, I believe it’s more of an unwritten rule when it comes to life.

It’s like Jimmy Conway said to Henry Hill in Goodfellas, ‘never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.’

First, I think we have to delve back to the 2009 PGA Championship. With the lead in the final round, Tiger was paired with YE Yang. Tiger simply did not trust his driver and IIRC, hit the driver only 3 times in the final round, 2 of the drives missed wildly to the right. For the most part, he hit a lot of 2-irons off the tee. This was a bit unusual for Tiger because he would not even pull out his 3-wood off the tee. Before then, when Tiger’s driving was still very wild, he would usually use a 3-wood and golfers often debated that Tiger should just use a 3-wood instead of a driver the entire time on a golf course.

Meanwhile, Yang had no issue using the driver in that final round and he was routinely putting it well past Tiger’s 2-irons off the tee. While Tiger struck the iron approach shots extremely well, the fact that he was giving up to 70 yards to Yang off the tee was too much to overcome. Yang’s driving ability eventually led to him almost driving the par-4 14th hole and then chipping in to take the lead, which he never lost.

Come 2010, Tiger’s driving was still woeful and even becoming worse. In the 2010 Player’s Championship, it was rumored that Tiger had been seeking some advice from Sean Foley (his current instructor) and was hitting hacker-ish pop-up drives. There were reports that these pop-ups had been sneaking into Tiger’s rounds for months. This was at the end of April. Then about 2 weeks later, Haney notifies Fox Sports that he sent a text to Tiger saying that he was going to quit being his golf instructor.

Getting back to the ‘unwritten rule’ with teachers and students…its golf, not a person’s health, legal situation, psychological state or religious confessional. I do think that it’s distinctly different from those scenarios.

However, I can’t help but think that I would be leery of getting a lesson from Hank Haney if he is going to blabber about my personal life. Now, for all intents and purposes I am a ‘nobody.’ But, if I were a CEO for a big corporation or one of the celebrities in his ‘Haney Project’, I would question the confidentiality of our relationship.

I’ve worked with my share of golf swing instructors and while I have never planned to shove this down their throat, I do believe that I am the customer and that the customer deserves to be treated with respect. I also believe it’s the understanding that they will not discuss my feelings, thoughts, and personal life to others because it’s nobody’s business. With that, I also believe it’s an understanding that I would not publish their teachings without their consent or try to claim it as my own because they have a business.

And with somebody like Tiger, whether we like it or not, he’s a VIP customer because just being associated with him in golf is going to equate to making a lot of money. He is to golf as to Oprah Winfrey is to home products and Michael Jordan is to basketball. In fact, Haney has made so much money from being associated with Tiger that he probably does not have to teach golf anymore and can just make millions thru endorsements and now golf course design. And in today’s economy, he should be thankful that he hit the Tiger lotto.

Now, if Tiger had been bad mouthing Haney I could understand why Haney would write a book to let the world know the Tiger Woods he knows.

Instead, Tiger would always say to the effect ‘Hank and I know what the problem is and I’m not quite doing what he is teaching me every time. I have no plans to change instructors.’

This went on to the very end and even to this day, Tiger has taken the high-road when it comes Haney’s instruction. So even if Haney came away legitimately not liking Tiger, he still failed to live by the ‘golden rule’, something we are usually taught in our childhood.

What I think happened after that Players Championship in 2010 was Haney was upset about the rumors that Tiger was seeking advice from Sean Foley. I think Haney got together with his agent and the team of people that manage his brand and they decided that the best decision was to quit Tiger before Tiger quits Hank. They probably realized that Tiger dumping Haney will damage the brand and if he improves greatly, it could really damage the Haney brand. It’s no coincidence that ‘Team Haney’ got ahold of ESPN, The Golf Channel and Fox Sports immediately after he texted Tiger that he was quitting him as a coach.

I think the book is probably done in part to protect the Haney brand. Tiger’s play was improving, particularly his ability to drive the ball. By putting the book out, it paints Tiger in a very negative light and makes it seem like he is impossible to work for. So the public loses focus on the fact that Tiger’s ballstriking has improved dramatically and places it more on the person that Haney writes about in the book.

I think the entire book reeks of an ingrate that as Tiger said ‘is all about the money.’ If Haney really found Tiger that reprehensible, he should have quit teaching him long ago. He didn’t and despite all of the millions he’s made just by being associated with Tiger, he’s going to the well once again with ‘The Big Miss.’


1 comment:

P "N" K said...

I read the book, and while I actually am more in your camp than in Haney's on the issue of him authoring such a manuscript, you postulating that Haney found Tiger 'reprehensible' is wildly inaccurate.

Maybe he should've kept the mouth shut and the pen sheathed, but the book is not a carpet bomb rip job. Far from it.

All IMO of course, but I was quite surprised, actually. I expected vitriol and it's really not there.