Recognizing Talent in Juniors – Ricky Folwer Part 2

     After watching the Phoenix Open this weekend and hearing the story about Ricky Fowler, it got me thinking about all of the juniors that I have worked with over the years. One of our jobs as coaches is to teach but also nurture talented kids and help them to enjoy the game. Can a talented kid be ruined by an over zealous instructor that tries to make him or her look like Tiger Woods or what they think there perfect swing model should look like. We have to be careful with this. I am not saying that you shouldn’t change juniors swings because I have done plenty of that. What I am saying is recognize certain moves or individual qualities in a young players swing that shouldn’t be messed with in order to just make it look pretty. Ricky Fowler is a perfect example of this kind of individual style.


You won’t find Barry McDonnell on any top teacher list but there should be one for teachers that have to ability to not destroy talent. Jim Furyk’s dad would be at the top of that list as well. Understanding what is important in the golf swing and leaving the rest of it alone if the player has the ability to repeat the important stuff.  Barry is the only coach that Ricky had since he was 3. When asked about Ricky’s swing and how he teaches juniors, Barry said,”I try to make sure I don’t tell juniors things they don’t need to know, so they don’t get confused. You could see Rickie was a little lopsided when he started, his weight on one side where he would dig in for power, but he was right on plane. He swung his dad’s driver even when he was little.” Some may call this old school but I call it brilliant. When asked about this Barry responded,” I let kids find their own personality in their swings. I just try to get the fundamentals in there, but I don’t try to make them all look-alike. If the club is coming from the inside, and they get square to the ball, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a good swing.”  

I am not saying that there is a formula for evaluating talent in Juniors. I think it almost a gut feeling that a coach has and that the kid displays some signs of talent.  The number one thing is can they shoot a low number. Just be cognizant in the fact that if a kid has some funky moves in his or her golf swing yet does what is important which is hit great shots and can score, leave it alone. Here are the 3 things that I think are important in the swing and I will expand on this more in a later post or video. If you focus on these three areas you can’t stray too far off the path to success.

1. Pay attention to the basics – (notice I didn’t say fundamentals): I think this word is overused in teaching since there are so many variables and fundamentals say that every grip etc. should be the same and we know this is not true. Grip=sqauare club face, Set-up/Posture=efficient pivot, Alignment=intended starting line of ball etc.

2. On Plane Downswing/straight plane line– The backswing is overrated. It just has to allow for a repeatable onplane downswing.

3. Impact– A flat left wrist and a forward leaning shaft. Maybe the most important alignment in golf.

Ricky does all of these things very well. Despite some unconventional moves, he owns it and has since he was little, and there is something to be said for Trust and Ownership under pressure. Now if we can just work on his course management…..Go For The Green Ricky…….(Just kidding)

Pay attention to these three areas. If a junior can repeat this in his or her swing, be careful to change anything else. Teach them to chip, pitch and putt, the mental side and play golf with them as much as possible. Spend time coaching and less time teaching and I think we will see more players like Ricky come into the game. I have some advice for the parents as well but I will save it for another post. Parents please encourage and let the coach do his or her job….that’s all for now.

See you on the lesson tee,


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