Carmel Magazine

Spring-Summer 2019

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60 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 9 LOCALKNOWLEDGE Laird Small Master Instructor at Pebble Beach Golf Academy, PGA Master Professional and Golf Magazine "Top 100 Teacher" M aster Instructor Laird Small has been an integral part of Pebble Beach golf for almost three decades. He's held roles of Head Professional and Manager of Spyglass Hill Golf Shop and Director of the Pebble Beach Golf Academy, while also being a leader in developing the AT&T Pebble Beach Junior Golf Association. Warm, personable, encouraging and enormously talented as both a player and an instructor, Small helps celebrities, athletes and novices find their own way on the course. Small, the 2003 National PGA Teacher of the Year, has authored many books and articles on golf, and has been repeatedly honored as one of Golf Digest's top 50 greatest teachers Q: How did you first find your way onto a golf course? A: I lived in Mexico from ages 4-9 with my mother and brother. Spanish was the first language that I learned to read and write in…and at age 10, I came here and lived with my grandparents in Pebble Beach. On my way home from school, I saw kids my age driving golf carts and I got up enough courage to ask for a job. The pro told me I'd have to learn to caddy first. I would go to Spyglass on Saturday mornings. I sat on the bench a lot. One day I got a caddy job and a player asked me what club he should use…Of course I had no idea because I didn't play golf. Afterwards, I went in and asked the pro questions and started to get some lessons. By that time, I was working there putting golf carts away and driving golf carts. I would use the money I would earn for lessons and my parents would help supplement that. Q: That sounds pretty young to have so much responsibility. A: I had a lot of encouragement from my grandparents and at that time it was a different environment where kids were hanging out on the golf course and could work in exchange for privileges. It's changed quite a bit now with laws, but in some parts of the country they have caddy programs for young kids. Q: How did you become so skilled at the game? A: I would hang out with a lot of golf professionals and they would be mentors to me. One day, a family friend introduced me to John Geertsen Sr. at MPCC. He had quite a record. He had taught Tony Lema and Johnny Miller and he took a liking to me. He gave me direction to see if I could go further in golf. I played in high school and college and professionally, all the while learning about the game and the swing. When my friends would take lessons, we would ask each other, 'What did the pro tell you?' and share insights with each other. Q: So you have always been interested in the 'why' of the game? A: Yes, one of the aspects of playing is you have to solve problems on the golf course. You have to take [into account your] skills and mindset and the lie of the ball and plan your shot. You have to hit and see if you can deliver on it through your swing. Golf demands you are in the pres- ent moment, but your mind is in the future shot that hasn't been hit yet. It's a cool concept to really understand. Most of us are thinking about swing mechanics while never being attached to the target. Q: What are some of your best tips for players? A: Nobody ever has it dialed in all the way. You think you do, but you don't. A better player can shoot a good score even though they may not be hitting the ball very well. They still play well. It's a learned skill. They manage their emotions…then take a wider approach to their game. They won't risk a narrow target and they play more conservative- ly, knowing they don't have their best stuff in the moment. They know that's how they stay in the game and can turn it around. Q: What makes Pebble Beach such an ideal venue for the 2019 U.S. Open? A: Our national championship is being held at one of the best golf courses in the world. It's very unique—it's not a very long golf course in terms of yardage, but yet it has a tremendous amount of challenges. The natural beauty is a distraction along with the rolling terrain…The Open is going to be a spectacular event. The world's eyes will be on Pebble Beach, which has crowned some of the best players over the years. There have been historic shots cataloged in the history of the game, and I think this Open will be the same. —Brett Wilbur

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