Foran thriving amid competition

JOHN HERBERT

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

Ken Foran knows all about competition and these days it has nothing to do with pars and birdies.

The London golf instructor can't help but notice like gas stations on every corner, there seems to be a golf teacher or golf academy at every driving range or golf course in the London area.

"When I made my decision to leave the hospital, I used to come home from work and find 20 messages on the phone for lessons," Foran said. "I could do eight to 10 every day of the week back then.

"Now I get five or six, but I'm still happy. I got lucky. I had a name in golf and that got me started. People spread my name and it goes from there."

Foran, 52, who worked as a porter, in housekeeping and snowplowing, took a buyout package from the London Health Sciences Centre in 2000 to concentrate on teaching golf. As an amateur, Foran won about 25 tournaments.

Foran came along as a certified instructor as the golf boom followed Tiger Woods and his wins at the Masters in 1997 and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2000.

Back then, newcomers without access to CPGA pros at clubs turned to a handful of certified instructors and pros at driving ranges, including Foran, Mike Kilkenny at the Fairview driving range on Fanshawe Park Road West and Ron Bannerman at Forest Glen on Oxford Street West.

Now there are instructors at almost every range and young CPGA pros or assistant pros moonlighting at a growing list of ranges.

Foran was fortunate to establish a relationship with Bob Martin when he left the hospital job. At the time, Martin was operating the Wally World driving range and it was a perfect fit. Foran could teach, run clinics for women and stage five weeks of junior camps for 150 kids to learn golf in the morning and have fun at the water park in the afternoon.

Foran rejoined Martin when the former London retailing icon opened a new range down the road from Wally World, when the facility was sold to developers. Martin's Golf and Practice Centre just off Wonderland Road opened two years ago.

Foran has continued to prosper at the new facility, but the only problem is without the handy water park, he buses kids from his junior camps in the summer months to East Park's water park. The additional costs have sent him back to work in the winter months plowing snow for Old Oak Properties.

Foran said though his expenses have grown, so has the business at Bob Martin's Golf and Practice Centre, which translates into more golfers and more lessons. Matt Ross, Ron Lampman and Mark Elliott also teach there.

Bob Martin's Fashions and Golf have opened a retail store and club repair shop at the range. The store is owned by Andy Marshall and Darren Allison, who bought out Martin and his downtown store on William Street.

Martin's new practice centre has matured into one of the finest anywhere complete with a teaching area, a private area for members to hit balls to target greens and is completely irrigated. The best feature is a the 213-metre long tee deck, which is 34 metres deep.

And Foran is still busy. Of particular enjoyment is assisting the kids and women who often are picking up clubs for the first time. At group clinics, many women are strangers when they show up.

"They develop friendships and wind up organizing games," he said. "It's a neat way for them to get started playing the game."


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