Swing alterations require patience

IAN HUTCHINSON, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

The cold, concrete canyons of Toronto's financial district seemed like an odd place for one of the world's most renowned golf swing gurus to be teaching last week, but it was a Callaway corporate outing that brought David Leadbetter to town, so it made sense to set up near Bay St.

Leadbetter was promoting a Callaway program that offers buyers of a driver or a set of irons in the next four months a free half-hour lesson with a Canadian PGA pro, a nice thought for the suit-wearing, winter-weary golfers on hand.

That golf itch will get more intense with the Masters next week and Mike Weir and Stephen Ames at Augusta.

Both have a mixed bag in 2008, with Ames posting three top-15s in seven tournaments and Weir registering three top-25s, including a fourth at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, three missed cuts and one withdrawal in 10 events.

Late-season wins in 2007 may have raised expectations that their much-publicized swing changes were working, but Leadbetter says that it takes time.

"You've got to be patient," he said, adding that both Canadians are always contenders. "When I worked with (Nick) Faldo, he basically said: 'Hey listen, for two years, I really don't care how I play.'

"We didn't go back to scratch, but it took two years almost before things started to kick in and when they did, the confidence level just zoomed and hey, he won six majors.

"Mike, obviously being a proven winner having already won a major, if he really believes, which he obviously does, that these swing changes are going to help him, I'm sure in the long run, it's really going to take shape," he said, adding the same applies to Ames, a "late bloomer," according to Leadbetter.

He stresses that each player, understandably, is battling old habits.

"It's not natural," he said. "You want to get out and play golf subliminally. You want to be able to think about the target. You don't want to be thinking so much about the swing.

"When it takes so much energy to make a swing, you're fatigued mentally. Some people work their swing changes in slowly and are able to do it. Other players, it's ruined their careers.

"The older you get, the longer it takes the swing changes to kick in. You can get it down to a certain point on the practice tee and maybe under certain conditions, but when you get under the gun, old habits tend to come back."

REMEMBER WHEN?

Had Sandra Post waited a few more years, her back-to-back titles at the Colgate Dinah Shore in 1978 and '79 would be two more majors in a career that already includes the '68 LPGA Championship.

The Dinah, as it affectionately was known, was the predecessor to this week's Kraft Nabisco Championship which became a major in 1983. Post was among several players who organized a reunion that includes players from the 1950s to the '70s in Rancho Mirage, Calif., this week.

Players expected include the still-active Beth Daniel, whose rookie year was 1979, all the way back to tour founders Marlene Hagge, Louise Suggs, Marilynn Smith and Shirley Spork.

"The '50s, up until, I think, the mid-'60s, the tour was having a hard time getting any traction because of television. It was coming along, but it was certainly nothing like sports is covered today," Post said.

"The '70s, those gals were still connected to our founders. They played with the founders. They knew the founders. By the '80s, the tour had established itself, making inroads in so many areas. The '50s, '60s and '70s were really a critical time."

By the 1970s, television noticed the tour and commercials and endorsements were getting more plentiful. The tour was deep in talent, not to mention the pizzazz of players such as Jan Stephenson and Laura Baugh and Post admits their skills were often overshadowed by their sex appeal.

"At least people were noticing. Whether people like it or not, if you're attractive, you're more marketable," she said.

"I think everybody had blonde hair in the '70s on our tour. It was a look and I guess it went with playing golf and being in the sunshine, but it was truly a great time to see our tour."

The influence of that era continues as it seems that a similar script is being followed with Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer, among today's most marketable players.


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