I was lucky enough to be mentored by, one of the greatest golf instructor of all time, PGA of America Hall of Famer Bob Toski.
So the story goes like this:
Super hot, but breezy spring day down at the Toski-Battersby Driving Range in Coconut Creek Florida. The year was 1995.
I was a young struggling college golfer. Growing up, I had the opportunity to take lessons from Bob since my father had taken lessons with him when he was a professional golfer. I had not seen Bob in a couple years since I moved back to Boston. I pulled into the dusty lot, parked my car, and remember sitting in my car for a few minutes thinking about how much work I needed to do on my game. At the time, I remember feeling like I was months away from hitting it well. Forget about hitting it straight! I was more interested in keeping the ball on the planet. In those days I had a tendency to exaggerate ha!
Anyhow, I grudgingly pulled my bag out of my broken down 1985 Volvo and proceeded to walk towards the back of the driving range, where Mr. Toski gave the majority of his lessons. I decided to get there about an hour before I was supposed to start my session but I got about halfway back when I heard a golf cart driving up behind me. “Mr. McInerney!” I turn my head and see that it was Bob. He must have seen me hanging my head and decided to get right at it. Bob would NEVER hesitate to give a student WAY more than you could expect from an incredibly busy coach. “Where have you been?” Bob asks me. “I’ve just been grinding away trying to figure this game out Mr. Toski.” Bob then said “Well, let’s go figure it out,” in a very confident and excited tone, “Let’s get it done!”
So, right off the bat, I already started feeling better. As great coaches do, Bob has a knack for saying the right thing at the right time.
As we were heading out to the back of the range, Bob and I went over the specifics of what I had been working on in my golf swing, what my miss was (where the ball was going when I hit it poorly), and what I thought might be going on to create that miss. I was hitting a massive slice at the time and for a player that was trying to take his game into a competitive arena, this was not a super good shot to have in the bag.
We spent a few more minutes sitting in the cart at the back of the range while I was finishing telling Bob my sob story. Bob then got out of the cart, even as I continued to rant about my life, he pulled out a 5-iron, and started ripping low bullet hooks. He then hits a few low stinger slices around one of the old tilted palm trees growing back there. He hits another hook, this time it was a towering one over a different palm tree. Then he hit a huge high slice around the same tree. He continues to mix up his shots, low right to left, high left to right, high right to left and so on. All the shots looked effortlessly struck with perfect divots. He hit all of these shots while asking me random questions about how my family was doing and talking to me about his cats.
After about a dozen shots or so, I finally caught on to what was going on here. Bob was giving me my goal for the day without saying a single word. Before I could finish laughing about how one of his cats was starting to really piss him off, Bob drops his brand spanking new 5-iron (which had the name Ryobi-Toski written on the back, his club brand, how cool is that?), and RUNS to the back of the golf cart.
He pulls a huge bushel of old beat-up Top Flight range balls from the back of the cart, dumps it out about 30 yards short of one of the palm trees he was firing balls under, over, and around, and starts kicking them all over the place. He then picks up one ball from the pile and guns it right at me. Luckily, I snag it before it knocked out the only real front tooth I had left (I lost the other one from my hockey days). He picks up another one and lobs it way up high in the air; I catch that one as well. He then says, “I’m done here, going to head back in and get some work done in my office.” Of course, I was a little caught off guard considering I had just flown down from Boston to see him for the day. He then hops in his cart and starts driving off before he turns around and says “I want you to aim at that red pin out there, and don’t move a single ball, play them all where they lie.” HE finished by saying, “Oh, and if you hit the tree, make sure you duck!” The tree was literally in the line of flight of every single golf ball I was about to hit.
Ok, so at this point, I’m sure you understand what Mr. Toski’s intention was. Needless to say, I hit the entire bushel of golf balls and I hit every shot towards the red flag I was ordered to take aim at. Nearly every single shot I had hit was either a hook or a slice to avoid the tree. I hit some low and some high. After a few hours, and about 300 shots, I actually left that range hitting the ball better than I ever had in my life. To that point, Mr. Toski didn’t give me a single piece of swing advice. Mr. Toski’s message to me was to be an athlete, be an artist, don’t think, just react. Hit golf shots and don’t think about making golf swings. The club face with an iron is flat and the ball is round. In racket sports like ping pong, tennis, or racket ball, I knew how to work a ball. I knew how to spin a tennis ball, I could hit it high or hit it low- without even thinking!
WOW! I cannot tell you how lucky I was to have a coach like Mr. Toski. Even though I had an intense desire to learn everything I could about the golf swing as a coach, this was a lesson that I never forgot. It changed the way I thought about the game forever. Unknowingly, it helped me develop into a multi-dimensional coach. He helped me understand how to make learning fun and golf even more fun. Mr. Toski also taught me how to think outside the box and problem solve.
To say I am grateful for Mr. Bob Toski in my life would be an understatement. His lessons are those that you never forget and he is a person that you NEVER forget. Every message he offers is delivered in a unique way. Every day that I coach, I remember one of Mr. Toski’s lessons and I try to pass on his wisdom.
Thank you Bob Toski!
Some of Mr. Toski’s books:
- How to Feel a Real Golf Swing
- How to Become a Complete Golfer
- Finding Your Own Fundamentals
- Bob Toski’s Complete Guide To Better Golf