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Monday, February 09, 2009

Lietzke vs. the Clones

Back in the day, it was popular to contrast pro golfer Bruce Lietzke with the younger generation of well-coached, pure-hitting "Clones" on the PGA Tour. (Today the examples used are Jim Furyk, with that funny swing, and Carlos Franco, who never practices.) Lietzke, listed at 6'2" and an unmuscular 205 lbs., is known for rarely practicing. His golf swing, a natural fade bordering on a slice, reminds you of, well, your own swing. Lietzke, faults and all, finished in the top 10 an incredible 127 times, winning 13 times, and making a comfortable living with $6.5 million in total prize money. (On the over-50 Champions Tour, he has made over $7 million playing one-third the events for senior tour purses...which doesn't say much more than, man, were those guys underpaid in the old days.)

Thinking about how the Lietzkes of the world always seem to give way to the Clones is always cause for lament, in any profession. As things are professionalized, people learn to do the right things, follow best practices, to be "above reproach (to sheepwalk)." And there is less and less room for the Lietzkes of the world with big personalities, big talent, and time for everybody in their lives... not just their swing coach.

Lietzke himself says it best: "If I had the motivation and the work ethic of Tom Kite, I could have been unbelievable or maybe you would never have heard of me. Everybody has to make those decisions on their own."

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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