Somewhere up there, is a proud Papa
byon 02-15-2011 at 07:48 PM (1896 Views)
First posted on the Forum on 01-18-2011, at 08:06 PM
I remember the day I came home from work to tell my Dad that I had finally figured out what I was going to do with my life. "I am going to teach golf. It is the only business where I can start in the middle." As true as that statement was, getting through the top half of the draw has been quite a bit tougher.
My Dad Biagio, who went by Basil because the nuns at St. Louis Cathedral "changed it" in first grade, and by "Tony" because that was his dad's name, never finished his first year of high school. His dad was a compulsive gambler, and had lost all the family's money so many times that his oldest two sons, my dad and his older brother "Pat," quit school and went to work to support the family. Although my Dad had a couple of shots to do what he wanted with his life after that, they were far too fleeting, and he spent his last 35+ years as the best "Linen Man" at the National Linen Service.
He really wanted better for me, and when I stumbled into the golf teaching biz, he was all for it. From as far back as I could remember, he talked everyday about me becoming the "best in the world" at something. Every move I made after that, was predicated on whether or not I could get to the top in that field. Those decisions were made as far back as first grade.
The school administrators at St. Mark's elementary wanted me to skip second and third grades, which my drum instructor was all for, because after a succesful TV talent show debut that year, he had visions of NOCCA and Julliard dancing in his head. I relented, mostly because I hated to "sight read" and liked football more. I was 7.
I was too small for D1 football, even though I started for a 4A High-School team at free safety at age 15, and my late start to full-time golf, as a freshman in college, made the PGA Tour look more like a dream and less like a plan. By that day I lucked into finding a talent I didn't know I had in teaching golf, I was the third man on the 90th ranked golf team in the country. I was 21.
My Dad had never taken a lesson, even though he was a solid 6 handicapper who played every free day he had. Why? Well, he watched some local lessons when he was a novice and was unimpressed. After getting me five lessons with four teachers over the previous ten years, he was less impressed.
He told me, "Look, these local guys are no contest for a young guy with some real idea of what to do. You just need to get your business going locally, and then you can go big time."
When my Dad passed away in January of 1987 at age 59, I was having a lot of local success and looked to be "on my way" as he would say. I was "on my way" all right, but we had no idea how long the route would be. I was 25.
By the time I went to see Ben Doyle for the first time in June of 1987, I realized that there was a really good chance that Ben was the best teacher in the world, or really close to being #1. It was obvious to me that he was also much further way from being considered as the best.
Now I had two goals. Become the best teacher in the world, and be acknowledged as such.
Well, a couple of years later along came Golf Magazine and a list of the best one-hundred teachers in the country. The "Top 100." When the list first came out I knew I had a chance to be on it.
Sure I did. Same chance I had to win a car in a hole-in-one contest.
So, every two years, I opened the magazine ever so slowly.....
Who in the world was I kidding? Nobody outside of a few dozen folks outside of New Orleans, or Louisville, knew who the heck I was.
I was learning new stuff every day, and getting better at teaching every day, but I was seemingly never ever going to crack that darn list.
Almost exactly 10 years ago, I remember sitting in Don Pablos' Mexican Restaurant on International Drive in Orlando the week of one of the 25 PGA Merchandise Shows I've attended. At the table was myself, Mike Finney, and Michael McLaughlin. We talked for two hours about how to get my name in the paper in Louisville, where I was teaching at the time. I was 39.
And then came my big break. The internet. I was surfing the web and came across a website talking about teaching and the golf swing. I registered and started typing away. I created quite a stir at a couple of sites before I started this one 8 years ago. I was 41.
Our dear pal Don Villavaso always told me, "The only way you can make any money in the golf teaching business is your Daddy has to own the Driving Range."
Don was right, like always.
I owned the Driving Range (website) this time.
Thanks to Ray Bauman, the first guy who came to take a lesson from the internet and then posted about it, I created a whole new business. Thanks to my ability to "come across" on camera, I started making, selling, and sometimes giving away videos.
The whole thing is just so right up my ally.
I can teach golf really well. I can explain it pretty darn good, and for a golf pro, I am a very good writer. I have some graphic design and video production ability, as well as some training in those things from my Marketing/Communications degree from UNO.
And thanks to all of the folks who visit the site, and click on things over four million times a month, the site is a pretty big deal, for a husband & wife doing it pretty much by themselves.
Trust me, if I don't meet my wife Lisa ten years ago (just before the Don Pablos' talk), I never, ever, EVER, go from worrying about getting my name in the Courier-Journal to here. No chance.
All those PGA Teaching & Coaching Summits I have attended (every damn one since 1988), all the swing talks with all the big name teachers asking me questions, all the smaller seminars, trips to see Ben, trips to learn from anyone I thought might know something, finally winning a PGA Section Teacher of the Year award, getting invited into AMF, talking at one of their seminars, taking at a TGM summit, a MIT summit, and three other PGA Section's teaching summits, dotting every "i" and crossing every "t," finally paid off.
On December 16, 2010, Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teacher Member Selection Committee, comprised of no less than 16 teachers, academic professionals and editorial staff, added Brian Manzella of New Orleans, Louisiana to GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers in America for 2011-2012. I was 49.
How about that!
Pretty cool stuff, huh?
Along with that honor, I was asked to do an advertorial piece for Hyundai and Golf Magazine with writer Evan Rothman. It is up on Golf.com as of January 18, 2011. LINK
It is quite a humbling honor, and a big step toward all of my long, long time goals.
I intend to make the most of the opportunities that will come with it, for the betterment of the game.
Somewhere up there, is a proud Papa.