Feature: Above Par: The 25 Best Local Golf Instructors

Merion and Pine Valley grab all the headlines, but the truth is, there’s a lot of great golf — and folks who teach it — all around Philly. As TY WENGER roams fairways far and wide in search of the top 10 area courses, LUKE SIRINIDES tees up the 25 best local instructors. Fore!

Harry Hammond
Penn Oaks Golf Club, 150 Penn Oaks Drive, West Chester, 610-399-8898, pennoaksgolfclub.com
Years Teaching: 44.
Backswing: 68 years old.
Started caddying at Kennett Square Country Club in 1953; became head pro at West Chester in 1963. “My focus has been on teaching and the club-professional aspect of it, meaning the business end. I teach, but I sell equipment and clothing to club members. I handle the budget and help run tournaments, so I’m involved in the whole process of golf.” Specialties: Working with kids. Taught a junior clinic in Phoenixville for 11 years, where as many as 200 young golfers learned the game from him each year. Scorecard: Four-time Philadelphia Section junior golf leader, an award given by the Philadelphia PGA to teachers who encourage young golfers; recipient, 1999 PGA of America Junior Golf Leader Award; elected to Philadelphia PGA Hall of Fame, 2001. Philosophy: “My goal is to teach to the individual. Just be patient with juniors, and reinforce good habits that benefit them in the future. You never talk down to a kid — you must always be encouraging.”

 

Lori Van Sickle
Broad Run Golfer’s Club, 1520 Tattersall Way, West Chester, 610-738-4410,
broadrungc.com

Years Teaching: 20.
Backswing: 46 years old.
This Wilmington, Delaware, native picked up the game relatively late — she was 21. “I was challenged, because it was the first sport I wasn’t able to pick up and be good at.” PGA of America’s first Certified Master Professional; played FUTURES Tour as well as two U.S. Amateurs and Mid-Amateurs. Former pro at DuPont Country Club and Inniscrone Golf Club in Avondale. Specialty: Finding the right swing — “Fitting a golf swing to the student, vs. fitting the student to a golf swing.” Scorecard: Golf for Women Top 50 Teachers, 2003-’07; Golf Digest Best Teachers in the State, 2004-’07; Top 50 U.S. Kids Teachers, 2004-’06 (U.S. Kids Golf organization). Philosophy: “I want people to take up golf because they want to play golf, not because of their parents or significant other, and to recognize that it’s a life sport.”

 

Bob Kramer
White Manor Country Club, 831 Providence Road, Malvern, 610-644-9795, whitemanorcc.com
Years Teaching: 24.
Backswing: 45 years old.
Grew up in Cherry Hill as the son of a golf pro, and right out of high school decided he wanted to teach. Currently White Manor’s director of instruction. Has trained some star clients, including LPGA Hall of Famer Betsy King and Scotland’s Catriona Matthew. Specialties: Working with women and juniors; strong record at helping kids score golf scholarships. Scorecard: Won Philadelphia PGA Teacher of the Year in 1998 and 2007. Named a Top Teacher in Pennsylvania by Golf Digest every year since 2000; nominated by Golf Magazine for its Top 100 Teachers for the past eight years. Philosophy: “I’m a total game teacher. I don’t believe in standing in front of a virtual tee. I teach a tense short game.”

 

Lou Guzzi
Talamore Country Club, 723 Talamore Drive, Ambler, 215-641-1300, talamorepa.com
Years Teaching: 25.
Backswing: 46 years old.
Tried golf with his high-school girlfriend; loved playing with her so much, he eventually married her. Has played competitively as an amateur. Specialty: Teaching aids and gadgetry. Can freeze-frame video of a student’s swing at any position to pinpoint areas of weakness. Vast digital database allows access to more than 100 other golfers for comparison. Scorecard: One of Golf Digest’s best instructors in the state; a Golf Magazine top regional teacher; named one of the top 50 instructors in the country by Golf Range magazine; 2003 Philadelphia PGA Teacher of the Year. Philosophy: “I want our studio to feel academic. I want students to experience a learning atmosphere, like they’re in a college classroom.”

 

Mike Dynda
Blue Bell Country Club, 1800 Tournament Drive, Blue Bell, 215-616-8100, bluebellcc.com

Years Teaching: 22.
Backswing: 42 years old.
Started playing at 14 when he got sick of baseball. Works with female golfers in the LPGA Tour; coaches men’s golf at Drexel. Specialties: Communication, time management, simplicity. Scorecard: Awarded USGA Medal in 1997 for U.S. Open Local Qualifying; 2005 Philadelphia PGA Teacher of the Year. Philosophy: “Keep it simple, focus on the basic fundamentals, and practice your ass off.”

 

Bob Pfister
The Golf Course at Glen Mills, 221 Glen Mills Road, Glen Mills, 610-558-2142,
glenmillsgolf.com

Years Teaching: 45.
Backswing: 67 years old.
Started playing at 12 while growing up in Buffalo. Caddied for six years at Orchard Park Country Club. Has played in two U.S. Senior Opens — 1990 (Ridgewood) and 1995 (Pinehurst) — and three PGA Senior Championships. Specialty: Calming nerves. “I build great relationships with students. Some, I’ve had since 1968.” Scorecard: Won Philadelphia PGA Senior Championship, 1993 and ’96; winner of the Skee Riegel Senior Player of the Year and was also named Most Improved Player from the Philadelphia PGA, 1993. Philosophy: “Just stick to the basics. Good grip. Good stance. Basic things. I don’t get into a lot of method teaching, though I do use Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons. If I have any philosophy beyond basics and fundamentals, it comes from this book.”

 

Ed Gibson
Applebrook Golf Club, 100 Line Road, Malvern, 610-647-7660, applebrookgolfclub.com
Years Teaching: 8.
Backswing: 30 years old.
Fell for golf while caddying at Commonwealth National Golf Club, and took it up at Bishop McDevitt in 1992. Specialties: Club fitting; junior programs and clinics. Scorecard: Philadelphia PGA’s Assistant Golf Professional of the Year, 2007. Philosophy: Based on the acronym PGA: “P is for posture, G is for grip, and A is for alignment. I focus on muscle control, flexibility and range of motion. If you can nail the backswing, downswing and finish, you’re most of the way to being a successful golfer.”

 

Will Reilly
Twining Valley Golf & Fitness Club, 1400 Twining Road, Dresher, 215-659-9917, twiningvalley.com
Years Teaching: 27.
Backswing: 44 years old.
The game is in his blood: His dad and two ­brothers are all PGA members, and his mother made history in the ’80s when, as golf coach at Bishop McDevitt, she got girls into the Philadelphia Catholic League. Serves on the Philadelphia PGA Instruction Committee and National PGA Junior Golf Committee. Chairs Philadelphia PGA Growth of the Game Committee, whose goal is to recruit new players. Specialty: Working with juniors. Teaches with the Philadelphia Boys & Girls “Clubs” golf program and helps out in the Kids on the Hill Program, which takes inner-city kids to suburban golf courses for eight weeks every summer to teach not only golf, but life skills. Scorecard: Won the national PGA Junior Golf Leader Award in 2005 and the President’s Plaque in 2007. Philosophy: Method is centered in one element: how power is created. “People use their hands for power, instead of using them for feel.” Tries to keep lessons simple and relaxing because, he says, “People already have stressful jobs.”

 

Mike Killian
Galloway National Golf Club, 270 South New York Road, Galloway,
609-748-1000, galloway-nationalgolf.com

Years Teaching: 35.
Backswing: 58 years old.
Florida native fell for the game at age 13 in 1963, when parents took him to the Masters and he watched Jack Nicklaus’s first victory at Augusta; declared his goal to play in the tournament one day and achieved it in 1973. Represented U.S. in Walker Cup (and won), 1973; played in U.S. Open in 1975-’76. Specialty: Diagnostics. “I listen to my students and watch them to figure out if they’re a body swinger, an arm swinger or a wrist swinger.” Scorecard: New Jersey PGA Teacher of the Year, 1995; a Golf Digest top teacher in the state for 21 consecutive years; nominated for Golf Magazine top teacher in state since 1990. Philosophy: “I believe people learn in four ways: through analysis, visually, through touch, and by mimicking. I try to cover all the bases, though I don’t work so much with mimicking, because people don’t come to watch me hit golf balls.”

 

Don DeAngelis
Wood’s Golf Center, 559 West Germantown Pike, Norristown, 610-279-0678, woodysgolfcenter.com
Years Teaching: 33.
Backswing: 56 years old.
Son of a golf pro in Lafayette Hill; began playing at age 10. Two years later, was competing at Philadelphia Junior events. Considers small frame (he’s five-foot-seven, 145 pounds) an advantage. Played in two U.S. Amateurs and the 1978 U.S. Open. Specialty: Swing setting. Scorecard: Won 1969 Philadelphia Junior, 1975 Philadelphia Patterson Cup, 1985 Pennsylvania Open; one of Golf Range magazine’s Top 50 Instructors in 2007. ­Philosophy: “There is no one swing for everyone. Everyone has different coordination levels, skill levels, ability levels. I believe consistency, brought on by repetition, leads to better playing.”

 

Cathy Reynolds
Ed Oliver Golf Club, 800 North DuPont Road, Wilmington, 302-571-9041, edolivergolfclub.com
Years Teaching: 12.
Backswing: 46 years old.
Introduced to the game at age 13 by her mom while growing up in Medford. (Mom needed a playing partner.) Teacher in LPGA’s Urban Youth Golf Program (now The First Tee) for 12 years. Specialties: Women and kids; beginners. Scorecard: Ranked third in the nation among female collegiate golfers while at the University of North Carolina, 1980; won the New Jersey Women’s Amateur in 1981 and Delaware Women’s Amateur in 1997, along with four straight South Jersey Women’s Amateurs, 1979-’82, and a Mid-Atlantic Women’s Amateur, 1993. Winner, Carrie P. Russell Compassion and Devotion Award from the LPGA Urban Youth Golf Program, 2001. Philosophy: “Golf does not have to be hard.”

 

Scott Nye
Merion Golf Club, 450 Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, 610-642-5600, meriongolfclub.com
Years Teaching: 23.
Backswing: 45 years old.
Dad Robert is a PGA golf professional named Golfweek magazine’s Father of the Year in 2007; one brother coaches golf at Penn State, another is golf pro at Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. “I have a really solid background for teaching golf because I had a lot of competitive experience as a younger golfer.” Specialty: Course management, short game, full swing — “I don’t have one method.” Goal is “getting players to understand the various parts of the game and how they fit together for maximum enjoyment.” Scorecard: Philadelphia PGA Section Horton Smith Award winner, 1996-’97; named one of the top 10 teachers in the state in 2000 by Golf Digest. Philosophy: “There are basic fundamentals that all golfers need, and they have to master those fundamentals. They can never lose sight of why they’re
out there.”

 

Mike Moses
Concord Country Club, 1601 Wilmington Pike, West Chester, 610-459-2200, concordclub.org
Years Teaching: 22.
Backswing: 45 years old.
Grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and started playing at age seven. Competed in PGA Regional Club Professional Championship; qualified for 2008 PGA Professional National Championship in Georgia this June. Former director of tournaments for Philadelphia PGA, 2004-’06; golf coach at Garnet Valley High School, Glen Mills, past five years. Specialties: Short game, course management, golf psychology. Scorecard: Named 2006 Philadelphia PGA Golf Pro of the Year; won 1992 Pennsylvania Open. Philosophy: “I try to get people to get better, and to have more fun while they’re playing golf. It’s not
life or death.”

 

Dom DiJulia
Dom DiJulia School of Golf, Jericho National Golf Club, 250 Brownsburg Road East, New Hope, 215-862-9045, dijuliagolf.com
Years Teaching: 18.
Backswing: 39 years old.
Newtown Square native picked up the game at 16. Saw golf as a never-ending opportunity to improve: “I love the pursuit of mastery.” Played mini-tours (South Florida) from 1995 to ’98 before teaching full-time. Specialties: Getting players out of their own way, “finding the block.” “The real skill is understanding the block can be anything; maybe the grip is off, maybe the clubs don’t fit, or a person can’t estimate yardage.” Scorecard: One of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers in America, 2007; one of Golf Digest’s “Top 20 Under 40,” 2007; PGA Master Professional in Instruction; Philadelphia PGA Teacher of the Year, 2002 and ’06. Philosophy: “I know what it’s like to be a student. I know what’s frustrating, what works, what’s missing. Everyone has his own right way.”

 

Bill Bishop
Freeway Golf Course, 1858 Sicklerville Road, Sicklerville, 856-227-1115, freewaygolfcourse.com
Years Teaching: 40.
Backswing: 81 years old.
Started playing at 11, when his grandfather was a caddy master at Americus Country Club in Americus, Georgia. Played in the United Golf Association Tour’s Philadelphia Section every year from 1955 to ’77. (UGA affectionately dubbed it “the Peanut Tour.”) In 1997, left to apprentice under Horace Smith at Freeway, the world’s first 18-hole minority-owned golf course, designed by Smith himself. A year later, Bishop made head pro. Specialty: Short game. Scorecard: Inducted by the National Black Golf Hall of Fame, 1987. Philosophy: “I am interested in breaking barriers. All kinds. Within the game of golf, everyone needs to break their own barriers to achieve their best game.”

 

Jim Smith Jr.
Philadelphia Cricket Club, golf facility located at 6025 West Valley Green Road, Flourtown, 215-247-6001, philacricket.com
Years Teaching: 17.
Backswing: 40 years old.
Played in college, where he found the game the right mix of challenge, competition, beauty and peace. Never sought professional career because he knew he wanted to be a club pro. Got his first head pro job at the Abington Club at age 24. Specialty: None. Scorecard: Philadelphia PGA Golf Pro of the Year, 2005. Philosophy: “A good teacher cares more about just getting someone to hit the ball better: A good teacher is a good coach. I’m not method-based, like many pros are. I don’t claim to be professional in one area, but rather I’m comfortable in every area. That’s the balance a student should have.”

 

Pete Coffee
Lower State Road Driving Range, 500 Lower State Road, North Wales, 215-643-9214, lowerstateroaddrivingrange.com
Years Teaching: 9.
Backswing: 41 years old.
Started playing at 13, when he also started caddying, then worked in the pro shop at LuLu Country Club. Grew up in Fort Washington. Instruction comes naturally: Both his parents were (non-golf) teachers. Loves the fact that in golf, you control your own game. “There is individual competition, the challenge of getting better, of improving your game over time, the fact that you can’t be at your best all the time, and the struggles you face when you’re not playing your best.” Specialties: Lefties (he’s ambidextrous); teaching the handicapped — he’s worked with amputees, the blind, the deaf and the Special Olympics. Emphasizes communication, organization, structure. Scorecard: Completed Philadelphia PGA PAT qualifier. Philosophy: “Find more consistency by eliminating wasted motion, and stick to the fundamentals for distance and accuracy.”

 

Jeff Kiddie
Aronimink Golf Club, 3600 St. Davids Road, Newtown Square, 610-356-8000, aronimink.org
Years Teaching: 14.
Backswing: 37 years old.
Raised in Rochester, New York, with a golf-pro father; has known nothing but golf from age eight. Specialty: Short game. Scorecard: Shy about tooting his own horn; says any honors he’s received “come from seeing my students grow.” Philosophy: “I want to make sure the student gets better, but also make sure the session is fun.”

 

Dave Seeman
Back Creek Golf Club, 101 Back Creek Drive, ­Middletown, 302-378-6499, backcreekgc.com
Years Teaching: 20.
Backswing: 45 years old.
Started playing at 10. As a child, moved across the street from a country club; his parents both worked and were going to get a babysitter, but he convinced them to let golf do the job. Played every day every summer for three years. Began caddying during high school; graduated to starter/ranger position at local club. Specialties: Tailoring swing to physique. “I try to compare the golf swing to other facets of a student’s life — another sport, dance. In short, body awareness. Good athletes who play other sports tend to have better hand-eye coordination, but cannot control their body motion consistently when it comes to the swing.” Scorecard: Named 2000 Teacher of the Year by Philadelphia section of PGA; based on praise from the section, was nominated in 2005 and ’07 for Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers. Philosophy: “Golf is a game of skill and competition. It’s the hardest game you’ll ever play. There are so many variables, and the movement is unnatural. That said, above all, it should be fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”

 

John Spina
Philadelphia Cricket Club, golf facility at 6025 West Valley Green Road, Flourtown, 215-247-6001, philacricket.com
Years Teaching: 16.
Backswing: 38 years old.
Grew up in King of Prussia; didn’t begin playing seriously until the late ’80s. Grad of West Chester U. (B.A. in education, class of ’92), where he explored golf as a social outlet. A PGA pro since 1993. Though good with novices, Spina only teaches club members. Specialties: Swing building, short game. Scorecard: Philadelphia PGA Teacher of the Year, 2004. Philosophy: “I use a lot of modern-day players as blueprints. I try to get my students to match them and view them as illustrations. I might use Adam Scott’s swing for a player with a similar body type, or if I have a shorter, stockier guy, we’ll look to Jason Gore. The process helps them, but it also creates a vision in my mind as a teacher.”

 

Gary Hardin
Northampton Country Club, 5049 William Penn Highway, Easton, 610-253-2583, northamptoncountryclub.org
Years Teaching: 30.
Backswing: 55 years old.
Took up game at seven (“part of father-son bonding”). Born in California, spent childhood in Annapolis; moved to Pennsylvania for junior high. Played the PGA Tour in 1980 and ’81, with no significant finishes. Head pro at his club. ­Specialties: Drawing out talent in players, from juniors through pro levels. “I have a good record with people who want to be a little more competitive.” Scorecard: Named Teacher of the Year by Philadelphia PGA, 1992. Philosophy: “I try to take what students have naturally and make that work to the best of their ability. And concentrate on fundamentals. I can’t offer anything groundbreaking, just plain practice, hard work, and hopefully enjoyment.”

 

Rebecca Dengler
Cape May National Golf Club, 834 Florence Avenue, Cape May, 609-884-1563, cmngc.com
Years Teaching: 20.
Backswing: 43 years old.
Raised in Northfield; started playing in high school. Loves golf because it’s “an individual sport; you really get out of it what you put in. It’s more of a thinking game than an athletic game.” Has a degree in mechanical engineering, which he applies to teaching methods. Has played in the Philadelphia PGA Tournament every year since he was 24. Specialty: Flexibility. “You need patience to teach a beginner, and knowledge to teach a pro. I’m still a student myself; I’m learning new techniques and use new knowledge.” Scorecard: Won the Philadelphia Open at Pine Valley in 2002. Philosophy: “I use my engineering to attack the areas of technique. The trick is, you have so many different kinds of people—visual learners, tactile learners. You have to get the message to a lot of different players. Some people need you to be technical, but beginners will be scared off by too much technical talk. Everyone has a different avenue.”

 

Rebecca Dengler
Ed Oliver Golf Club, 800 North DuPont Road, Wilmington, 302-571-9041, edolivergolfclub.com
Years Teaching: 18.
Backswing: 44 years old.
Began playing two years after graduating from high school in Cherry Hill: “I was always very athletic, and this was a new challenge.” Played competitively for a while, but “didn’t love it.” Has qualified for two USGA events; member of LPGA since 1991. Specialties: Tailoring programs based on playing level. “A beginner and a competitor need two different teachers. I try to be those teachers.” Scorecard: Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Region, 2003; Golf Digest’s number one teacher in Delaware, 2007-’08; LPGA sectional Teacher of the Year, 1996; honored by Golf for Women as four-time Top Teacher, 2000, ’03-’05. Philosophy: “I teach the game proportionately. A lot of people think they’re going to learn how to swing, but that’s only a small percentage of the game. I have a reputation for working with the mental aspects of the game, but no one has shown me yet how the mental and physical aspects can be separated.”

 

Pete Carmain
French Creek Golf Club, 4500 Conestoga Road, Elverson, 610-913-6330, frenchcreekgolf.com

Years Teaching:
10.
Backswing: 38 years old.
Grew up in Chicago and fell in love with golf “by complete accident. I was rehabbing a knee injury by walking, picked up an old set of clubs, and got hooked.” Played the 1990 Golden State Tour in California. Specialties: Junior and ladies’ clinics; video instruction. Scorecard: Sat on the board of the Assistants Committee of the Georgia PGA; nominated for Assistant Professional of the Year by the Georgia PGA; currently sits on the board of the Junior Golf Committee for the Philadelphia PGA. Philosophy: “Nail the basics: grip, stance, posture.”

 

Ted Sheftic
The Bridges Golf Club, 6729 York Road, Abbottstown, 717-891-0684, bridgesgc.com
Years Teaching: 44.
Backswing: 64 years old.
Picked up the game from his dad; started caddying at 16. Played the South American tour in the late 1960s, the Mexico tour in the early ’70s, and several Florida mini-tours. Specialty: Communication. “I have the best eyes in golf. I’m able to see swing flaws and correct them. I have a knack for getting people to feel the golf swing and hit the ball pretty well.” Scorecard: Teacher of the Year for the Philadelphia Section PGA in 1986, 1993 and 1999. Winner of Horton Smith Award, which recognizes contributions to golf education, 1998; Philadelphia Section PGA Central Counties Chapter Professional of the Year, 1987; on Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers list every year since 2003. Ranked number one teacher in the state by Golf Digest, 2007. Philosophy: Good fundamentals solve everything. “I subscribe to the four swing principles: impact, developing club head lag in the downswing, the swing pass, and using your body correctly—what I call ‘the pivot.’”

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