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Whether you like his style or not, enigmatic golf pro Alec Katzman will get you thinking with his “pull no punches” brand of communication.  I caught up with Alec following the launch of his new project Golf Detox (www.golfdetox.com), an online discussion forum with individualized golf instruction.  This is the first of a two part interview with the self described “dinosaur old school golf pro”.

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PGT: How did you learn the game? Who were your influences growing up and how did your swing evolve?

AK: My first teacher was my grandfather, he gave me a cut down set of Chi Chi Rodriguez Northwesterns for my seventh birthday and we would go to the driving range and the practice greens every Saturday for the better part of a year. I had some ability and I loved spending time with him but the grips on the clubs made my hands hurt terribly so I started losing interest in hitting balls. Eventually I convinced my grandfather to take me fishing instead and I didn’t touch a club again until I was fourteen.

My family had moved from Los Angeles to Sonora, CA and the house they bought sat on the fourth fairway of the local nine holer. The course had been purchased the previous year by Chris Bitticks, he had left San Jose where he was the head pro at Santa Teresa GC and had been the golf coach at Santa Clara University. He was incredibly generous and the golf course and lessons were there for the taking for any young person interested. Within a year I had given up baseball & tennis, the sports I had been playing and was devoted to golf only.

I don’t know if I had any real influences, I would watch the tournaments on television, Greg Norman, Fred Couples & Nick Faldo were pretty big at the time but the only thing I really cared about was beating the other kids in the neighborhood and practicing and playing as much as I could. I had no idea what I was doing, I would shoot even par one day & 90 the next and I just wanted more of the former and less of the latter. Chris was big on self discovery and I spent my first year of lessons bashing the driver he gave me on the range as hard as I could. It was an old Wilson persimmon with a 44″ tipped X shaft and all I did was wail on it, practice chipping & putting and play. By the end of that first year I could hit it 280 in any direction & hadn’t even considered mechanics and technique. By the time I graduated high school I had developed some basic mechanics but not much. If I was going to earn a spot on a college team I had to learn how to swing a club properly and do it in short order. The first step was meeting Tom Quinn, he co-wrote How to Perfect Your Golf Swing with Jimmy Ballard.

That was the beginning of a lifelong interest in understanding and studying great golf swings and what makes them great and how they work. I’m still trying to figure it out.. I’ve found out more than I set out to and figured out the more you learn the more you discover you still don’t know very much at all. I’m a student of golf, I always will be.

PGT: Was there a moment in time when you thought you might be good enough to playing for a living? Maybe a particular moment in a collegiate event or a sustained run of good play?

AK: Hell no.. I barely made All Conference in the WCC my Sr season, I missed the NCAA individuals for the third straight year and that was my best season by far. I had good rounds but was hot & cold, inconsistent and had no idea who was going to show up on any given day. That summer I qualified for the Calif & US Ams, missed the cut for the match play in Monterey and got boat raced 7&6 in the second round of the US Am by a high school kid, that’s all I got to say about that.. Would you care for a choc-olate?

I still had to finish my last semester the following fall and graduate in December. I was already working a couple of jobs in San Francisco where I had already moved. I wanted to keep playing golf of course but I didn’t really like the Am events, I figured I would give up my Am Status & play some dinky mini tour stuff around California when I could and if I managed to play well at least I would make enough money to break even on the travel expenses.

I wanted to do something exciting for a graduation celebration, something that if I didn’t do then I wouldn’t ever do. I decided to go to England and enter in the first stage of Q School for the European Tour at the Manchester site. All I wanted to do was go over, pretend to be a real golf pro for three days and take a bunch of pictures that I could laugh at and tell stories about for the rest of my life, possibly beat one guy then take the trains all around the country for a few weeks and see everything I could like any other tourist.

Funny thing happened in Manchester, I shot two under for the three days in terrible weather and qualified easily for Q2 in Barcelona. I played even better in Barca at a beautiful brand new Bernhard Langer course, shot a pair of 68s and got my ticket punched to the final stage down by Gibraltar. Then I got terrified, everything got really real all of the sudden, I was out of money, I was getting interview requests and phone calls from people speaking languages I didn’t understand at all and I wanted to quit and fly back home to the States but no one back home would let me. My folks sent me money to stay in Spain & get down south but only on the condition that I played and made it and got my card. I almost kept the promise, I got a card for the Challenge Tour, the wildest, craziest, worst organized or it was at the time, most all over the map tour in the world. I was so green and unprepared I didn’t even know the Challenge existed until the tournament officials came over to congratulate me on qualifying for it. I’m sure their views of Americans were lowered even further by my total ignorance and cluelessness.

PGT: Talk about your time on tour. What tours did you play on and where did you have the most success? Was there a particular type of course that favored your game?

AK: This would be the books I’m going to write as soon as I figure out how to do it. Check the 75% off section of Amazon Sports Books in 2015..

Playing well is the elusive thing.. Unless you’re Tiger Woods you never know when or where you will play well and even he doesn’t know all the time. I like hard almost unfair courses and bad weather, I feel like I’m one of the stronger guys mentally wherever I go and the harder and uglier it gets the more it suits me and gives me an advantage. That doesn’t mean that’s how it ends up at the end of the day though. But aside from that I like courses that force you to work it both ways and make a lot of decisions. I like the strategy aspect and I don’t care for TPCs and Nicklaus courses that have stupid artificial hazards that don’t make a whole lot of sense and force you to hit approaches a mile high and bring them straight down hole after hole into huge greens which have been overbuilt. I like most of the Arnold Palmer and Weiskopf/Morrish courses I’ve played and the links courses in Britain of course.

PGT: If you could go back and repeat your time on tour, what would you change, if anything (in regards to where you played, how you practiced, how you kept your body in shape, etc.)?

AK: Two things: I would have asked my parents to put me in leg braces when I was four so I wasn’t knock kneed and duck footed & I would never have started smoking. Other than that I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s a game and a great game, anything you get out of it is a gift you cherish.

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End Part 1

 

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