Pro advice from a local pro

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

The members of the Selma Country Club have the rare opportunity to receive instruction from a club pro that is one of their own.

Tommy Burns is a native of Selma and has been around golf all his life. His father started in 1952 at the Riverside Country Club in Lanett. In 1955, his father became Selma Country Club’s pro.

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“I’ve been here at the club all my life,” said Burns.

After observing his father’s work, Burns began his own path to becoming a golf professional. he worked under Selma native Bob Woodfin at Trumbull Country Club in Warren, Ohio. He returned to Selma to work for his father in 1974 and took over as head professional in 1993.

Today, aspiring club pros can acquire training through the Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA), but Burns was trained through an alternative method.

“I basically learned the business through hard knocks,” said Burns. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I try not to make the same mistake twice.”

Playing golf is not the same as knowing how to teach golf. Club pros need the ability to break down many variables.

“You’ve got to know how to teach. It’s nothing you will learn in school or the first year,” said Burns. “It’s a lifetime of learning. You don’t graduate.”

Though his clientele is wide-ranging, there is only one group that gives Burns’ expertise a mental workout – the left-hander.

“All my terminology has to be exactly reversed,” said Burns. “If I’m used to saying turn your right hand, I’ve got to remember to say left instead.”

Another hurdle left-handers often encounter is equipment selection.

“I want all my kids to play right-handed if possible. The golf industry really caters to right-handers,” said Burns. “If you’re left-handed, equipment choice is limited, and reliance on used clubs increases.”

Some of Burns’s 17-and-under protgs will be tested this week in the Bud Burns Dixie Junior Invitational. The tournament will have more than 100 participants competing to take home the Paul Grist Trophy, which goes to the Selma boy that makes the best showing, most improvement and best exemplifies the excellence that Grist personified.