Waikoloa Beach Resort

Waikoloa Beach Resort

The Gathering Place of the Kohala Coast

Naupaka News

July/August 2014

Play Golf Like A Champion

Play Golf Like A Champion

Left: May working with 2005 U.S. Women's Open Champion Birdie Kim

As anyone who plays golf regularly knows firsthand, the game can be both fun and frustrating … often on the same hole. We buy new clubs, spend hours at the practice range, and try every new swing technique we see on the Golf Channel … all in the hopes of shaving a few precious strokes off our handicaps.

One of the most effective ways of improving your game is taking lessons from a PGA professional; better yet, a professional who has played on the PGA Tour. For guests at Waikoloa Beach Resort, other hotels and resorts on the island, as well as for residents of Hawai`i Island, that opportunity is coming your way during the month of July, as the Bob May Golf Academy takes up residence at the Kings’ Course from July 2 - 31.

May burst into the national golf spotlight at the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla. Though he had played on the 1991 Walker Cup team (with Phil Mickelson) and won the British Masters in 1999, it was at Valhalla that he really shone. There, he tied Tiger Woods — then in the midst of an historic year — at the end of 72 holes and the two played what has become a legendary three-hole playoff. Though Tiger prevailed, May’s determination, calm demeanor, and shot-making skills impressed golf enthusiasts around the world, and inspired Sports Illustrated’s Alan Shipnuck to write, “May played like a champion. Woods played like a god…”

Mickey Holden from The Golf Channel prepares to interview May before this year’s PGA Championship

It looked like a turning point for May, a Southern California native who played his collegiate golf at Oklahoma State University. Indeed, he had breakout years on the PGA Tour in 2000, 2001, and 2002. In addition to pushing Tiger to the brink at the PGA Championship, he won more than $2 million in prize money and finished in the top 25 more than 20 times during that span, raising him to the elite level of the PGA Tour.

Unfortunately, he says, “I injured my back at the Byron Nelson in 2003 and didn’t touch a club for more than two years.” He made a comeback in 2006/2007, finishing second once and in the top 10 several times, but the pinched nerves he experienced a few years earlier and the nagging pain that ensued never really allowed him to compete at the level he knew he was capable of on a consistent basis. “Plus,” he says, “my kids were getting a little older and my focused shifted to them. I wanted to change my quality of life.”

Kim and hugging it out with Tiger Woods at the 2000 PGA Championship

The decision to start a golf academy and share his insights into the swing and the mental side of the game came to him one day on the practice range in his hometown of Las Vegas. “A buddy of mine who owned the course said, ‘You should open a golf academy,’” he says. So with his friend, Jeff Gallagher, another PGA Tour standout, he did just that. “I used to travel in a big bus when on Tour,” May says, “and Jeff used to travel with me quite a bit.”

The two traveling buddies launched the Bob May Golf Academy in 2012, with two locations now open in Las Vegas. As to his teaching philosophy, May says he learned a lot from the golf professional from whom he took lessons as a kid, Eddie Merrins. Affectionately known as “Little Pro,” Merrins espouses a method he calls “Swing the Handle” that is widely praised. “As a tour player, I don’t want to hear the swing goes here to there,” said Fred Couples. “I mean Swing the Handle, how much simpler can it get?”

But in addition to teaching swing mechanics, May equally emphasizes the mental side of the game. “I learned so much from Little Pro,” he says, “I was always thought of as a non-emotional player, but that’s what Little Pro taught me. He said he shouldn’t be able to tell if I was playing good or bad … you don’t want to be on an emotional roller coaster on the golf course.

“Getting nervous is natural, but it’s what you do with it that makes a difference. I’ve played in all the majors, and so I’m personally familiar with all the emotions that someone can have on a golf course. If you are properly prepared and emotionally in check, then you are ready to play your best and reach your goals. Winning a golf tournament is not the goal; winning a tournament is the reward for reaching your goals.”

Private, one-on-one lessons with Bob May for adults, juniors, and couples, as well as all-day clinics, all with “Trackman” performance analysis, can be scheduled by calling (702) 595-1950 (Las Vegas). Discounted package rates for multiple lessons with the same golfer are also available. See waikoloagolf.com for details

So while you may not be in a playoff with Tiger Woods anytime soon, nor playing against the best players in the world on the PGA Tour, May’s teaching philosophies can help you become a better player and reach your goals, whether those goals include breaking 100 for the first time or breaking 80 for the first time.

“I’m hoping to bring my knowledge of the game not only to the locals on the Big Island, but to guests of Waikoloa Beach Resort,” May says. “I feel very fortunate to have played at the highest levels of the game. But for me it is equally rewarding to be able to share my knowledge and give back to the game that has given so much to me.”

Spoken like a true champion.