Hank Haney was eager to meet his new students at the International Junior Golf Academy and hoped they wanted to get to know a little about him. Instead, he had to answer questions about his most famous pupil.
"Every single person asked a question about Tiger Woods," Haney said this week.
Haney, who helped groove Woods' swing for the past 3½ years, took over last month as the academy's director of instruction, hopeful he can bring some of what he's taught Woods to a new generation of ball strikers.
When academy officials wondered if 52-year-old Haney wanted to squeeze in teaching 160 or so juniors while refining Woods' swing, running a Dallas golf instruction business and heading up the ESPN Golf Schools, Haney made one request: He wanted to dive in full time.
"If I'm going to do this, I want to be involved a meaningful amount of time with the kids," Haney said. "I'm not interested in just putting my name on something."
Haney has already purchased a house nearby and believes his plan to spend at least two days a month at the academy will grow over time.
"I like teaching kids," Haney said.
Academy students and teachers were thrilled that Woods' swing coach will work with them. "I get goose bumps talking about it," said Matt Fields, the academy's assistant director.
Haney has a long connection with Woods. He taught Woods' junior golf friends, the Kuehne kids - U.S. LPGA player Kelli, 1998 U.S. Amateur champ Hank, and 1994 U.S. Amateur runner-up Trip. Perhaps most importantly, Haney taught Woods' friend and two-time major champion, Mark O'Meara.
"Mark was obviously the one that really made my career go," Haney said. "I probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to help Tiger" if not for O'Meara.
Haney doesn't expect his time with Woods to conflict with his new duties.
The revamped U.S. PGA Tour schedule and FedEx Cup competition ends with the U.S. Tour Championship in mid-September, about the start of the academy's school year. And Haney's association with ESPN schools ends after this year.
A good working schedule with Woods should also leave Haney ample time for the juniors, some of whom pay as much as $47,000 (34,000 EUR) a year to live, go to school and train at the academy's facility on Hilton Head Island.
Haney worked with students on Monday and Tuesday before joining Woods for a week of British Open preparation work.
"Tiger's like the best player and he (Haney) can still get him to improve," said 17-year-old Jenny Feng from China, at the academy for the past four months. "He'll really make us improve, too."
Haney plans to review each student's form every month. One of Haney's gifts, he says, is sizing up someone's game after watching one swing. A video center at his Dallas facility will make podcasts and Web-based instruction available to the juniors "even when I'm not with them."
Haney takes over for Gary Gilchrist, who left to spend more time working with his pro students, including recent U.S. LPGA Championship winner Suzann Pettersen of Norway.
Haney's not sure he'll find the next Woods on the academy's practice green, but he's certain he can improve students' prospects - on and off the course.
"The thing I always talk about is golf is the best vehicle there is for young people to learn life skills," Haney said.
Haney hasn't stopped learning, either. During a recent visit, Haney's game impressed Woods.
"Wow, where'd you get that?" Haney recalled the world's No. 1 player asking.
"I'm not blind," Haney says, "I'm watching what you're doing."
Woods has long shown a willingness to accept instruction, something Haney expects to see out of his new students.
Woods "doesn't care about what he's done. He doesn't care about where he's been. He doesn't care about how good he is. He only cares about, 'What do I need to do today to be better than I was yesterday,"' Haney said.
"That's his whole philosophy," Haney continued. "When you think about it, that's every kid at our academy."
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