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Thursday, 30 November 2017

Stewart Maiden: Bobby Jones' Teacher?

Stewart Maiden is regarded as Bobby Jones' teacher. But it's interesting to note how Bobby described their relationship in his book, Down the Fairway. Bobby wrote:

    "Stewart Maiden universally is termed my teacher, and the general idea is that Stewart started teaching me as soon as I was able to fall out of a cradle. This is quite wrong. Stewart never gave me a lesson in golf, though he has spent many hours, most of them profane, coaching me when I was in a slump with one club or another. I picked up my game watching him play, unconsciously as a monkey, and as imitatively. I grew up swinging as precisely like Stewart that when I was 15 years old and a chunky kid about Stewart's size and shape--I was playing in long pants in those days, as Stewart always has played--an old friend of Stewart's mistook me for him on the Roebuck Country Club course at Birmingham. I was playing in the southern amateur championship, or rather, I was playing a practice round before that tournament, and this man, who had not seen Stewart since he left Carnoustie, was standing by Dad as I was driving off the tenth tee in the distance.
     'When did Stewart Maiden get here?' he inquired.
     Dad told him Stewart was not there at all.
     'You can't fool me,' was the rejoinder. 'I saw Stewart drive just now from the tenth tee. Think I don't know that old Carnoustie swing?'
     'Nevertheless,' Dad told him, 'that happens to be my son Rob under that swing.'
     Stewart taught Alexa Stirling at the beginning of her golf career, and she too had 'the old Carnoustie swing.' Indeed, Alexa plays a good deal more like Stewart now than I do. I have changed some points in my swing, due to increasing differences--I am heavier than Stewart and wider across the shoulders and thicker in the chest. Perhaps in the head, too, as some of my alterations seem not to have worked out advantageously. In one regard, certainly, I went back two years ago to the old original Carnoustie style and got my drive just when it seemed an attack of smothering would drive me crazy."

I get a couple of things from reading this from Bobby. First, having a fine player as a model to imitate as a kid is very important. Secondly, Maiden was not only his swing model, but his coach when something in his game was "off." But Maiden never actually gave Bobby a "lesson." So Stewart may not have been Bobby's teacher per se. But he was his model and his coach. And, after all, what's in a name anyway?

You are fortunate if you start young and have a good swing to imitate. And you might also be sorry if, later on, you decide to alter that swing. My first swing model was my father, who was a pretty decent player. I then tried to swing it more closely like Jack, which wasn't a big change from my father's swing. I could really hit it from an early age. And I might have been a pretty good player had I been somewhere where I had good competition--and maybe been a bit more intelligent--and had golf not really just been more of a sideline for me when I wasn't playing baseball, and soccer, and rugby, and especially hockey. I really loved playing hockey.

In later life I made some swing changes to conform, in my mind at least, more to the modern tour swing--if there really is such a thing. My swing became flatter and more rotational. And I actually lost distance and ultimately buggered my back. I sure wish I could go back to swinging it more like Jack. If my back allows, I'm going to try to do just that next season.