Hank Haney discusses upcoming season of TV show, congratulates HHIJGA’s early college signees

By Lance Hanlin

What do golfer Tiger Woods, actor Ray Romano, singer Adam Levine and boxer Sugar Ray Leonard have in common?

“They all have a certain attitude,” golf instructor Hank Haney said. “They all have a certain confidence, a certain work ethic. If you are going to be successful at anything, it doesn’t matter what it is, you have to have that attitude. Believe in yourself. Believe you can do it.”

Haney, best known as Woods’ swing coach for six years, has instructed several high-profile athletes and celebrities including Romano, Levine and Leonard on his popular Golf Channel show, “The Haney Project.”
His next pupil is the most decorated Olympian in history – retired swimmer Michael Phelps.

The fifth season of the show debuts in February. Haney spoke about Phelps, the upcoming season and all things golf during a welcome reception for the fifth annual Hank Haney Invitational on Dec. 7 at the Harbour Town Conference Center.

“When we go to play golf, when we go to practice, we go to a beautiful golf course -- to a beautiful setting,” Haney said. “We’re here at Harbour Town, one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world. That’s kind of always been my office. (Phelps’ coach) Bob Bowman told me he showed up at 6:30 in the morning and was there every day for six years, never missing a practice. And he wasn’t standing on the 18th green at Harbour Town. He was looking at the bottom of a pool. It’s incredible the time and effort you have to put in to be great. Nobody is born with it.”

Haney used Phelps as an example for students of his locally based Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy, following a dinner and reception honoring seven early college signees.

“When (Phelps) is practicing or working on his golf game, he never really gets discouraged about things,” Haney said. “Even if there is just a little progress, he’ll end the day and say, ‘You know what? Baby steps. If I take enough little steps, I’ll get some place.’ That’s the same philosophy that led him to being the greatest Olympian ever.”

Haney congratulated the academy’s early signees -- Ben Dietrich (South Carolina), Matthew Rushton (Notre Dame), Michael Werenski (Texas A&M), Ayaka Nakayama (Central Florida), Poom Pattaropong (James Madison), Fatin Amin (Tampa) and Olivia Landino (Western Carolina).

“It’s great to see when players and students accomplish their dreams,” Haney said. “Your dreams can get accomplished, but only if you have a plan. This is obviously the best year we’ve had at our academy.”

The International Junior Golf Academy opened in 1995 and has trained more than 2,000 junior golfers from all over the world. Many students have gone on to play collegiate and professional golf, including current LPGA Tour stars In-Kyung Kim, Song-Hee Kim and Shanshan Feng, Haney joined the IJGA in 2007 and lent his name to the business.

Full-time students train at Pinecrest Golf Club in Bluffton and attend school at Heritage Academy on Hilton Head Island. On weekends, students regularly compete on the International Junior Golf Tour and other select American Junior Golf Association events.

Haney feels all golfers can improve if given the correct instruction.  

“I’ve never seen anybody that can’t get better,” he said. “Well, maybe Charles Barkley. I mean, he wasn’t too good. Maybe he’s the one guy. When we first started on my show, he said to me, ‘Hank, the Golf Channel says I have the worst golf swing in the world.’ Then he sat there and thought about it. ‘But they couldn’t have seen everybody in the world.’ I said, ‘I don’t know Charles, they may be right.’”

Haney spoke on the importance of managing the game and making the most of the bad days by eliminating penalty strokes, two-chips and three-putts. Golf’s biggest challenge? Playing one shot at a time.

“It’s easy to say but it’s hard to do,” he said. “If you find yourself in the mode of looking at the holes coming up or looking back at bad shots, you need to get out of it. Try to string a bunch of shots together where you really play one shot at a time. When you get off it, start the whole process over again.”

He also said it’s normal to be nervous, no matter how much you play.

“It’s just human nature,” Haney said. “Actually, you play the game so you can be nervous. You hope that you’re nervous, not just on the first tee, but on the last green on Sunday and you have a chance to win.”

In addition to being director of instruction at the HHIJGA, Haney owns and is president of Hank Haney Golf Inc., which owns and operates five golf facilities in Texas. He writes instructional golf articles for Golf Digest, has authored five books and has a video game named after him.

Before coaching Woods for six years, his most famous student was two-time major champion winner Mark O’Meara.

“I do a lot of teaching seminars to help coaches coach,” Haney said. “They always ask what has been key to achieve the success I’ve achieved. I always tell them the same thing. I’ve been a really hard trier. If you try really hard and stay after it, you can achieve great things.”


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