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Faxon Schools the Kids

Brad Faxon had a captive audience during his clinic at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.

March 22, 2011

By Laury Livsey, PGA TOUR Staff

ORLANDO, Fla.—After telling the kids gathered on the driving range at the Bay Hill Club on a sunny Monday that he’s “49 and a half,” Brad Faxon decided to tell a story.

When one of the kids attending the clinic in conjunction with this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard asked the New England native how old he was when he first started playing golf, Faxon shared an experience from his teenage years.

“When I was 14, I was playing in a tournament in Rhode Island. So I’m playing in a match in the State Junior. I’m in the semifinals, and I’m two down with two holes to go.

“I got up on the 17th hole,” Faxon continued, “and I had just three-putted the 16th hole. I had lost the hole, and I was mad. I’m up on the tee, I hit my drive and I top it. It bounced along the grass. So do you know what I did with my club? I slammed it against the ground and it broke.”

Faxon proceeded to share details of that match, how he recovered from his awful drive, scrambled to win the hole, tied the match on the 18th hole and then won in sudden-death.

“I was very lucky to win, and you know what my dad said to me after the match? He said, ‘If you ever get mad like that, you’ll never play golf again.’ And that’s the last club I ever broke.” Faxon said.

With The First Tee’s nine core values in the minds of many of the kids attending the clinic, Faxon’s story and his fit of pique as a teenager would fall under—or wouldn’t, as it were—Integrity, Sportsmanship, Respect or Courtesy. Take your pick.

Faxon spent all 45 minutes with an ease that comes from someone who has participated in dozens of these types of clinics. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s one of the nicest guys on the PGA TOUR. But he wasn’t there strictly to entertain. He had a distinct message, and it came in the form of a flurry of the questions he posed:

“How many of you plan on staying in school through high school?

“How many of you are going to go to college?

“How many of you are going to have unbelievably great grades?

“And you’re not going to mess around with the bad stuff, are you?”

Enthusiastic nods and raised hands showed that the kids got the point.

If school is important, then math must be important, Faxon reasoned, so he said, “If I’m 49, how many years ago was it when I broke that club? Remember, I was 14?”

The group’s collective brains were churning, and one of the middle schoolers quickly figured it out. “Thirty-five,” she said confidently.”

“Great. We have a mathematician,” Faxon said.

That, ahem, summed up the theme of his clinic. Faxon would hit a few shots and then mention the value of education. He would take a couple of questions and quickly return to the importance of doing well in school. He invited Alex and Emily and Trey from the crowd to take a few swings, and even 5-year-old Palmer took a couple of mighty whacks. No kidding. A little boy named Palmer attended the clinic at Bay Hill and ended up front and center hitting with the plastic Starting New At Golf clubs and the colored tennis balls provided by The First Tee.

And then Faxon was back on point again, emphasizing studying and working hard.

“I’ve done a lot of these, and talking about school and talking about staying away from drugs is important,” Faxon said.

With the clinic winding down, seemingly from nowhere, a grade-school-age boy hollered out, “Are you Tony Hawk’s father?”

Faxon immediately recognized the name of the skateboarding legend, knowing he bears more than a passing resemblance to Hawk. All Faxon could do was laugh while repeating the question. “Am I Tony Hawk’s father? Hey, he’s older than I am.”

Actually, um, that’s not quite true. You can look it up. Faxon was born in 1961 and Hawk in 1968.

And if necessary, we can find someone to do the math.


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