Where do I even begin… sitting with me today is not only an incredible golfer, but an award winning and highly respected golf coach. From being a recent Illinois PGA teacher of the year to having honorable mention as a Top Kids Teacher by U.S. Kids Golf, this guy just continues to learn and grow as a golf instructor. If you are familiar with CORE Golf, then you are familiar with his work. He is also associated with Mizuno, and has worked with endless high school kids getting them all prepared for college golf. Oh yeah, and he is a pretty solid player himself having played in over 600 tournaments. He is a 4 time qualifier of the PGA Professional National Champion. I could talk about his accomplishments all day. This is a new concept for me here, interviewing PGA teaching professionals… I figured no better place to start than with my good friend Brett Packee.
I had this idea a few weeks ago… to interview PGA teaching professionals. I have worked with tons of bands, but never a teaching pro. Funny thing is… you are all artists in my book. Brett, you are the first person I have interviewed in this space. Are you excited for the interview?
I am very excited and honored to be your first PGA teaching professional interview. My website, social media accounts and contacts have made great strides in the last 12 months, and you personally are a huge part of it all. As you said, we are all artists… that is for sure. Just don’t ask me to sing or play an instrument as I have zero, and I do mean ZERO musical talent.
How long have you been teaching?
I turned professional in 1989, so I am entering my 23d year as a golf professional. I have been teaching since my very first days as a pro. I received my PGA membership in 1997 and founded CORE Golf, Inc. in 2000 which is when teaching became my full time focus. Golf professionals wear many hats and I chose to make teaching (and coaching) my passion.
What made you decide to get into teaching the game?
I have always loved teaching and helping others. I shared the following story during my speech upon winning the 2008 Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year award:
“I have always loved teaching, and I guess it runs in my blood… my sister is a school teacher, my aunt and uncle were school teachers and once in college, my dad got schooled by Jack Nicklaus.”
Serious – true story, my dad once played against Jack Nicklaus and got smoked. Anyway, in high school my dad was always on my case to worry about my own game rather than my teammates but I always wanted to help them play better. This was still the same in college so I guess it was foreshadowing of things to come.
Someone surely had to teach you… and after what I saw of you at the last Golf Business Network summit in Orlando, you are still being taught and are always learning. Who was your first and your most inspirational instructor?
I had many teachers growing up. Times were different back then and I bounced around many professionals. My dad certainly was the mainstay during my career – he is still involved in my game today, and still plays a ton of golf. I would say he helped me the most by providing opportunities to work on my game and other professionals. As for other professionals, my first lessons were with a PGA professional named Shelby Futch who later went on to start the John Jacobs Golf Schools. During high school, I took lessons with Earl Puckett (former head pro at Twin Orchard Country Club) stand out and are still in my memory today. That is the amazing thing about great teachers, I can still remember lessons (where I was standing, what the information was, and drills I was given) from 20-25 years ago! What an impact those professionals made on me, and I hope I have the same on my students today.
Being a golfer, I bet you watch a lot of golf on TV. Who are you rooting for? Who are some of your favorite players?
Ironically, I do not watch a lot of golf on TV. Being in the service industry I work most Saturdays and Sundays. I block off time Masters Sunday of course and I love the British Open when it comes on at 5:00 AM local time. I am a huge Ryder Cup fan as well but that is about it for golf on TV for me. As for players, I coached at Northwestern University when Luke Donald was there and spent a lot of time with him. He is a great player and even a better person; I am a huge fan. I am also a fan of the new bread, guys like Fowler, Woodland, Mahan, and Watson. They bring a lot of charisma and color to the game and the game needs that.
You do a lot of work with high school students. Any reason you focused in on that niche?
Best question yet. Coaching in golf is basically non-existent. In high school most coaches are teachers or administrators who “coach golf” for some extra income. They don’t really know the game, maybe they play on occasion. Even at the college level, a lot of coaches are not full time. My college coach was nothing more than a chaperon who could not break 100… that was at a top Division 1 university. Basically, I never had a coach in my entire golf career – just a few teachers along the way. When I started coaching at Northwestern, and saw first hand the impact great golf professionals who coached could have on players, I was hooked. While at NU, I saw the team continue to get better and consistently ranked as a top 20 golf program. Pretty good for one of the top academic schools and being from the north. College coaching was not for me and I realized junior golfers needed more than a teacher, they needed a coach. Someone who watched them play and compete, run practice, maintaining their focus on goals, and so much more. In life, you learn more from adversity than accomplishments and I feel my lack of coaching at the junior golf, high school, and college levels lead me to what I do today.
Tell me a little bit more about CORE Golf.
Well, I founded CORE Golf – an acronym for “creating opportunities for reaching excellence” while coaching at Northwestern. I wanted junior golfers to have more opportunities and more than just a teacher. Originally CORE was year round coaching, teaching, junior golf tour(s), and camps. As more junior golf tours and camps developed, I switched my focus to teaching and coaching. Now instruction falls under Brett Packee Golf and coaching is under the CORE umbrella. I cannot stress enough the differences between teaching and coaching and this branding helps identify all that I do.
I don’t play enough to justify lessons… I bet I play 5 times a year, if that. How many rounds a year do you get in?
Well I play around 20 tournament rounds per year through our Illinois PGA plus a few national events if I can qualify. I play a lot of 9 hole rounds with students either teaching or coaching and that is about it. I play less than 4 social rounds a year and don’t have much time for practice rounds.
Starting with your driver, what’s in your bag? I want to know all the clubs… the golf ball too!
Ball is PRO V1X right now but I played the Callaway ball for 10 years. Golf balls are all about the same; I have demoed the Srixon ball and liked it a lot. 2012 is up in the air right now.
I am an equipment junkie, that’s for sure. I try everything but it must be great to get “in the bag”. I am a huge fan of Mizuno irons and wedges. I just feel they are the best. As for woods I don’t like to change much; it takes a lot of time to get used to something and in my opinion if it makes my bag it must be good, why change? I am also a fan of Titleist and Ping, I like their product and the way they do business.
In the Bag right now:
- Driver – Titleist 910 D3 with Aldila RIP shaft 60x. Standard length. Love this club!
- 3 wood – Titleist 907 f2 from about 4 years ago. Nothing can beat it!
- Hybrids – Mizuno from about 3 years ago 17 and 20 with white Fubuki shafts. These are great and I switch between the two depending on course and wind.
- Irons – 4-pw Mizuno MP 63 plus ½” 2 upright Dynamic Gold x100 soft stepped / 3 iron – MP 53 same specs as rest of irons.
- Wedges – Mizuno T11 53 and 59 same specs as other irons
- Putter – Taylor Made Rossa Ghost bent to 1 loft and 2 flat.
What’s the best course you have ever played? What did you shoot?
When I look at “best courses” there are so many I enjoy for various reasons. I like uniqueness, something that identifies the course (walking only, tee boxes, cool trees, bunkers, etc.) My top five are Spyglass (shot 70 last spring) because where else can you journey down to the ocean and end up in the Pines of North Carolina? I like Old Elm (68 is my low) in Chicago because it is 6,300 yards par 73, old school Donald Ross where all the greens run off to the next tee box; so cool and extremely fun to play which is something lost in golf course design today. Others would be Riviera in LA (never played but caddied in LA Open there.) Best trees in the world! I also got to play Olympic Club in San Fran last spring (host of the US Open this year.) It is a very special place. Lastly would be Whistling Straights in Sheboygen, Wisconsin. Just a great place on the banks of Lake Michigan and being from the midwest, I think it is pretty cool. Never broken 80 because it’s 7,500 yards of terror and wind!
You are killing it with all of the social media stuff. Do you prefer any one social network to another?
I am really into Twitter and my blog… they are tops. Facebook confuses me as I don’t like to mix business, business news, new ideas with friends and vice versa. That is exactly what has happened. I don’t think my friends want to be bothered with what is new in golf or see a lesson tip when they don’t play golf, and I certainly don’t want to hear about someone’s dog being sick on my business page. I do like the golf groups I follow on Facebook, so that is a plus.
You went to the University of Miami. Now you live in Chicago. Why did you move back to the Midwest?
Well I love the Midwest and all it stands for. I was not really a fan of the south and year round golf. I played a couple of tournaments over Christmas growing up and I just could not get used to seeing a Christmas tree up when it was 80 out! I really like the seasons and winter, although I would love to see it end a little earlier than it does. Our first tournament of the year (April 13th) was snowed out this year. That gets old.
I bet the winters in the Windy City get rough… how do you teach in the winter?
I have an indoor studio where we use a lot of video to make the changes necessary. We also work on putting and shortgame. My teaching plan really follows the seasons as well. Winter we make huge changes with a lot of video, in the spring we work on short game and putting, in the summer we focus on maintaining our swing positions and address any issues, and in the fall we assess the year and plan for winter training. Teaching and playing year round has some benefit but I like my plan better. When every day you can play or compete, when do you take a break and make changes?
You were the 2008 Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year. What was that like? Is that something you apply for or is that something they just hand out every year?
Winning the award was a great honor as you are selected and nominated by your peers. You then submit a portfolio of information of which the board then votes. It is a great honor to be nominated by your peers and that your accomplishments and work do not go unnoticed. The first time I was nominated, I had never met the pro before which just shows people pay attention. The process of winning any PGA award is very difficult. When I won the IPGA Assistant Player of the Year, that was based on points earned in each tournament. I had a great year playing. Both awards hold special meanings and I am most proud of being the first Illinois PGA Professional to win both a playing and a teaching award.
I know you are a beer drinker… what’s your favorite beer?
Boy that is a tough one. In the winter it is hard to beat a Guinness. In the fall the Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest (from Wisconsin) or Sam Adams… but if I had to pick one beer year round it would have to be Chimay, Red or Blue. The trappist monks do it right!
What does the future hold for Brett Packee? What techniques are you using to grow your business and to increase your number of students?
Last year I changed the focus of what I do by creating two different brands – Teaching by Brett Packee Golf and Coaching by CORE Golf. These are very separate but related businesses and will help people find me and identify all my programs. I will be looking to hire a full time coach to run all my CORE programs such as a travel team, camps, youth golf, and more. This will be a huge step for me and will take some time to get the ball rolling. My new website (designed team at IMAVEX) has been great and just recently the addition of my blog and video has had a huge impact on visibility. I learn more about social media every day and I am sure the time and energy spent on it will pay off down the line. I would like to have my own teaching facility someday, so that is always part of the plan.
Will I see you at the 2012 PGA Merchandise Show this January?
I will not be attending the show. I have not gone in years.It would be a great networking week but the expense of travel and the cost of giving up a week a lessons is not something I can justify at this time. Should be a great show though; tons of product and great professionals.
Tell me about your recent relationship with Swing Fix and the Golf Channel.
Well this could be the future in golf instruction. This is a very new concept of ELITE golf instructors giving golf lessons online with students all over the world. I feel very confident that this business will succeed simply because the consumer wins by being able to “take a lesson” on their own time at a very reasonable cost, while the professional wins by reaching students they never would have met and conducting online lessons at off peak hours. It is a win-win and that usually spells business success. It is also amazing to think with the quality of video cameras available in smart phones, students can film themselves hitting golf balls, upload the swings, and pick an instructor across the country to analyze their swing. The quality is great, turn around time is 24 hours, and the amount of interaction is endless. You will love it… just make sure to select me as your instructor! You can go to www.swingpal.com for more information.
Let’s go back to GBN for a second. You are a GBN member. The guys over there have done a great job with continued education and hosting some events at some of the nicest clubs in the country. How did you hear about GBN? What are some of the highlights being a GBN member?
GBN is a great concept where elite golf professionals and teaching professionals can continue lifelong learning (a personal key in life for me) and share ideas and concepts with each other. I first heard about GBN from another pro who thought they could help me with putting together a better focus and business plan. The last teaching summit I got to spend some quality time with some of the best teachers in the world and you can’t put a price on that.
What would you be doing if you were not teaching golf?
Well if I did not love teaching so much I would be on the PGA tour! Just kidding; I was never into traveling that much – of course if I owned my own jet I would look at the travel thing differently. What I think you meant was if I was not in the golf business what would I have done? Most likely sales, or I would have owned a restaurant. I enjoy cooking and taking “lessons” and classes. I am really addicted to good food… is there really anything better? My grandparents owned a restaurant for 30 years. It was good old comfort food and the best cinnamon muffins-warm all day. Mom still makes them for the holidays; they are the best!
Are you into any other sports?
Baseball was my number one sport until high school. I was a pitcher and shortstop. In hind site, I should have played another year or two. I love the team concept, the practices, and I was pretty good, which helped. In the long run, golf won out and things turned out fine.
Let’s say I book a lesson with you. As a student, what’s that process like? What does that first lesson look like? What are you looking for in my swing?
Well first lesson is so important, and we usually do not hit a lot of golf shots. We spend time talking about past instruction or flaws, and more time discussing what they are trying to achieve – what their goals are, why are they here. We then hit a few shots with high speed video followed by a lot of analysis and what I my take on the golf swing is. What should we do to hit consistent golf shots. I love the first lesson with new clients; it sets the table for what we hope becomes a lifelong friendship and road to better golf. It’s like sitting down at a new restaurant and being handed the menu. Big moment.
Man, I could ask you questions all day. Thanks for taking the time to sit with me and for being the first golf interview I have done! I hope there are many more where that came from. Now maybe you’ll read my blog! Anyway, in all of the interviews that I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
This has been a great experience and the questions you asked really got me thinking on so many levels. From a golf standpoint, take a lesson whether you are a pro, a beginner, recreational golfer, or are serious about learning. The engangement with a top professional, the relationship, and the learning is priceless. Golf is a lifelong sport, that’s for sure. Taking golf lessons and playing the game of golf is kinda like philosophy, at first glance you kinda get it, and its ok, but the more you look at it, think about it, experience it, breath it, the deeper you go…