Coaching The Entire Game of Golf with Mike Malizia

Coaching The Entire Game of Golf with Mike MaliziaThe pro I am with today is originally from Palm City, Florida and is the Director of Instruction at the at Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club. Come to think of it… Harbour Ridge is also in Palm City. Anyway, he has been in the sun his whole life down there in the Sunshine State. I actually met Mike for the first time at a Golf Business Network summit… in Florida! It was in Orlando, actually, and we have stayed in contact via email and phone tag. We have become close over the last couple years, and I just knew when I started doing these PGA professional interviews I had to work with him. That… and he plays Titleist. Can’t go wrong with a guy that plays the best equipment in the world! It’s been a long time coming, but today I am sitting down with a man that truly understands golf performance. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Mike Malizia.

This is the third PGA teaching professional interview that I have done. Are you excited to be a part of the growing list of interviews?

Ricky, I am honored.

You are currently teaching down at Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club. How long have you been down there?

This is my sixth year at Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club.

Do you have a yacht?

(Laughs.) No, but I do have a 24 ft. Sea Ray bowrider.

How does being the Director of Instruction differ from being the head golf professional?

A DOI specializes on golf instruction only, where as a head golf professional specializes in the entire golf operation.

You are TPI Certified. How many levels of certification are there?

The highest level is three. I take my level three in January.

You work with a ton of players. My favorite is Hugo Leon. When these players are in a tournament, do you travel with them or are you just teaching at Harbour Ridge?

I travel to about eleven or twelve events a year.

When working with players like this, do they pay you by the hour or do you work with them on a case by case basis?

I would say it’s half and half… some pay by the hour; some have me on a retainer.

Do you work with any PGA and / or LPGA players?

I have been a pretty big staple of Nationwide and Future Tour players (eleven). Derek Fathauer and Kevin Johnson had their tour cards last year.

What’s a TPI body assessment?

It’s a  test to evaluate a person’s limitations by assessing their stability and mobility. This tells me what their body can or can’t do. I need to know this if I want them to make a specific move.

Do you do playing lessons with your students?

If I had it my way all my lessons would be on the course. Golf is the only sport that is practiced on a different field than you play on.

To you, is it coaching or teaching? Is there a difference?

COACHING… to me teaching is showing a student how to make a specific move where as coaching is teaching a student how to make that move while teaching him to play the game.

You are a member of the Golf Business Network. What does being a member of an organization like that do for you?

Being a GBN member is great for understanding your industry. It also establishes you as an expert in your profession.

Tell me about your relationship with Dr. Bob Rotella.

I started working with Doc my rookie year on Tour. We became good friends and I see Doc out on Tour quite a bit. I still consult with him when I have a mental issue with one of my players. We play golf about once or twice a year together (the big match)…

Hugo is on the Nationwide. What typically keeps players from making the jump to the PGA Tour?

They need to get to a point where they understand THEIR SWING (not the swing) and understand THEIR MIND. It’s my job to help the as a COACH; to help them understand what works.

Do you play very much golf?

Not really. I would say about five times a year.

What’s your favorite golf course? Think hard here… you aren’t allowed to say Harbour Ridge!

(Laughs.) Well I would have to say Pebble Beach. I played the 2000 U.S. Open there and fell in love with the place. But the River Ridge course at Harbour Ridge is still one of my favorites…

Your student Richard Donegan just won the Florida State High Championship. I bet that feels good. When players win events like this, how do you celebrate?

It’s “Miller Time”… I don’t do too much; maybe go out with my wife Judy and have a few adult beverages. It feels great to know you’re making a difference in someone’s goals and dreams.

Starting with your driver, and working your way all the way through the bag… golf ball included, what’s in your bag?

Well hell I don’t even know where my bag is, let alone what’s in it… Not all Titleist equipment. I have a D2 Driver, AP2 irons, Vokey 56 and 60 wedges, Scotty Cameron prototype putter and Titleist Pro V 1x ball… wow, OK I won’t lie. I had to actually find my bag and look to see what I had in it!

You have a new website. It turned out great! I see you have some videos coming soon there… what sort of videos are you wanting to produce for your students?

I want them to understand the game, not just the swing. The game is driving, irons, chipping, pitching, bunker play, putting and course management. What I am trying to do is help them improve one shot on each aspect of the game, instead of all of it on their swing. –

Let’s say I want to get a lesson with you… what’s the first lesson like? How do you get comfortable with your students?

The first thing I do is listen to them… (the first key to communication); this will tell me what type of person they are and how they learn. My goal is to make each lesson fun and educational.

Are you able to work with folks who are not members at Harbour Ridge? (I assume you can, since you work with so many players.)

Yes, I am very fortunate to be at a place like Harbour Ridge.

You have a profile page on the PGA Tour website. You were on the Tour?

If you want to call it that! (Laughs.) For a little while, let’s put it this way… I have played every tour except the LPGA. I never really cared about playing that much. I was more intrigued on why things happen from a physical and mental aspect.

There are a lot of good instructors out there… but in your opinion, which is the best?

The one who can adapt to any student, mentally and physically. If I don’t know what his or her body can do and how they learn, then they’re just guessing when they want you to do something.

What’s it take to make the top 100? Do those pros get any benefits for being in the top 100? (The top 100 DJ list is something I pay a lot of attention to as well.)

The benefits are great. It’s something I don’t think about much. My goal is to keep improving and getting better everyday, learning more about the body, the mind, and biomechanics. Like I tell my students, “Focus on the process and let the outcome happen.” It is a goal of mine and I would be honored to be nominated as a top 100 instructor, but right now I need to pay attention to the process.

Speaking of music, what are you into? Who are some of your favorite bands?

Well this usually freaks people out, but my two favorite bands are Rush and Motley Crue. I listen to everything from Zac Brown to Marilyn Manson to Pantera. When I was on Tour, Doc Rotella said I needed to listen to something soothing. One day he rode with me to the course and I put on Motley Crue Wild Side for him… he just looked at me and said, “I can see now why you can’t cut.”

Let’s say I hit my driver 270 yards off the tee with a slight draw. I don’t want to buy a new driver, but I need to pick up 10 more yards. What tips would you give me for increasing my distance off the tee?

I would tell you to take 10 steps backward and you just picked up your added yardages… and you want to know why I get paid the big bucks! (Laughs.) No, I would test your body, mobility, and stability and see if we could improve your body to increase distance.

What’s next for you… any big plans for 2012?

Just to keep learning; that’s why I love what I do. No matter how old or how educated you get, you can still always learn.

You are still young, but what do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done? What is the Mike Malizia legacy?

Is 41 really considered young? I want to be remembered as a good person… someone who went the extra step to make a difference and someone who enjoyed life.

Mike, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this. It means the world. In all of the interviews I do, bands and golf pros alike, I always give the artist the last word. Go.

I think I have to ask my wife before I answer this question because she said she always has the last word… hold on, I’ll be right back. She said it would be okay! (Laughs.) She said the last word would be (I love these lyrics, by the way), “Each day’s a gift and not a given right.” Thanks Ricky… now name the band!