When You Walk Through These Doors ...

My five year PGA Apprenticeship began under the tutelage and watchful eye of Paul Harney in 1974. No sooner had I entered
the Paul Harney Golf Club pro shop for my first shift [a few minutes late I might add] and the schooling began ...

"You're a few minutes late", Paul began, "Your shift started at 8am and its seven past''...
As I started to offer an explanation about finding my way for the first time he interrupted -
"As a young apprentice professional just starting out I fully expect you to make some mistakes and that's understandable"
he began with me somewhat startled by the abruptness adding,
"but I don't care if you're tired or been out all night, when you walk through these doors in the morning, you are to be on time, with a smile on your face, you greet everyone in a warm and friendly manner, be fair and treat everyone the same and you'll never have a problem working here for me ...
Over the course of the next five years, I was never late again.

Lesson: Optimum habit forming extends from the workplace onto the golf course and into your life.

I Can See You are Preoccupied with Your Game ...

The first year of my apprenticeship under Paul I had just turned 19 years old coming off a very successful junior amateur career but had shortened my collegiate/mens amateur career to turn professional with an eye towards the PGA Tour. With this in mind, I would sometimes steel away during a shift and practice my swing in the full length mirror on the outside of Paul Harney's office door. He must have caught me practicing my swing in the mirror one day and called me into his office ...

"I can see you are very preoccupied with your game and seem to have PGA Tour aspirations ... your young and talented and you should try the PGA Tour Qualifying School, but you can't do that and work for me at the same time, so I suggest you take 6 months off and do nothing but work on your game leading up to the qualifying school ...

... I just came off the PGA Tour [*winning 7 times] and have a pretty good idea of how I could help you, but you would need to put in the time by being the first one here in the morning to practice, the last one to leave at night. Then go home and eat your dinner and putt on your living room rug until you can't stand up anymore ... wake up the next morning and do the same thing day after day leading up to the qualifying school..."
It was during that six month stretch that many of Paul Harney's simple truths about the game of golf were shared and revealed ...

Lesson: Eat, drink, sleep and dream golf to succeed at the highest level in professional golf. 

*1957 Carling Open, 1957 Labatt Open , 1958 Labatt Invitational, 1959 Pensacola Open, 1964 LA Open, 1965 LA Open,
*1972 San Diego Open and 5 Mass Opens 1967-1970, 1977
*Source : Paul Harney Biography ; Wikepedia Encyclopedia 11/1/2015

Passion for Teaching ...

  1. Rick Working with Brother Mark on Putting Stroke
    Rick Working with Brother Mark on Putting Stroke
  2. ...Helping with Top of Swing Postion
    ...Helping with Top of Swing Postion
  3. Rick Displays Passion for Teaching with Mark at Paul Harney GC
    Rick Displays Passion for Teaching with Mark at Paul Harney GC
That first year of serving my apprenticeship under Paul Harney, there was so much of his knowledge, wisdom and experience he shared with me - I frankly was unable to commit the time he wanted me to apply all of it. Contrary to his suggestions, I was not the first one there to practice or the last one to leave at night. I didn't go home on my living room rug and practice til I couldn't stand up anymore and wake up the next morning and do the same thing day after day.

But I did remember everything he shared with me, almost word for word and have come to a deeper understanding of his teachings as time goes by right up to the present day. Because having experienced the Harney School of Hard Knocks was like reading Ben Hogan's Five Lessons Modern Fundamentals of Golf ; no matter how many times you read it, there is always going to be a passage or two that you didn't remember reading before [even though you did], because your experience has now grown to a new found understanding and deeper meaning to connect to its content.

Despite Pauls' mentoring efforts and although I didn't spend the kind of time working on my game I needed to make the PGA Tour Qualifying School, in that failure I found a new passion - to help others experience the joys of playing more satisfying golf. The remaining years of my apprenticeship under Paul took on a different dimension - a new level of learning how to teach, coach, encourage and support all those who want to play better golf.​

Lesson: Past failures can lead to future passions that you can hold onto for the rest of your life.

You Can Go Home Now ...

With all of this water story reminiscing, I am reminded of a not so pleasant experience working under Paul during those golf academy years that proved to be ultimately rewarding. There was one particular summer's day I was scheduled to open and had a shift on my own in the pro shop from 8-5 as everyone else on the staff was off that day.

It had been raining in buckets the whole ride to the Paul Harney Golf Club and when I pulled into the parking lot, the entire course was under water. After a few hours hanging around the pro shop with no end of the heavy rain in sight, the course was unplayable, no one was in the parking lot so half way through the day I locked up and went home.

I was still living with my parents at the time and when I got home my mother told me Paul Harney had called and wanted me to phone him right back. When I called him back he had a tone in his voice I had never heard with me before as he began
"Weren't you scheduled open to close today?" Are you ill, is that why you locked up and went home?" Paul questioned.
"No, I just thought with the course unplayable and no one in the parking lot, so I just locked up and went home". I offered.
"If your scheduled to work open to close, you are not to lock up until closing time - there are still a few hours left til closing, so come back to reopen the pro shop and complete your shift." Paul said curtly.

So now I had to drive back and open back up. When I arrived much to my chagrin and surprise, Paul was there to meet me at the door. "We are not closed unless I tell you to close" he began. "Because you never know how quickly the course will drain and when the sun will reappear making the course playable - and besides, don't you think sooner or later you might have to play in this kind of weather in competition?" Before I could even respond he stopped me dead in my tracks and blurted out " So, get out there."

I took my clubs out of my trunk, put on my only leather golf glove and soiled golf shoes and proceeded to the first tee. After three holes I was soaked to the bone, clothes sticking to my skin, my golf glove ripped to shreds, with clubs flying out of my hands on every swing.
So, I walked in. And Paul was still there again to meet me at the door.

"What happened?" he asked somewhat knowingly.
"I couldn't continue, clubs were flying out of my hands". I said sheepishly.
"Didn't you have golf gloves?"
"Only one, and it ripped on the second hole"
"What about a towel?" he queried.
"Left that in my trunk", I said.
"How about a rain suit or bag cover", he asked.
"Left them both at home", I cowered.
"And no umbrella?" he asked.
"I don't have one".
"So, you went out to play golf in the rain with no bag cover, umbrella, rain suit, towels or extra gloves
... and what does that tell you? he asked.
"That I wasn't prepared to play". I abashedly concluded.
"In weather like this," he said with his forefinger straight up, "always carry towels, pairs of cotton gloves, a rain suit, umbrella and bag cover to stay dry and be able to hold onto the club ..."
then, after an awkward pause added... "you can go home now."

The next month I played in a tournament with exactly the same conditions of that day. Only this time, I was prepared
to play with all of the essentials. In a field of 50 professionals, 45 quit that day - 5 of us finished the tournament - all who finished made a check.​

Lesson: Proper prior planning prevents p - - - - performance.

There's 24 Hours in a Day ...

Since I hadn't been able to qualify for the PGA Tour, Paul had encouraged me to register into the PGA Apprentice Program and matriculate towards my PGA 'Class A' Membership to become part of the 'working class' of the PGA. There is a distinction between a PGA Golf Professional and PGA Tour Player or 'Golf Professional' vs. 'Professional Golfer. The former represents the working class of the golf industry and the latter play the game of golf professionally for their livelihood. As a prerequisite to registration, an applicant needed to pass what is known as a the previously mentioned 'Players Ability Test' which tests one's ability to shooting a professional score for 36-holes.

That target score was 15 over the par for the course based on its course rating. If the course rating was 70, the base score would be 140 for 2 rounds ; so with a 36- hole total of 15 over par, players would shoot for 78-77~155 or under to pass the Players Ability. When Paul found out that I had applied to take the test [a 36-hole tournament in itself] he asked me how I was going to prepare for the event. After mumbling something about how difficult is was going to be to juggle my work schedule, lessons and teaching along with practicing, Paul stopped me before I could make any more excuses and said,

"There's 24 hours in a day," and left it at that.

Translation ; make the time. Spend all your time doing whatever it takes to be prepared and ready for the test. So, there I was up at the crack of dawn until dusk practicing and working on my game - the only thing stopping me were my workshifts sandwiched in between. I committed myself to this regimen religiously for the first time in my career every day, never missing a day of practice during that 3-month period leading up to the Players Ability Test and never felt more ready or prepared for a tournament event in my life. After hearing all the horror stories about how really good players had failed the test the first time and repeatedly thereafter because it had got into their heads, I did not want to be one of those players.

Through this daily practice regimen over an extended period of time, it was not a matter of if I was going to pass, it was by how much ...

On test day, I thoroughly enjoyed posting my lowest 36-hole medalist total ever in a tournament event ; 69-67~136 and passed the test by 20 shots.

Lesson: It's not about having the time ... it's about making the time.

Don't Ever Come Back Here Again ...

There were certain values Paul held in high esteem - old fashioned values like watching, observing, listening, learning, common decency and respect. When these values were violated, there would be another dimension to Paul's personality that I would only witness a few times in five years.

One episode happened during my first year of teaching at the Paul Harney Golf Academy. Paul was running a two day Adult Golfer "Couples Only' School with a heavy dose of student golfers signed up from the New York City area. It rained cats and dogs the whole weekend so rather than cancel the school, Paul showed tapes of the *inaugural CBS Golf Classic that he and Don January won in 1964 to the entire class of couples.

One of the couples from the New York city area began to complain aloud on the second full day of the indoor showing and viewing of that CBS Golf Classic and blurted out in the middle of the class for all to hear that they were not getting anything out of the class and 'didn't drive 5 hours all the way from NYC to a golf school only to stay indoors and watch tapes.'

Well that's all Paul needed to hear. He politely got up, motioned the couple into his office, cut them a check to refund their money and then followed them into the parking lot to give them the check. As the couple put their bags into their trunk I could hear Pauls' voice cracking outside saying,

"You say you didn't learn anything from watching those tapes of Professional players - how do you think I learned how to play so well? By observing the techniques of some of the best players in the world! If you both weren't learning anything indoors as we showed those tapes playing over the last two days, its because you weren't watching or observing.

With that, Paul handed them their refund check and added "Now don't ever come back here again."​

Lesson: You can learn alot by watching and observing the techniques of the best at what they do.

Is There Something Your Disgruntled About ...

To never have a problem working for Paul Harney, he made it crystal clear from the first day - I had to be on time, walk through the door with a smile on my face, treat everyone fairly and the same, while greeting everyone in a warm, friendly manner.

Well, it was the last one I had difficulties with in working with the general public. For it was on one occasion I didn't particularly care for what was said or how it was said to me by a customer and Paul picked up on it and called me into his office.
"Is there something you're disgruntled about?" he started out. I tried to deny it but he saw right through me.
"Did somebody say something you didn't like?" he pressed on knowing my nature was to wear my heart on my sleeve.
"Well this customer was complaining to me about my ..." then Paul cut me off while his voiced cracked again.
"Do you think I like it when the maintenance worker complains to me all the time about my son and wants him fired?"
he retorted, "Of course not" I said, for I had never known of these or any other transgressions by his manner towards his detractors.

Public relations and interpersonal 'people' skills were very high on Paul's approval list... wearing your heart on your sleeve was not.​

Lesson: In a people skills business dealing with the general public, think with your brain and not your heart.

A Tribute ...

I was in Port St., Lucie Florida finishing up the delivary a PGA Teaching seminar when I first got the news from a students' e-mail - the golfing world had lost one of its Hall of Famers and goodwill ambassadors to the game - my mentor Paul Harney.

With Paul went a piece of a by-gone era, devoid of yardage books, GPA's, measuring devices and launch monitors. An era filled with some of the games greatest players of all time who played by feel, sight and sound rather than with the latest and greatest advances in state of the art technology.

A legendary era of golf champions who were self-reliant, creative shot makers who played by the shape of the shot and not the numbers of a trackman. An era of champions who played to win rather than to place or show. A tight knit crew of Professional Golfers who travelled together, ate and drank together, raised families together and looked out for one another.

Through Paul Harney's school of hard knocks and his willingness to share his simple truths of the game with me, he let me inside an era of legendary championship golf that was more about the character of the player than how much money they made. It was more about how to think and act on a golf course than what product you were endorsing. It was more about playing championship golf for the love of the game, rather than anything else.

I will never know why he let me inside that world, that era of legends and great champions and inside his great mind for playing golf and its life lessons. I do not know why he entrusted me to his secrets to the game that he shared with me in strict confidence -which up until now I have held near and dear to my heart.

I only know that now, since reconnecting with his family, through their encouragement and only with their blessing, I feel that it's time to share Paul Harney's Simple Golf Truths to the world of golf - 49 short stories that were not only lessons in golf, but lessons in life from the best golfer ever come from the state of Massachusetts!​

Keep mentors spirit alive by sharing his timeless truths, simple teachings & life lessons to help others enjoy more satisfying golf!