Good Putter A Match For Anyone ...​​

Like Harvey Penick, Paul believed that ...  * 'a good putter is a match for anyone; a bad putter is a match for no one.'

He also ardently believed that if an aspiring playing professional couldn't putt well enough no matter how skillful the rest of their game, they would have tough time making it on the PGA Tour. At that professional level, Paul would pass along his knowledge on putting through  'tough truths'  the game shows us at that level.

Paul wouldn't put on airs in knowing more than others or take any satisfaction in saying any professional wouldn't make it - rather the timeless tales about putting that follow are examples of Paul knowing what it takes to be successful on the PGA Tour and in life. His brutally honest candor about putting reflected his passion and seriousness about the truth in golf at the highest level.

Paul would pass along these tough truths about putting to me and any other playing professionals he would take into his confidence.

Lesson: Putting ability alone separates golf skill levels​​

*Source : Harvey Penick's Little Red Book ; page 29 ; Copyright 1992 ; Forward Copyright 2012
PGA Master Professional Rick DePamphilis Putting

Your Putting is Terrible, Your Short Game is Awful ...

Paul had offered to help me with my game leading up the PGA Qualifying school that first year of my apprenticeship in 1974. he suggested we go out and play a round for him to take a look at my game. In a round scheduled for 18- holes, after 9- holes he had seen enough. At the nine hole break he sits me down at the snack bar and asks,
"What kind of a short game do you think you have?"
"When I/m hot, I'm hot, when I'm not, I'm not," was my naïve reply.
"You're terrible" he deadpanned, much to my chagrin.
"What kind of a putter do you think you are?" he continued.
 Before I could answer, he responded a bit more sternly, "You're awful"
I was crushed, but I knew there was a lesson in it somewhere. In the year 1974, before playing statistics like fairways and green hit in regulation or putts per round, scrambling %'s were kept, he knew them all.
"How many greens in regulation do you think tour players average in a round?" Paul drilled.
After guessing 17, then 16, 15, 14, 13, I finally got it right ... just 12 greens or close to 70%.
"That's right, only 12 greens in regulation, so they are missing 6 out of 18 greens on average every round and they still shoot 69 like snapping sticks ... now, do you know how they do that?
"No", I said.
"Well, I do " Paul continued ," When they miss a green in regulation, tour players are able to get the ball up/down 90% of the time and the other 10% they hole out! Now, can you do that? 
"No" I replied .
"Then I suggest you find out how" ... Paul concluded.

For the next five years, I tried to find out how.

Lesson: Work long on your short game to cut shots off your score!

Last Roll, front edge of the hole ...

All 3 balls fit in bottom of cup versus one chance, the 1" middle back of hole
After experimenting with different loft and roll combinations, I discovered that the best formula for greenside shots is 1/3 carry onto green 2/3 roll to hole which translates to the less green you have to work with the more lofted club you choose, more green, less loft. Carrying the ball onto the closest, flattest, driest surface area of the green and getting the ball to roll like a putt was enabling me to leave myself a much shorter putt most of the time within 5 feet to convert the up/down. Now the problem was missing a lot of putts inside of 5 feet.

As alluded to previously, Paul was a real stickler for putting. He once watched one of the his Golf Academy Teaching Professionals playing with a Paul Harney Golf Academy student 3 putt from 6 feet downhill running his first putt 5 feet by and immediately proclaimed  "he'll never make it on tour ..."  [and he didn't].

After watching me do the same, Paul took me over to the practice putting green and dropped three balls in the cup, which all fit in the bottom of the hole simultaneously.

"What does that mean," he questioned. Of course I didn't know at the time...

"It means that if three balls can fit in the whole at the same time, then every putt has 3 chances to go in at the right speed [last roll, front edge of hole speed] left edge, center, and right edge of the cup and that you are able to use the entire 4 and 1/4 inch diameter of the hole. If you try to bang it to the back of the hole as you do, you have reduced the size of the hole to an inch and given yourself only one opportunity to go in - only if you hit exactly that one inch middle of the back of the hole."

Hummm   ... no wonder why Ben Crenshaw and Jordan Spieth are such great putters! 

Lesson: Rolling ball at right speed increases size of hole, chances to go in​​​​
Rick practicing track drill with student

Now Make 100 in a Row ...

Rick practicing track drill
Once convinced of putting at a speed where I could use the entire hole and maximize my chances to go in, I was still missing putts not because of my speed, but because I wasn't getting the ball started on line on the course, a must for short range putting inside 5 feet. When I shared this inability to convert the short range up/down putts, Paul told me one of his many stories

"In my first year on tour as a rookie, we played a 36- hole practice round the day before the event at the Texas Open. I played with 3 other tour veterans who teed off on the first tee around 6:30am. There was a long tall glass of water Texan Tour Player putting on the practice green when we teed off, made the turn, broke for lunch between rounds and was still there on the putting green when we finished 36- holes that day some 8 hours later. Who is that guy? I asked one of the other veteran tour players. That's Don January - he won the tournament last year. He won that year in my rookie season too  ... lets see if you can spend 8 hours day practicing putting, and to fill your time, try to make 100 in a row from five feet - put a couple shafts down on the ground just far enough apart to fit the putter head and make a track to go straight back and through." 

It took me three days to make 100 in a row from five feet even using the putting track, but as excited as I was to complete the drill, my job was not done. After sharing my 100 in a row conquest with Paul, he motioned me back onto the course. Then it happened - somewhere around the 3rd or 4th hole I had exactly the same putt distance I had worked on the past 3 days - it was not a matter of if the putt was going in, it was just a matter of at what speed. I rolled the ball right in the heart of the hole, never a question or doubt.

I went running back into the clubhouse this time sure that I had completed the task. Paul knew when he saw me what had happened.
"OK, what hole did it happen on?" he asked.
"And how big did the hole look on that same putt you've been practicing for 3 days?"
"Like a bathtub", I responded enthusiastically. 

Its amazing how much bigger the hole looks after you've holed out 100 five footers in a row.

Lesson: Practicing Correctly Enhances Short Game Visualization, Feel and Tactile Sensitivity

You Want to Know What Nervous is ...

  1. Rick Practicing Putting to Picture of Ball Rolling in Hole
    Rick Practicing Putting to Picture of Ball Rolling in Hole
  2. Rick Practicing Putting in So Cal Circa 1979
    Rick Practicing Putting in So Cal Circa 1979
Although Paul never shared this story, it was a local teaching Professional who recounted the time he went to see Paul for a putting lesson. After being informed that this local Professional was a nervous putter, Paul looked at him and said "What do you have to be nervous about ? You want to know what nervous is? Nervous is lining up your putt in the 1963 US Open with an 18- foot putt to tie for the lead with one hole left and asking the caddy to come over to his putt and tell him if there was a ball there and not being able to see the ball."

Now that's nervous.

Lesson: Paint a visual picture of the ball rolling into the hole then putt to the picture to eliminate putting nerves.

Note:* Paul Harney finished one stroke out of the 3-way playoff that year in the 1963 US Open held at the Country Club, in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Francis Ouimet winning the US Open at the Country Club in Brookline, MA. His final rounds of 73-73 on the last day would beat all those in the playoff by 3-4 shots.)
*Source U.S.Open Archives ; 11/15/15 ; as recounted by son Tim Harney

The Boss of the Moss ...

Rick teeing off in So. Cal. PGA mini tour event in La Quinta, CA.
Some years later after that formative 6-month period of trial error, self discovery and experimentation, I became not a great putter, not even a consistently good putter but definitely a much better putter. But there was a day when I definitely putted great ...

I had moved out to sunny Southern California and was working on my short game 4-6 hours a day with an 18-hole round sandwiched in between every day [see Not a round over 73 just ahead] I was playing in various So. Cal. PGA mini tour events when I got paired with onetime PGA Tour Star and now PGA Champions Tour player boss of the moss Loren Roberts.

In this particular mini tour event at the La Quinta CC, in Palm Springs, CA, we were to keep each others scorecards. At the time I was an unknown PGA Professional transplant from the northeast and Loren Roberts was an unheralded PGA Assistant Golf Professional yet to qualify for the PGA Tour or win his first Tour Event.

Spending 4-6 hours/day greenside practicing every day for 9 months straight had really sharpened my short game but caused me to neglect my long game and it showed that day on both counts.The opposite held true for Loren Roberts - he must have hit nearly every green that day and may have missed all but one fairway. I, on the other hand, hit only 6 greens and 4 fairways ...

But when we signed and attested our scorecards that day my score was 3 shots lower than Loren's as he shot 76 with several 3 putts and I shot 73 ... with just 23 putts! When we signed for our scorecards and Loren realized I had beaten him by three shots he said "That may have been the best putting round I've ever seen" but what his eyes seem to be really saying was how in he world did someone like me who hockeyed the ball all over the course beat him by three shots.

Great putting is a good match for anyone ... poor putting is a match for no one.
I truly believe that round of golf with this unknown transplanted New Englander changed Loren Roberts outlook on putting forever.

Lesson: Great putting is golf's grand equalizer no matter what difference in long game skill level