By Steve Waters
3:30 PM EDT, May 9, 2013
Bob Toski has been honored many times in many ways as a golf professional, a professional golfer and a teacher.
In March, he received one of his biggest honors when he was inducted into the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame.
“There are 27,000 PGA golf professionals in the United States,” said Toski. “Being inducted into the PGA Hall of Fame is something which I’m kind of proud of.
“It’s a very special honor.”
Toski, 86, of Boca Raton, was one of eight inductees to be honored in a ceremony at the PGA Education Center in Port St. Lucie.
As a player on the PGA and Champion tours, Toski won 11 tournaments. In 1954, he won four tournaments and was the PGA Tour’s leading money-winner.
At the age of 30, Toski gave up tournament golf for teaching, which allowed him to spend more time with his young family. He was the golf professional at five clubs, including St. Andrew’s Country Club in Boca Raton, where he is the pro emeritus.
Toski started Golf Digest Schools in 1971. His fellow teachers were Davis Love Jr., Eddie Merrins and Jim Flick.
“There are no other golf schools in the history of golf that are as successful,” Toski said. “They went all over the world.”
Toski also has taught PGA and LPGA players such as 2005 U.S. Women’s Open winner Birdie Kim, Tom Kite, Bruce Fleisher, Judy Rankin, Bruce Crampton and Ken Duke, and worked with many others who have established their own teaching careers.
In 1990, Toski was inducted into the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame.
Toski still teaches five days a week, helping golfers become better and have more fun at St. Andrews, Sherbrooke Golf & Country Club in Lake Worth and the Toski/Battersby Golf Learning Center on the Broward College campus in Coconut Creek.
He figures he’s given over 100,000 lessons, but as he said, “It’s not how many lessons you give, it’s how many people you teach.”
One thing that sets him apart from teachers such as David Leadbetter and Hank Haney, who work with pro players, is Toski’s successful PGA Tour career.
“They never played on tour,” Toski said. “I don’t think there’s any substitute for that experience.”
Especially when working with top-level golfers. Having played under pressure helps Toski help his students and their swings hold up under pressure. Kim would be a case in point, as she sank a bunker shot for a birdie on the 72nd hole to win the Open.
Ask him about the secret to the golf swing and Toski quickly says there aren’t any secrets.
“You tell one person and it’s not a secret anymore,” he joked, then got serious. “There are no secrets. It’s just sharing information.
“The more knowledge you have and the more you know what it takes to physically make a golf swing, the better you’ll play.”
But before he has a novice golfer swing away on the range, the first thing Toski does is bring the student to the putting green.
“If you can’t putt the ball in the hole from 4 feet, from 8 feet, from 10 feet, you think I can teach you to hit it straight in the air?” Toski said.
“The correct repetition is the mother of skill. If you can’t repeat a putting stoke and a chipping stroke, how can you repeat a golf swing? You learn to play golf and control the swing.”
Toski compared that to a student in school. You start off in kindergarten, then move on to the first grade. If you can’t handle first grade, you stay there instead of being promoted to the second grade.
So if you can’t repeat the correct putting stroke, you don’t move on to the chipping stroke.
The basis for that thinking is Toski’s introduction to golf when he was a boy in Massachusetts.
“When I first started playing golf at the age of 6, I was taught by my brother to putt,” Toski said.
That might be boring way to learn for some golfers, just like baseball fans who’d rather see a game with several home runs than a pitchers’ duel. But that beginning led Bob Toski all the way to the Hall of Fame.
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