Success in golf can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. To some, shooting even par is all that matters. Others want the elusive hole in one.
Brian Moran, head golf professional at Lone Palm Golf Club, has a different view. As golf pro, he spends much of his time teaching. Sure, he said, it would be great to have one of his students break 80 on a regular basis, but he gets his biggest kicks out of something else.
“I am at my happiest when I see a player go from shooting 120 to shooting 90,” Moran said. “That’s what means the most, to see them working hard, practicing, focusing on getting better without being perfect. That makes it all worthwhile.”
Moran has quite a teaching pedigree. He’s been into sports his whole life. Growing up in Connecticut, he played all sports, but he was height deprived.
Golf doesn’t require its players to be tall, so Moran started taking golf seriously. He played high school golf and moved to Florida for college where he walked on at two schools. He knew his game wasn’t going to make him a fortune, but he was a realist.
“I was good, but I wasn’t too good,” Moran said. “I always liked numbers and everyone thought I would be good at business. I also like traveling, so being in the golf business and traveling was great. I am fortunate. I get to do both.”
There were some great breaks along the way. His first assistant job was at the world-famous Butler National Golf Club in Illinois. From there he had his first shot as head professional at The Wilds in Minnesota, then at stint at Kemper Lakes in Illinois. Moran’s wife had family in Florida, so it was down to Tampa Bay for a stint at Innisbrook before taking over at Lone Palm five years ago.
At Lone Palm, he runs the entire operation. He puts on the tournaments, which include FSGA events and the North Florida PGA circuit. He likes dealing with the adults and the professional circuit, but he said he gets his biggest happiness out of working with kids.
“It’s really easy,” Moran said. “With kids, if you force them to play, it doesn’t work. Too many parents push the kids too hard and it leads to them getting a bad taste for the game. The kids love it so you have to make it happy for them.”
Moran said the key is to give the kids some incentive. Bring some ice cream or some soda to the course, he said. Give the kids something to do besides hitting golf balls all day. If they know there’s more to it than just golf, it makes it more fun.
Moran also said that he isn’t afraid to talk to pushy parents about going too far.
“I’ve talked to some parents about it,” Moran said. “Some of them take the advice and some of them don’t, but the parents that do take the advice are more likely to see their kids having fun and wanting to come back.”
He also said that golf is about more than just a lesson or two. He tells the students that shooting 80 isn’t going to happen right from the start. He has his students pre-pay for a year so they will be committed to the game. From that point, it’s a step-by-step game. It isn’t something Moran takes lightly.
“If you want to learn to play, you have to do it the right way,” Moran said. “Every student I have ever had who has made the commitment has gotten better. My reputation is on the line.”