Willow Hill pro: Adjustments for golf during the pandemic
Golf is a challenging, frustrating and ultimately rewarding sport that can be played for a lifetime.
That's what Rick Sargent, PGA Director of Instruction at the Willow Hill Golf Course in Northbrook, can conclude after 45 years of playing and teaching others.
In his life, the 52-year-old Glenview resident hit a hole-in-one in 2012 and shot 5-under par numerous times on 9-hole and 18-hole courses, but none of that compares to hearing of prideful progress from one of his pupils.
"People love golf and have a passion for it. That's why we do it," he said. "Teaching is so satisfying when someone says, 'I shot the best round of my life.'"
Golf courses that were shuttered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic recently reopened under Gov. J.B. Pritzker's phased plan.
As a golf pro, the time off as challenging for Sargent and four other teaching pros at Willowcreek who were used to being outdoors eight to 10 hours a day.
Sargent and three other instructors at Willow Hill have pushed back summer classes for students, and he said he's had to demonstrate grips and other techniques during lessons instead of a closer, more hands-on approach.
"It's hard sometimes when you need to show somebody how to hold or grip a club," he said. "We're doing the best we can. Right now, we're still maintaining social distancing. It's just a weird time."
For people hitting the links or the driving range for the first time this year, Sargent has some simple advice: it's OK to take it slow.
"Stretch before you do anything because you're going to be using muscles you haven't used in while. Take it slow, ease into it. It will come back," he said.
"Don't go out and hit 400 balls the first time you're on the range. You will be sore. Concentrate on your short game," he continued.
Over the years, Sargent has seen trends in the sport. Large-headed drivers are here to stay, and some courses are closing as younger people look to other sports to play or for entertainment.
"We've got to get youth involved. We can grow the game that way. We're just trying to grow the game and get more people involved," Sargent said. "It's just a great sport, that's all I can say. And it can be played at any age."