Photo credit: Core Golf Academy www.coregolfacademy.com
Sean Foley is not about to apologize for being honest.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find the political correctness card in Foley’s deck, whether he is helping perfect the swings of some of the world’s best players or having a casual phone conversation from Orlando, Fla.
If you want to know what’s really on Foley’s mind, you won’t have to wait long.
“One of the worst things is being too politically correct, when people just won’t say what they truly feel,” says Foley, a native of Burlington, Ont. “They’ll talk to someone and you know they don’t like that person, but they’ll wait until they leave before talking about them. I mean, what’s that all about? I’m at peace with who I am and what I am doing. I don’t really care about what people say or think.”
Foley, the Director of Instruction at the Core Golf Academy in Orlando, Fla., first broke in as a swing coach on the PGA Tour when Stephen Ames – another who isn’t afraid to speak his mind – brought him on board in late 2006. It didn’t take long for players to take notice of Foley’s teaching techniques and he has since added names like Sean O’Hair, who won Sunday at Quail Hollow, and Hunter Mahan to the ever-expanding stable of players he coaches.
Foley, like Ames, comes from the old school when, if asked a question, you answer it without pulling any punches, regardless of whose feathers you may ruffle. Some see it as outspoken, others as sheer honesty.
But Foley feels if you are afraid of what the answer might be, save yourself the time and don’t ask the question.
“Stephen and I are very close. People talk about how we’re both so opinionated but I generally don’t give an opinion without having facts to back it up. That’s the thing with both of us. We’ll call it like it is.”
Foley knows better than most there isn’t an extended shelf life for swing coaches on the PGA Tour. Like anything else, it comes down to performance. If a player isn’t seeing results, the swing coach will likely take the fall, right or wrong, but it isn't keeping Foley awake at night. As he stresses, the players are Ferraris and he is simply the GPS.
When only one of 156 players can win next week, there are times players will tend to reach, or try too hard, something Foley says can hold players of all levels back.
“People have no idea how tough it is to win on the PGA Tour, to win on any tour,” he says. “When expectations get too high, that can be frustrating. There’s a big difference between trying and doing.”
As could be expected, Foley is quite proud of his PGA Tour track record, a point O’Hair punctuated Sunday afternoon. It’s a safe bet Foley’s workload isn’t going to get lighter anytime soon. In fact, there will probably be a few more thoroughbreds joining that stable.
When Foley took O’Hair under his wing, he was 132nd in all-around ranking. He is now tops in that category. Those numbers don’t happen by accident.
So did Sean Foley, teacher to the stars, ever seriously consider a career on the PGA Tour?
“There is so much insecurity and doubt, I never thought about playing professional,” adds Foley, whose wife, Kate, gave birth to their first child, Quinn, last year. “Players get a lot of trust watching you control the ball. I’ve never asked a player to hit a shot I won’t try to hit. If it is done properly, there aren’t many things more beautiful than a golf swing.”
Sean Foley has a tendency to dream big and call it as he sees it. So far, so good. So when that inevitable Tiger question comes, you think Foley may pause and decide to take the high road altogether.
Think again. That’s just not the Foley way.
“Sure, why not? Tiger is the best player that has ever played,” says Foley when asked if he could see himself working with the world’s top player. “I don’t know what you can teach Tiger, except to have your knowledge base and be there to answer any questions he may have. I figure I’ll be out on tour for the next 15 to 20 year. I’m sure our paths will cross at some point. When you set goals for yourself and dream big, it makes you go to work and bust your ass.”
“Too many times we are told we can’t do something because it’s out of reach. Don’t believe it. I say this a lot, but it’s true. You have to be at peace with yourself. Life’s no fun living the other way.”
More articles by Marty Henwood