WORLD renowned Zimbabwean golf instructor, David Leadbetter was last week honoured in the United States for his sterling contribution to the global game after being named the PGA of America’s Teacher of the Year, for the first time in his career.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Leadbetter, who grew up in Zimbabwe and learnt the game at Chapman Golf Club, has worked with some of the world’s top world-class golfers, including compatriot Nick Price, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Mark McNulty, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Lydia Ko and Michelle Wie, just to mention a few.
He currently runs an international chain of golf academies headquartered at the Champions Gate Golf Club in Davenport, Florida, US while there are also branches in North America, Europe and Asia.
Former world number one and World Golf Hall of Famer Price, who worked with Leadbetter during his illustrious career, said his compatriot deserved the recognition as he had evolutionised golf coaching around the world.
“Don’t forget, all these golf instructors you are hearing about now, the ones who are talked about almost as often, and with the same adulation as the players they coach…they can thank David for that,” Price told Golf Digest last week.
“He was the forerunner to the modern player-teacher relationships you see now.”
Leadbetter (65), who will be honoured on November 1 at the PGA’s annual meeting in Texas, says he had all but given up on receiving the award.
But influential friends in the PGA’s teaching ranks — Cameron McCormick and Mike Adams — helped convince the organisation that its highest honour for instructors would be even more significant to future recipients if Leadbetter’s name was associated with it.
“I was a massive advocate for David to receive the honour; an honour long overdue,” says McCormick, who coaches Jordan Spieth.
“When you think about the pyramid of influence in the game of golf all over the world, he’s at the top. He’s been a vanguard leading the way and the entire industry owes him a debt of gratitude.”
Leadbetter’s defining moment in his career came when he missed a 10-foot putt on the last green in the European Tour’s 1977 qualifying school at Foxhills.
“You never know how it might have turned out,” Leadbetter says. “But looking back on that now, I wouldn’t have exchanged my teaching career for, say, 10 good years on the pro tours. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it. I was a perfectionist when it came to my swing and when things weren’t perfect, I didn’t have the mental strength to play well. I’d get really angry. So even though I was playing with the likes of Price and Denis Watson, and even Sandy Lyle was in my qualifying school tournament, I knew I didn’t have enough talent for the game.”
Leadbetter is also currently working with US-based top Zimbabwean amateur golfer Sean Crocker, who is expected to join the professional ranks before the end of the year.