Editor's note: This is the first article in a seven-part series on the different aspects of golf and improving a player's game.
DeKALB – David Paeglow always has a plan.
The PGA Head Golf Professional at Kishwaukee Country Club made his ninth appearance in the PGA Professional National Championship last week at Sunriver Resort in Oregon. He finished 7-over par with rounds of 76-74, 150 at the tournament and missed the cut where 312 PGA Professionals vied for 20 spots in the PGA Tour's final major.
Play was slow, competition fierce and weather unpredictable, but the Paeglow brothers, David's brother Richard was David's caddy, always had a program to follow. Paeglow advises his students also to prepare accordingly.
Whether at a member-guest tournament, club championship or competitive tournament, devise ways to maximize quality shots and control your emotions.
"In a tournament, you've got to have a game plan on how you'll play the course," said Paeglow, who noted most of his students are players who want to become single-digit handicappers. "Tour professionals get to the course and plot out a week in advance where they want to hit the ball so they can be in the best position to score.
"Whether a player is in a club championship or a U.S. Open, there's some pressure to deal with. It's important to focus on your breathing and things you've done for success in the past. Whether that's shots hit on the range or rounds played with friends, you've got to find something that helps you relax and be taken away from the moment. It's not a football game where you need to be all pumped up. In golf, take deep breaths and slow down your thoughts."
A PGA professional since 1992, Paeglow set the Kishwaukee course record in 2004 when he fired off a 62. On the tight, tree-lined fairways at Kish there is a premium on accuracy. Driver might not be the best play off every tee.
"If you play from the fairway the game is just a lot less stressful," Paeglow said. "You can't just get up to the first tee in a tournament and wail away. That's where planning out your shots in a practice round is so important. Think about the process of each shot and the club selection."
While scouting a course during a practice round, Paeglow also said a positive, winning mind frame is of paramount importance. Rather than say "play to win" to students every time he's in a lesson, he has shortened the phrase into an easily repeated acronym: P.T.W.
It's heard so often around the Paeglow house he joked his children have adopted it and will provide good-natured ribbing if it gets over used.
But, players who put the ball in the fairway have a better chance to win a tournament. Even a friendly weekend game with friends can turn on the precise placement of a tee shot in the fairway where distance can be controlled and maximum spin can be placed on the golf ball with a solid descending blow.
"From the short grass you can control the ball flight," Paeglow said. "From the rough there will be contact with grass before the face of the blade. You can catch a flyer, where the ball jumps without spin off the club face and you can't control distance."
As a teacher who still competes, the rush never gets old for Paeglow.
"Playing in a tournament is a great feeling," Paeglow said. "I love the adrenaline rush. The nerves and excitement. When I can control all that and then execute a shot, it's very fulfilling."
The offseason is the best time for golf instruction.
"Players taking lessons can become a prisoner of their ball flight," David Paeglow said. "They just can't deal with the result of where the ball goes. Especially if they are working on something new where there's a new path to the ball and it's not yet moving how they want. Over the winter you aren't concerned with with ball flight, because you are indoors and hitting into a much smaller area. It's all about body position and video breakdown. That's the time to make swing changes or adjustments."
• Visit the golf tab at kishwaukeecc.org or email Paeglow at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on winter golf instruction at Tour Edge in Batavia, a facility he called a "winter golf oasis."