Cathrea's program prepares her for future

Casie Cathrea

Casie Cathrea

Girls Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Nicole Morales2014NY69.24
2Andrea Lee2016CA69.72
3Bethany Wu2015CA69.74
4Megan Khang2015MA69.92
5Lilia Vu2015CA70.44

It’s 5 a.m. in California – most teens are asleep for another two hours before slamming the snooze button. In Livermore, Calif., however, before the sun creeps up over the Pacific, one teenager already is at the gym strengthening her body so she can hit the golf ball a few more yards.

The typical 15-year-old girl is a sophomore in high school – counting down the days until she can get her driver’s license and worrying about the perfect homecoming dress. Casie Cathrea may still be in need of a driver’s license, but she is far from your normal teen.

Two months before her 16th birthday, Casie has already played in two LPGA tournaments and she’s the youngest participant to get a hole-in-one in a LPGA event. This year she won the pro/junior title at the Champions Tour's Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, shooting 22-under with her partner, Hall of Famer Ben Crenshaw. She was also the California Women’s Amateur medalist in 2008 and 2010.

What kind of training has allowed Cathrea to get so skilled so quickly? Well, it’s not the same way Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods refined their game. Times have changed and so has technology. Cathrea got with the program; the right program for her, that is.

Several factors make Casie an exceptional player: a carefully-designed golf program and a lot of dedication and passion for the game.

A new approach

While many parents opt to send their kids to golf academies in places like Florida and North Carolina, the Cathreas decided to take a different approach. Keeping their California home as a base, they had a program created for Casie unique to her game and her physique. Dr. Robert Neal, co-director of Golf Biodynamics and biomechanical expert for The Jim McLean Golf School, is the brains behind Casie’s program and began working with her when she was eight years old to create and develop a program through the years to fit her game.

“Dr. Neal is the architect of what she’s accomplished already, and what we’ve been able to put together,” said Harry Cathrea, Casie’s father. “He’s like TPI on steroids. He’s truly a golf scientist the way he analyzes and measures and is able to give us statistical data that helps us analyze what she’s doing.”

Neal is located at the Doral Golf Resort in Florida, and Casie is in California. So how does she get lessons? Well, this is the twenty-first century: instead of going to a driving range, Harry turned the garage into a state-of-the-art hitting bay complete with cameras and sensors so Casie can visually see her swing, rather than simply watch where the ball lands. The hitting bay is also the key to staying connected with her coaches across the country in Florida and in Texas – they use Skype and live video streaming to show Neal and the rest of the team exactly what her mechanics look like at the moment. Think of it as a weekly conference call, virtual links-style.

Along with Dr. Neal, the other coaches who work with Casie include: Karen Harrison of Golf Biodynamics, who creates some of the workout programs; Casie’s local instructor Rick Rhoads, a PGA professional at San Francisco Golf Club; Bobby Cole, a Jim McLean master instructor; and short game instructor Mike Schy. Justin Poynter, director of instruction at The Jim McLean School at Water Chase Golf Club, Texas, is the newest addition to Casie’s team, and he explained how the McLean program differs from others.

“We bring every kid in and we give them the best of everything we have: our best teachers, our top coaches, mental coaches and then we individualize all the fitness,” he said. “So we evaluate you physically, individually with a physical therapist, we bio-mechanically evaluate you, and then we put plans together for each person. You have to help the student because everyone is so different. The big thing Jim (McLean) has always stressed is that golf is an individual game, and everyone has a swing in them, so you have to make sure you find that swing in that person.”

Individuality is something McLean embraces in his program. Instead of trying to mold every student to one swing, he encourages the ideas of all his teaching pros to help them create each student’s unique swing, within reason. Harry said he liked McLean’s idea of getting different feedback from different professionals so they could pick and choose what works best for Casie’s swing.

“One of the reasons we chose McLean’s facility in Texas was because it is one child, one program, one instructor,” Harry said. “It’s truly individual – her body dictates what she works on athletically and her ability to strike the golf ball is a direct result of her being stronger than most girls. She works really hard.”

And that’s the truth – Casie does work hard, and anyone who knows her can attest to that fact. Regardless of access to top training, an individual has to be disciplined day in and day out to take their game to the next level. Even at a young age, Casie understands that discipline.

“She works hard and she’s very passionate,” Poynter said. He said in the short time he has known her, he can see her self-discipline and how much Dr. Neal’s program has helped her. “She’s putting in the time and the effort and she loves it, so she’s motivated and she’s a skilled athlete – tough to beat.”

Even when talking to Casie with her cheery, bubbly teenage voice, she sounds like a mature, older golfer who knows exactly what she wants.

“I wake up at about 4:30 and I get to the gym about 5 depending on the day I do back and chest or shoulders and legs and then plyometrics,” she said. “Tuesdays and Thursdays I’m at school and any other day, like Monday, Wednesday, or Friday I’ll go practice and in the evening I’ll go to the gym and do cardio and abs – oh yeah, and then go to bed.”

Even with a pro-style routine, Casie’s still a kid who needs to go to school, so she goes to an independent study school in San Ramon called Venture School, which allows students the flexibility of scheduling.

“You still have to go to a school to take classes like writing and art classes and science labs,” Casie said. “I go to school two days a week and I take tests at school from the work I did the previous week. It’s basically like a normal school except you don’t have to go every day. I don’t need a teacher to flip the pages for me, so this school is better for me.”

Future Plans

Casie may have accomplished a lot in a short period of time, but she still has a long road ahead and doesn’t plan on slowing down her practice routine.

Casie recently gave a verbal commitment to play golf at Oklahoma State under head coach Alan Bratton.

“Coach Bratton can help me win so I can help the team win,” she said. “I went from only wanting to stay two years to wanting to stay as long as Coach Bratton will have me.”

Even though Casie is continuously improving, she makes sure not to get too far ahead of herself, so her next focus is college golf, not the LPGA.

“I take everything in stages, so with college golf coming up I want to win as many NCAA titles as I can and then after that I definitely want to go pro,” she said.

With her discipline and love for the game, those goals seem attainable. Who knows, maybe she’ll even accomplish that teenage dream of getting a driver’s license.

A week in the life of Casie

Monday

Workout: 5:15 a.m. - 6:45 a.m. (workout off day after tournaments)

Putt/Chip, Short game: 8:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.

Workout: 4:15 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. for an hour

Tuesday

Workout: 5:15 a.m. - 6:45 a.m.

P/T massage, Stretch/core work: 7:15 a.m. -9:00 a.m.

School: 10:15 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Putting: 3:30 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

American Sign Language Class 5:30 p.m. -6:30 p.m.

Wednesday

Workout: 5:15 a.m. - 6:45 a.m. (off morning sometimes)

Putt / Chip, Short game: 8:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. Play 9 holes

Workout: 4:15 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. for an hour

Indoor swing review - video - (Optional - Skype with Coach’s)

Thursday

Workout: 5:15 a.m. - 6:45 a.m.

P/T massage, Stretch/core work: 7:15 a.m. -9:00 a.m.

School: 10:15 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Play / maybe putting: 3:30 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

ASL Class: 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

Optional - Indoor swing review - video - (Optional - Skype with coaches)

Fridays (dependent on what happens on the weekend)

Workout 5:15 a.m. - 6:45 a.m.

Optional - Putt/Chip - Short game 8:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.

Optional - Play 18 holes

Optional - Workout 4:15 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. for an hour (if tournament the weekend no workout)

*Weekends are all unplanned except cardio and pre-tournament warm up

Also light run, light workout, and stretch before and after every event.

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