2004: Business - Jim McLean
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
It’s 5:30 p.m., and Jim McLean is itching to get rolling.
“Are we ready? Are we ready?” he asks his film crew, pointing to exactly where he wants one of the cameras.
Finally, he gets his cue, and spends a minute talking about the swing clock, one of his favorite teaching tools, before a man off-camera throws a golf cart into reverse. The buzzing sound brings filming, and an agitated McLean, to an abrupt halt. Take two: A crew member freshens McLean’s makeup, and he begins flawlessly ad-libbing seven minutes for a new video on the Power Line, one of his pet swing theories, moving between two cameras like a seasoned television anchor, earning huzzahs all around from the crew.
Since 1979, when he turned half of the caddie shack at Sunningdale Country Club in Scarsdale, N.Y., into a video room, McLean has been using cameras to help teach the golf swing. The sophisticated use of video has become a defining characteristic in the career of one of America’s most prominent golf instructors, who for the past 11 years has been based at Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami.
A college All-American at Houston, McLean aspired to play professionally like teammates Bruce Lietzke, Fuzzy Zoeller and Bill Rogers. But he soon turned to teaching, and on the advice of mentor Jackie Burke, McLean moved to the New York area to work at top clubs. He also became a student of the swing, picking the brains of top teachers and swing theorists such as Jimmy Ballard, Carl Welty, Harry Cooper and Homer Kelly.
“No one has taken as many lessons as I have,” says McLean. That proved costly when he was a young pro. “I spent all my money every year,” he says. “I had no money when I was 30 – zero.”
But he believes this research provided the grounding in swing instruction that helped launch his career. And when he began speaking to PGA sections in 1982, it forced him to clarify his teaching system. Today that system is defined in trademarked terms – such as X-Factor and Death Moves – that have become common in the golf vernacular.
Money no longer is an issue for McLean, but his drive remains undiminished.
“I’m very competitive, I want to be the best, and I’m very demanding with my staff,” he says.