2006: An all-around approach to golf

Salt Lake City

Henry White is the answer to two trivia questions.

Can anyone identify the PGA golf professional of the future?

What is the best thing about golf in Utah?

OK, the second question isn’t fair. White shies away from notoriety and would not accept such praise. After all, Brigham Young University has produced a handful of famous golfers. Furthermore, the Utah landscape is filled with hearty, passionate golfers who place their regard for the game above any personal recognition.

White, 47, is one of those modest, self-effacing Utah guys.

At the same time, though, White is a foot soldier in a movement that is sweeping the professional golf landscape in the United States. The golf pro of the 21st century is becoming an expert in physical training, golf swing teaching, golf equipment fitting and plain old golf retailing.

This is the future of golf – golf pros with multiple talents – and the beneficiaries are golfers of all abilities who want to improve through comprehensive analysis and training.

There are hundreds of golf pros playing the PGA Tour, but there are more than 28,000 golf pros affiliated with the PGA of America. Their mission is to serve golfers in shops and training facilities located on and off course.

The golf pro of the future surely will be more like White, who realized that loving golf was not enough. A graduate of one of those other Utah schools, the University of Utah, White went back to Utah to obtain a second degree in physical therapy.

Thus he become the golf pro who could fix your backswing or your aching back.

Now, along with professional photographer Michael McRae, White has founded Golf Lab here in Salt Lake City. Located off Interstate 15 and only nine blocks from city center, the 20,000-square-foot Golf Lab opened in November 2005, and is the

kind of place golfers will be seeing more often

in the future.

It contains a fitness and physical therapy clinic, a golf swing teaching center with an array of diagnostic equipment, a golf equipment fitting

lab, and a retail shop.

If this can happen in Salt Lake City, it can happen anywhere.

What White is doing is simple. He is focusing on the greatest sales tool that any golf pro can have – his multidimensional expertise.

On-course golf shops have changed drastically in recent decades. Once they were chock-a-block with irons, woods, wedges and putters, but now the golf club cupboard is mostly bare. This retail arena has been ceded to off-course stores.

So what is the golf professional to do? If he is like Henry White, he forges a new direction.

White, who has taught at Eaglewood Golf Course and The Country Club of Salt Lake, is a loyal PGA member. He sits on the board of the Utah Section of the PGA. He is a former Teacher of the Year and Player of the Year in this section.

Yet he vividly remembers the day he told PGA officials he was returning to school to seek a physical therapy degree.

“They put me on the inactive list, like I was delinquent or something,” he said. “I wanted to scream, ‘Guys, this is where it’s headed,’ but I tried to remain a gentleman about it. Some important people looked at me like, ‘You’re nuts.’ I just tried to be patient.”

In the end, of course, he was correct. Validation has come from several sources, including the Acushnet Co., which built the Titleist Performance Institute in Oceanside, Calif., to combine the same disciplines that have been pursued by White. He was a man ahead of his time.

McRae met White because he was looking for someone to help his older son, Michael.

“Michael was experiencing some back problems,” McRae said. “He was 14 at the time. We went to Henry White the physical therapist, not Henry White the golfer. When we found out about his credentials and what he could do, we were flat shocked. Both my sons started working with Henry, and their progress has been amazing.”

Amazing, as in Michael, a sophomore at St. Mary’s College in California, winning the 2005 Utah Amateur, and Robert, a high school senior, being named 2005 Utah Junior Golf of the Year.

“I take just as much pride in teaching high handicappers (as I do with) people with knee replacements and injuries, and all kinds of golfers,” White said. “If we really want the game to grow, this is what we must do.”

Golf Lab’s hallmark is providing its clients with a path toward improvement. Putting lessons and short-game lessons are particularly popular. All lessons are taped and burned onto compact discs, so golfers can review them. Practice regimens and fitness routines are clearly laid out on paper.

“Our strength is that we really take the time to evaluate people,” White said. “We’ll do that with their golf swings, their clubs and their bodies. We identify their strengths and weaknesses, and we find out what they want to happen. We get some people who don’t play very much – mostly in scrambles – but they want to improve. Their program is very, very different from someone who plays four or five times a week.”

Did we mention that the golf pro of the future, as exemplified by White, also is street smart?





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