The Canadian content in the U.S. Open, which starts Thursday at the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., is hardly limited to the five homegrown players who are in the championship. Sean Foley, of course, is Tiger Woods’s swing coach, and he also works with Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose, among others. Craig Davies is chiropractor and advisor to many players on all things physical. Most Canadians who follow golf to any degree are aware of these fellows.
Then there’s Ralph Bauer. I’d wager hardly anybody knows the role he is playing at this year’s U.S. Open. Bauer is a swing coach. He works with Brantford, Ont.’s David Hearn. Okay, some golf-watchers in Canada would know that. Bauer has honed his craft. I’ve been in touch with him for a few years and have been impressed with his attention to detail. Hearn has often said that Bauer has, in addition to providing other support, really helped him sharpen his practice. Hearn spends a lot more time on his short game now than he did a few years ago, and he works in a very disciplined manner. Every ball matters.
Hearn isn’t the only big-time golfer with whom Bauer is working. He recently started working with Kyle Stanley as his short-game coach. The 25-year-old from Gig Harbor, Wash. came to the golf world’s attention in a big way when he took a three-shot lead to the last hole of the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Club’s South course. He dumped his third shot into the water in front of the green–it landed on the green but spun back, and back, and back. Stanley’s fifth shot after a one-shot penalty went well beyond the hole, which was of course understandable.
Oy. He then three-putted to careen into a tie with Brandt Snedeker, who won their playoff. Was this the beginning of the end for the young golfer? I remember thinking that his mistake on the final hole when he held such a big lead could either be his ruination, or, more likely, it would make him stronger. I felt the same way after Mike Weir went into the last round of the 1999 PGA Championship at the Medinah Country Club in Chicago tied for the lead with Tiger Woods. He played with Woods, shot 80–Woods won–and it seemed like I didn’t stop hearing that Weir would never recover.
Yeah, right. Weir shot 64-64 on the weekend three weeks later, and won the Air Canada Championship in Vancouver. That was his first PGA Tour win. He went on to win seven more PGA Tour events, including, of course, the 2003 Masters. Many people have written him off after his recent prolonged struggles with injuries and his swing. But he made it into the field at Merion. The guy thrives on a challenge.
Anyway, that’s another subject. Back to Stanley. He won the Waste Management Open in Phoenix the week after the trauma at Torrey. The top 60 in the world rankings after last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic qualified automatically for Merion. Stanley, who tied for third at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio two weeks ago, landed in 60th spot.
So how did Bauer come to work with Stanley on his short game? Bauer told me he’s tight with the guys at the Oven, Nike’s research and development centre in Carlsbad, Calif. He had first met Stanley in 2009, when he was runner-up to Brights Grove, Ont.’s Matt Hill–now a tour pro. Hill won the individual title in the 2009 NCAA Championships. Bauer was working with Hill, and still does. Hill led the Canadian Tour’s Order of Merit last year, and is playing the Web.com Tour this year.
Stanley’s game intrigued Bauer. After Stanley turned pro, Bauer would see him on the Nationwide Tour, where Hearn was playing in 2010. He also watched Stanley play a few PGA Tour events that year.
“I gave the guys at the Oven a plan,” he said, “and they liked it. “They gave it to [Stanley’s] agent after Hilton Head (the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island, S.C. two months ago). Kyle called and asked if I could go over the plan with him.”
The plan, and its implementation, is part of the reason Stanley is at the U.S. Open this week. As for Bauer, who has worked at all levels of the game as a coach, well, as he says on his website, “I am so proud to be a Canadian.”
It’s not easy to reach the U.S. Open as a player. It’s also not easy to reach it as a coach to a player. Bauer has done that. He’s worth following because of his views on the game and his work with players. And, if you’re so inclined, you can also follow him on Twitter @cdngolfcoach. As he says, he’s so proud to be a Canadian.
RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at email@example.com. You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein