Meet GolfTEC Lake Forest Center Manager & Director of Instruction, Katie Finney, our May Coach of the Month!
Our GolfTEC Coaches strive to help golfers find improvement and enjoy the game, and each month we highlight one who goes above and beyond for his or her students. Last month we introduced GolfTEC Plano Coach, Chad Pearson, and we’re back again with another exceptional GolfTEC Lake Forest Coach, Katie Finney.
A collegiate golfer at the University of Kentucky and winner of the PGA’s inaugural Women’s Pro-Pro tournament in 2009, Katie’s eight years as a golf instructor include tenures under famed teachers Martin Hall and Bob Toski. Never looking back since “fate” stepped in to steer her away from a very different career path, we asked Katie a few questions about her time at GolfTEC and why she loves teaching here. Check out what she had to say below:
Driving factors for you in becoming a golf instructor?
I graduated college and was interning in my county’s DA office, ready to start law school. I started to realize this was not a career path I’d be happy in. Then fate stepped in with an opportunity to start a middle school golf league, as well as coach the high school boy’s golf team. I really enjoyed organizing practice and helping them with their short games, and watching their confidence improve both on and off the course due to their improved swings and lower scores.
Helping people be more confident is my passion. Golf, a game I love, just happens to be the vehicle. So I worked to fulfill the requirements to become an LPGA Professional, with some help from my dear friend Rich Mahar of Sandy Creek GC, in Ashland, Kentucky. He let me work there for 20 hours a week, even though he didn’t have the budget. I will never forget that gesture! My own instructor, Andy Plummer, and college coach, Stephanie Barker, were also huge influences to get me started.
Most important thing you have learned as a golf instructor?
The quality of golf instruction is certainly important. We all must keep our skills sharp, and be open to learning different technologies and systems in a constantly evolving industry. But, when it comes down to it, the coach-student relationship is equally important in helping them improve. We have to realize that we are THE golf professional in our students’ lives, meaning that even if we have a full day of lessons on the books and we’re exhausted, every student deserves the same amount of attention and respect.
“Coach Katie keeps my lessons fun, yet constructive. She has an ability to describe what I need to do in a way that clicks and resonates with me. I’ve received many compliments on my beautiful swing, even from strangers. My response is always: ‘Thanks to Coach Katie!’”
– GolfTEC Lake Forest student, Lori
Most memorable moment as a golf instructor?
I was fortunate to teach golf alongside Golf Channel’s Martin Hall for five years. We would host clinics with 300-500 people in attendance. I remember the first one we did … as much as I love public speaking, I was so nervous to be on stage with a top-five instructor. Martin could tell I was nervous and did a great job relaxing me by joking that, “You know how to teach, but if you get tongue tied I’m really good at this stuff.”
It must’ve helped because by the time we were on I was cool and calm when I stepped up to the plate. Even after Martin called on me to hit a shot that happened to be a downhill lie with the ball below my feet — never mind I hadn’t even warmed up because I didn’t think I’d be hitting shots — I couldn’t have executed it better. That moment and the clinics as a whole gave me a ton of confidence, and still stand out to me today.
Biggest client success story?
My current student, Mike, is a good player but started with GolfTEC with a pretty bad case of the laterals … a.k.a. el hosel, a.k.a. the dreaded “S” word — the shanks. But after patiently working in the bay on his face/path relationship and footwork patterns for a number of months, he started to hit the ball much better. And as someone who’s played the game for many years and also plays competitively, the confidence his improvements instilled in his game led to both Match Play and Stroke Play club championship titles in a very short period of time from each other!
Advantage for you teaching at GolfTEC compared to anywhere else?
I was honestly skeptical at first to base my instruction indoors (even though GolfTEC often provides outdoor playing lessons), and originally accepted an offer to teach at a country club in Newport Beach (Calif.). But shortly after my husband, GolfTEC Certified Personal Coach Michael Finney, started teaching at GolfTEC Irvine and needed a guinea pig to practice using the technology with, I’ll never forget coming into the bay that day and my view changed forever.
“You want me to swing with these sensors on? I don’t think so!” I remember saying. But how quickly I changed my tune once I realized how helpful our Motion Measurement technology and instant video feedback are … I was immediately hooked, and didn’t want to teach anywhere else from that point on. It’s not only our technology, but also the controlled, private environment our bays provide, and the ability for students to review their WebLessons easily after their lessons. All of these factors together not only make learning incredibly easy for our students, but keep teaching simple and a joy for me with every lesson I teach.