GJ graduate Claycomb is LPGA teacher of the year

As she taught more and more people how to play golf, Susan Claycomb-Crowley found that many of them never actually played the game.

“They learn how to hit the ball and become practicers, they never take it to the golf course,” the 1992 Grand Junction High School graduate said.

Now the director of instruction at The Peninsula Golf and Country Club in San Mateo, Calif., Claycomb-Crowley, 37, set about changing that, especially among women.

“My program teaches them how to play, and then we went out on the golf course in small groups and (played),” she said. “We start in the parking lot, what you do in the lot, how you check in and pay, what happens on the course and how you post your score at the end. That was the most successful program.”

Her approach to teaching earned her this year’s LPGA Teacher of the Year award.

“It’s so unbelievable,” she said. “I knew about the nomination and that I won the Western section, but never did I think I would be the national award winner. The list of women already on that list are some of my mentors, and just to be a part of that ... it hasn’t really hit me yet.”

After graduating from Grand Junction, Claycomb-Crowley went to Coastal Carolina University and played golf, then moved to California, thinking she’d get into public relations in the golf field.

She started teaching, joined the LPGA and landed a job at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento, working with Chuck Hogan and Butch Harmon, among others.

She’s now a Class A member of the LPGA, a certified club fitter for several club manufacturers and oversees the LPGA’s national evaluators, who train and certify LPGA instructors.

She got married 21⁄2 years ago and she and her husband, Ken, moved to San Mateo, where the weather allows for year-round golf at the private club.

“I had always been at public places before, and it took a little while to get my feet wet and see where I belong,” she said. “Everything I did that I brought here was stuff I did when I was in Sacramento. I took a lot of programs for women and they’re my most successful.”

She said many women are too intimidated to take what they learn onto the course, and her program helps them overcome that intimidation.

“Most people behind the counter are men and they clearly are familiar with the game and all the nuances,” she said. “The women come in not as educated and not at that confidence level.”

The biggest fear? Being paired with someone they don’t know.

“They don’t want to be embarrassed,” she said. “If they don’t have a group, they might be paired up with someone they don’t know.

“It’s OK to let them know you’re newer. At some point, everyone was in that situation.”

Her programs also help allay the “pace of play” fears. No novice golfer wants the course marshal to drive up and tell them they’re playing too slowly, and they’re often more worried about the group behind them, Claycomb-Crowley said.

“They’re always freaked out about pace of play. You see them running on the golf course,” she said, laughing. “A, we don’t run, and B, it’s like everything else; golf is so much about life.

“You can look back, but what’s in front of you is more important. On the golf course, you can look back at whatever you want to, but where’s the group in front of you? Those are who you have to be concerned with as opposed to the people behind you. They’re just there.

“It’s hard enough to play this game without anyone behind or in front of you telling you what to do. Hopefully my program gives them a sense of confidence to go out and play.”

The operative words, she said, are “play” and “game.”

“Everyone is so worried about pace of play,” she said, “they forget they’re playing a game that’s supposed to be fun.”


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