In 2012, Liam Friedman became something of a (club)household name in western New York, thanks to his presence on The Big Break: Greenbrier, a reality show on The Golf Channel. Friedman is a born-and-bred WNYer, golfing young in south Buffalo and moving on to big tournaments on the amateur and professional levels. Friedman is the first in a series of interview s with PGA club professionals of Buffalo-Niagara. Interviews will be interspersed with others of national and international acclaim. Follow Liam Friedman on Twitter @ LiamFriedman.
1. Tell us your name and how you got interested/involved in golf as a youth.
Liam Friedman. My uncle is a pretty good golfer, and when he would come visit from DC he would bring his sticks. We would go down to the ball diamonds and just hit balls from his shag bag, me with a little cut down club. But, my attention span for the game was underwhelming, so after about 15 minutes I would grab my baseball glove and catch the balls he was hitting. Great practice for my outfielding, and easy shagging for my uncle. Win-Win!
2. Tell us a bit about your competitive golf experience in your younger days.
Growing up playing South Park GC, I didn’t know much about junior competition. I would see results in the paper from AJGA events where kids my age were shooting in the 60’s on 7000 yard courses, and I really thought it was made up. It wasn’t until high school that I started to compete locally in BDGA Interclub (for Caz, then Brierwood) and BDGA Junior events. We had exceptional teams at both courses, and it built my confidence, but I was never able to really push to the next level in high school. Subsequently, I received no attention from any college golf coaches. But, I ended up playing for Methodist University, a Division III powerhouse that held open tryouts. I was fortunate enough to make the team every semester, and worked hard on my game while I was down there. I ended up qualifying for the Porter Cup in 2008, and winning medalist honors in the US Amateur qualifier that year as well. I competed alongside guys like Rickie Fowler, Danny Lee, Peter Uihlein, among others that year at Pinehurst. That experience went a long way for my confidence and I was able to make the travelling roster at Methodist my senior year and help to achieve the most prolific record in school history. We won 10 of 12 events we played that year, including the National Championship. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
Slow-Motion Golf Swing
3. What epiphany did you have that led you to the PGA of America and a club professional position?
I started my college career at Drexel University in Philadelphia as a mechanical engineering student. I wasn’t on the golf team, but that didn’t stop me from playing. Every day after class… or during a class I should have been at… I would hop on the subway, make a transfer, and walk a few blocks to the most easily accessible golf course for me. That was the only place I could relax and feel comfortable. After my second year, I decided that maybe I should pursue golf as a career.
4. Give us bit of history on the clubs you have represented as an assistant or head professional.
My first job I ever had was in the bagroom at Brierwood CC, where I was a junior member at the time. Once I got to college at Methodist University to become a PGA Professional I did internships all over, but locally at Stafford CC And the River Oaks GC. My first full time job out of college was as the Assistant Pro at Orchard Park Country Club. My college golf coach implored me to interview with Randy Shaw, the head pro at OPCC, who he had coached his first year at Methodist. I told him I knew Randy, as I had approached him a few late afternoons when he would hit balls on the range at Brierwood. The first time I met him I said, “hey mister, you got a great swing!” Little did I know he would become the most influential person to me in my professional career. I was fortunate enough to work at OPCC for 5 years for Randy, and interact with some members who could recall storied from the 60’s when my grandfather had been a member, too. Now, I am in my first year as the Head Golf Professional at The Fox Valley Club, a sister club to Brierwood. Lots of exciting things happening this year, in our Silver Anniversary year. It really is funny how things come full circle.
5. Run down the responsibilities of a club professional, including the tasks that might not be apparent to members and guests.
As Head Golf Professional, I oversee the golf operations, from locker room to cart fleet to driving range and finally the golf shop. Aside from giving lessons and running tournaments, there are hundreds of other things going on all the time. The most important thing at all times is providing the members and their guests an experience that they enjoy and won’t forget. We’re always looking to provide a personal touch, or go out of our way to provide a service that may not be expected from the golf staff. Tasks that aren’t apparent, even to myself when I was an assistant, are things such as scheduling, hiring, ordering, tracking inventory, creating promotions and events, and coming up with new ideas to engage the membership. Always have to keep the atmosphere fresh and positive!
6. As a teaching professional, what are the most important tenets of your teaching philosophy?
As a teaching professional, I believe there are a few things that all of the best golfers of all time have had in common. They aren’t what you might think of as “fundamentals” (grip, stance, posture, etc.) There really are 5 Simple Keys to playing golf, maintaining a steady head, having your weight forward at impact, coming to impact with the club and your lead arm in a straight line, diagonal sweet spot path, and club face control. For each key a player can master, their handicap will drop. The biggest thing I see on the lesson tee is weight too much on the trail foot at impact, causing fats/thins, pulls/slices. There are just too many compensatory actions that are necessary to solidly strike the ball otherwise.
7. Give us an idea of your recent competitive history. Also, what do you work on to stay sharp?
I haven’t played much this year. I have been working hard here at Fox Valley to train my golf staff in providing excellent customer experiences. Along with that, it is a new facility to me, and I am still acclimating with the club schedule and organizing events. In the past few years I have played the WNYPGA events with some success, winning a few assistants’ events and pro-ams, with my biggest victories coming in 2011 when I won the WNYPGA Professionals’ Championship to qualify me for the National Club Professional’s championship, and the 2012 WNYPGA Match Play. Last year I also made it through local qualifying for the US Open. I was fortunate enough to compete in the 36 hole sectional qualifier in Purchase, NY, alongside PGA Tour players like Jamie Lovemark and Johnson Wagner.
8. In competition, on what do you focus to achieve your greatest success? We know that golf and competitive golf are dissimilar, so what does a professional rely on (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically) to compete his best?
At the end of the day, during the summer time, I am a golf professional. As I get a little older, and a little more experienced, I come to realize that tournament golf isn’t the end all-be all. Whether I shoot 87 or 67, it doesn’t change who I have become as a professional. Working with that in mind, it is a little easier to approach the “heat of the moment.” When I’m playing well and trying to win I kind of just get lost in the moment, in the day, in the round. It’s almost like I’m not even there and my body is on auto-pilot. Now, I don’t get to that feeling as often as I’d like, but when I do, it’s because I put full trust in my ability. I recall the thousands of great shots I’ve hit under pressure over the years, or the putts I’ve made, and everytime I do pull off something like that, I am sure to pump myself up about it. It is common for me to hit a shot and tell myself how great of a shot that it was. The positive reinforcement does wonders for the confidence down the road. Too often players berate themselves for poor shots, but then that’s what you remember most often. Give yourself the ol’ atta boy for shots well-played, it’s good for you.
9. What question haven’t we asked, that you wish we would? Ask it and answer it, please.
How can I get better at the game?
Just to close, for anyone playing the game. If you want to get better you have to have fun doing it. Make it fun. Tee it up in the fairway if you have to, take it out of the rough, listen to music (without disturbing the course). When I teach juniors that’s my only goal, just make sure they have fun. If they do, they’ll learn something, and it’s the same for all of us.
Liam Friedman on Wrist Flexion