A Dozen with Kevin Sprecher from Sleepy Hollow Country Club

July 29, 2011

After graduating from Arizona State University in 1992, Kevin Sprecher began working for Jim McLean at the Sleepy Hollow C.C in Scarborough, NY during the summer and the Doral Resort and Spa in the winter. From 1993-1995, Kevin assisted Jim McLean with private lessons, schools, seminars and clinics. He worked closely with PGA, LPGA, and Nike touring professionals, conducted follow up lessons with Jim McLean’s private students and organized and administered golf schools at Doral & PGA West. In 1995, Kevin was promoted to Master Instructor at the Jim McLean Golf School. He spent the summers of 1995 and 1996 teaching at the Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury, NY, the summer of 1997 at the Piping Rock Club in Long Island New York, the summer of 2002 at the Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, NY and is currently the Director of Instruction at the Sleepy Hollow C.C. In 2000 and 2004, Kevin was nominated as one of GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Teacher’s in America and he was featured on the cover of Golf Illustrated in the fall of 2003. Kevin has been a contributing writer to GOLF Illustrated magazine since 2001 and has several articles coming out in 2005. Kevin has had the opportunity to work with a number of PGA, LPGA, and top amateurs. For example, Brad Faxon, Peter Jacobsen, Len Mattiace, Liselotte Neumann, and George Zahringer (US Mid-Am Champion). Kevin has given his time to pay it forward, hopefully you can learn something and take it to your job and beyond.

Describe your background in the golf business. How and why did you get into it?

I got into the business because i enjoyed working with people and loved golf. When I learned I could make good money and be involved with golf I knew teaching was for me. I got my break when my parents moved from California to Connecticut before I graduated ASU. One of my father's partners, Mr. Cummings, at work was a board member at Sleepy Hollow. Mr. Cummings asked Jim McLean for a favor and to give me a chance. When I interviewed with Jim he offered me an assistants position working for one of his top teachers, Dave Collins. The pay was $200/week and I worked 70 hours a week, but I loved it.

What have you learned during your experiences with Jim McLean and now Sleepy Hollow GC?

I've learned more than I can express on the spot here. I've been working with Jim for over 18 years and at Sleepy Hollow for over 10 years. A few of the more important things I learned are:
  • Get things done. What ever your project is, get it done thoroughly and timely. And then let people know you did it. No one is going to take notice unless you make them.
  • Learn how to play and hit all the shots. No one respects a teacher who can't demonstrate what they are teaching.
  • Be a leader. Initiate projects, when something is offered be the first to volunteer. Like Lee Iaccoa said "You can lead, follow, or get out of the way!"
  • Jim has always taught me to continue to seek knowledge. Even if you don't agree with the philosophy, understand it in case someone has a question.
  • The client is always correct.
When you first started as Director of Instruction at Sleepy Hollow, what were the first few things you had to do to get your feet on the ground and get your business rolling?

When I started as SHCC in 2003 I was coming in after several years of little to no instruction programs. I need to get the club back into taking lessons again. When I was there in 1992-93, Jim McLean had five teachers teaching all day and a 100+ person junior program. So, I put together several different Adult programs to get people interested again. I brought in some specialty teachers. I walked the range in the mornings and hung out on the first tee introducing myself to the membership.

We had a teaching shed which I dressed up with photos and set up training aids on the range as well. I just tried to get the word out that the teaching program has made a change for the better and encouraged people to come take lessons.

What did you do in your early years as a teaching professional to set yourself up for your current success and future success?

I was fortunate to work for Jim McLean before he became world renown. I was his personal assistant for three years which exposed me to all levels of players and some of the best amateur and professionals in the world. I nurtured those relationships to the point where they started to call me. I studied video as much as I could early on to learn what the best players do differently from the average players. I made sure I knew everything that was going on in Jim's business and the golf industry. I also watched as many great teachers as possible. Being at doral in the early 90's gave me access to many of the tour players during the week the PGA tour was in town. I basically tried to learn as much as possible.

What are some aspects of your teaching business that if you didn't do them well, it would be detrimental to your business?
  1. Your clients have to improve, period!
  2. Don't be late.
  3. Talk about your client, not yourself.
  4. Follow up. Email makes it very easy.
  5. Continue to learn. Read, watch, listen to something about golf daily.
In most circumstances, assistant professionals wear all of the hats (tournament operations, merchandising, personnel leadership and management, etc.), some times instruction can get lost in the whirlwind of it all. Considering all of this, how do you think assistant professionals can be better teachers and take steps to really know the craft and teach the game well?

The two best ways would be to take a lot of lessons from successful teachers in their area and watch a lot of lessons. Also to talk to them about what makes them successful.

What are the overarching principles you stand by as a teaching professional and would like other teachers/assistants to stand by?
  • Keep the lessons simple. There's no need to try to impress someone with all of your knowledge in one hour.
  • Remember how lucky you are to have a job and to be doing something you love and get paid for it
  • Make sure your clients have a fun time learning.
If a young apprentice comes to you and says, "I want to be the best teaching professional I can be", what would you tell him/her and how to get there?
  1. Train under the best. even if you have to work for free for a year.
  2. Read and watch everything you can. The internet is a great source for information. Something I wish I had in my early years.
  3. Learn to play.
  4. Be patient. It's takes years to formulate your own philosophy and be good. Don't always worry about the money. Experience is more valuable.
  5. Don't give up. It's a tough environment with the economy these days.
  6. Ask for help. You can't do it on your own.
Do you have any books you could recommend aspiring teaching professionals to read?

Anything from Jim McLean, John Jacobs, Ben Hogan, Bob Rotella, David Leadbetter, Jimmy Ballard, and the top players books. That should be enough for the first year or so!

In your experiences as a teaching professional, I'm sure you have seen and worked with your fair share of teaching professionals. What sets the great ones apart from others?
  • Their ability to communicate clearly.
  • Their passion for knowledge.
  • Their confidence.
  • Their ability to say the same idea in ten different ways.
  • Their ability to make the client feel like they are the most important person for the hour.
Can you give young assistants/teaching professionals any tips towards forming their teaching philosophy?

Study all the different philosophy's that are out there and take the part you agree with.