MAGNOLIA POINT - Clay Today Sports Editor Randy Lefko returned to the Magnolia Point Golf and Country Club a year after hip replacement and rehab, and now he is going to endure a month worth of …
MAGNOLIA POINT - Clay Today Sports Editor Randy Lefko returned to the Magnolia Point Golf and Country Club a year after hip replacement and rehab, and now he is going to endure a month worth of lessons with Tim Cooper, PGA Director of Instruction for Junior Golf for The Golf Academy of North Florida at Magnolia Point.
The first thing I heard about Tim Cooper was he was the top golf teaching pro in Florida. I hope that he had heard that I was nowhere near the top golfer in Florida; far from it.
Cooper, 43, and a former varsity soccer player for the University of Kentucky (yes, he learned golf), did not get to golf until after a soccer stint and then an elite running stint in Kentucky. Cooper came to Magnolia Point through a chance meeting with Dale Claussen, director of the North Florida Golf Academy at Magnolia Point. Cooper credentials are impressive, to say the least; PGA Class A pro, US Kids certified kids coach (good for me), and past president of the Northern chapter of the North Florida Professional Golf Association and the JAGA 2020 Professional of the Year. Cooper was also a sixth-grade math teacher which probably has more relevance to teaching me golf.
“I was late to the game having played soccer my whole young life then played soccer for the University of Kentucky,” said Cooper, who joins forces with The Golf Academy of North Florida director Dale Claussen. Claussen recently lost long-time assistant Mike Trinley to a job in Tennessee. “I was trained as a teacher; a sixth-grade math teacher for seven years before finding golf.”
Cooper’s introduction to golf came by way of not a golf team, but an elite running team in Lexington. Patience: golf is coming soon.
“After I graduated, I joined the elite running team; got an hour, 11 minute half marathon as my best race effort,” said Cooper, slightly skinny at about a buck 40 pounds. “Ironically, a bunch of them were golfers and they invited me to an outing. The third or fourth time, they gave me a club at a par three course. Hit a decent wedge and liked it. That’s it. I caught the bug.”
From there, Cooper brought his family; wife Jenny and son Owen, to Jacksonville in 2010 at Deerwood Golf Club.
“Eventually, became head pro there, but the job got more into the business than the teaching,” said Cooper. “Then, I met Dale (Claussen) through the PGA of America. I learned more and more about Dale and the Academy. His credentials as a master’s kids coach were the biggest thing that impressed me.”
On our golf lesson, Cooper was first to take jabs at my wide receiver sticky gloves attached to my golf clubs, thus dubbing me Odell for a few swings.
“I guess that club is not going to slip,” said Cooper. “You got some pine tar on them?”
The second dig was the weight of my golf club bag with the collected clubs over the years.
“You could survive a month on the Appalachian Trail with whatever is in this thing,” said Cooper.
So far, so good. No golf, lots of sarcasm. On to the golf.