Tony Letendre - PGA Dove Canyon Golf Club
Dove Canyon Golf Club is a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course located in South Orange County. We are owned and operated by Steele Canyon Golf Club Corporation and are one of five golf courses owned by the company.
How old were you when you got started in golf and what eventually pulled you into becoming a golf professional?
I played my first 18-hole round of golf at age 5. I was practically born with a club in my hand since my grandfather was a member of a private club and a scratch golfer. I always thought he was going to play the senior tour (he didn’t), but I knew at age 11 that I wanted to be a golf pro. I tried to play of course, but life as an operator was the next best thing.
How do you stay current with the latest developments in teaching methods?
Because it is not my day-to-day role, I do not study teaching or the swing. I do attend seminars from time to time just to stay current, however I have had what I would call a lot of success using the ‘old school’ or ‘pre-technology’ methods from when I was learning. I’m more of a ‘find it in the dirt’ kind of instructor than an analytical one.
Do you specialize in teaching any facets of the game?
My role as an instructor is to help you reach your personal goals. I am not an expert in any category, but my success comes from unlocking the student’s potential, keeping them out of their own way.
What sets you apart from other golf professionals?
There really is no way to answer this question because every golf professional is good in their own way. I tell my students that we all teach the same thing – just in a different way. I have no problem sending a student to another instructor if they just aren’t getting it the way I’m presenting it. The end goal is for the student to get better / achieve a goal. If I can’t get them there, then I’ll send them to someone who can. I guess that’s what sets me apart…
What has been your most challenging experience with a student and how did you handle it? How did you overcome it?
Every student is unique – teaching isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) cookie-cutter. I’d have to say my biggest challenge was the student who just wasn’t getting it and was not improving. I suggested he try someone else’s approach to see if he improved more. His response was, “no, I like our time together.” As flattering as that was, it was an internal struggle to keep collecting money from him. He was adamant about paying me for my time, but I always felt bad he didn’t improve much. We remain friends to this day…
Do you actively play competitive golf? Any recent bragworthy performances you’d like to share?
I like competition but don’t play as much as I’d like since I don’t practice much any more. I’m not one to brag, but I am proud of the couple small victories I’ve earned and the course record I still hold. It’s pretty cool when you can say a Masters Champion “tied” your course record but didn’t beat it.
Is there a highlight from your career in golf that stands out above the rest?
I could rattle on story after story about experiences my career in golf has afforded me. Like spending time with Jack Nicklaus when I was the Head Professional at the course he was building. Or playing hockey with retired NHL Hall of Famers to open a rink after hosting them for golf that day. I’ve seen the Stanley Cup up close an personal. I was standing under the grandstand watching as David Duval rolled in is historic 59th stroke on the 18th at PGA West because I worked there. That’s just the tip of the iceberg – I’ve been very fortunate.
Any advice for someone considering pursuing a career as a golf teaching professional?
Do it…but you have to love golf. The likelihood of getting rich in this profession is slim – but if you can look at the benefits and get past the salary you’ll be fine. You can make a good living in golf, no question. So loving what you do makes it worth while. I have had hard days, but I am a PGA Member – I work where others go to unwind. If only you could see my office view in this profile…
Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
Thank you for allowing PGA Professionals like me to tell our story. The common misconception when you tell people that you are a golf pro is that you are on TV and they want to know if you know Tiger Woods. The fact is no, I don’t but others do. And I know other PGA Tour Members – but your local PGA Member is the nuts and bolts that holds the golf industry together. We are at your local facility pulling carts, folding shirts and teaching this great game. The PGA of America is 29,000 men and women across the country making it possible for nearly 25 million individuals to love this sport.