Is it really possible? Is it really possible that Stan Thirsk passed away five years ago -- May 16, 2015?
Stan, who was the head professional at The Kansas City Country Club from 1961 to 1992, was known to club members and the golf world as a great teacher. Yes, there is that one eight-time Major winning pupil -- Tom Watson -- but you can still see his love for the fundamentals in many the club’s members today. It is safe to say that he was a Fundamentals Fanatic and that his teaching principles are timeless. For example:
“So many problems stem from a bad grip. If they lay the club ‘up in the palm’ of the left hand, it absolutely will not work. That’s one thing I know absolutely!” (Photo caption: Stan would often mark the gloves of his pupils, which would remind them that a proper grip was priority No. 1.)
“Next I go to posture, alignment and balance. I believe in starting the hands, arms, legs and feet at the same time.”
“Your chin always has to be up because it restricts your swing if you chin is buried in your chest. If you are hunched over too much, it prevents you from making the turn and hinders your backswing.”
“By the time the club reaches 9 o’clock, the weight has been set on the right leg. As you complete the swing, the swing, the weight is on the left leg at impact. My advice is to always stay within that frame.”
“The driver is the most important club in the bag. If you don’t put yourself in position to put it in the fairway, you face an uphill battle all day long.”
“In terms of chipping, you should be back in your stance, with your hands and arms forward. That allows you to have a descending downswing you are looking for.”
“In pitching, it should be the opposite effect. While chipping is less air time and more roll, pitching is more air time and less roll. Your weight should be more evenly distributed in the pitching part of the game.”
“The most important aspect of putting is controlling distance. Distance is more important than line. I can be two feet off line, but if I’ve got the distance right, I should be okay. What controls distance? Shoulders and arms. When you set up over the ball, you want the club up in the palm. That keeps the wrist movement to a minimum.”
And while he was best known for his teaching, he was a great player in his own right. He competed in 19 Majors (10 PGAs and nine U.S. Opens) and 23 Senior Majors. His playing highlights include:
- Made the cut in seven Majors (5 PGAs and 2 U.S. Opens)
- Tied for seventh at the 1965 Bob Hope Desert.
- He shot a 2-under 68 in the first round of the 1972 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills (MI) to tie Buddy All in for the first-place lead. Stan made the cut, while Gary Player was the eventual winner.
- In 1963 and 1966, he played 72 holes at both the U.S. Open and PGA.
- He was 48 when he tied for 71st at the 1976 PGA.
- In 1989 he won the inaugural Senior PGA Professional championship.
I was lucky enough to have taken lessons from Stan for a few years before he retired -- although he certainly never used the word “prized” when talking to me about my game – and I was very fortunate to have played dozens of “friendly” rounds with him during the 2000s. (He gets full credit for taking “the loop” out of my swing in 2009.) My lasting impression of Stan was his obvious love of the game of golf and his love for anyone who shared that love. Yes, the years fly by far too quickly, but great memories last forever.
Thank you for all of the great memories, Stan!