PGA veterans Lehman, Gogel share their experience during clinic to kick off week of the centennial Resorters
Current PGA Champions Tour contenders Matt Gogel and Tom Lehman, both members at the Alexandria Golf Club, spent an hour talking to a crowd at the AGC driving range where their message was keep it simple. "Find what you do well, and perfect it," Lehman said.
Tom Lehman had an opportunity to play a tournament in Europe during the first week of August, but it was not that tough of a decision to turn that opportunity down.
The Resorters match-play tournament on his home course at the Alexandria Golf Club has held special meaning to Lehman since he was a young kid. The longtime PGA Tour and Champions Tour contender has made it a point to be in Alexandria for the Resorters as his sons, Thomas and Sean, have played over the last decade.
Being around the club and seeing familiar faces makes this week special for the Lehman family. It was an opportunity he couldn’t miss as the Resorters celebrates the 100th playing of this event from Aug. 1-7.
“It’s a big week. The 100th anniversary is a big deal,” Lehman said. “It’s been 100 straight years on the same course. That’s a remarkable feat. It’s a big deal to our club, and it’s a big deal to me and our family. Just to be here and be a part of it is way more important to me than playing in some tournament in Europe.”
Lehman, a former Player of the Year on all three tours under the PGA, helped kick off that centennial celebration on Saturday as he joined fellow PGA veteran and current Champions Tour player Matt Gogel in hosting a clinic for members on the AGC driving range.
Gogel’s ties to the area and membership at AGC stem from his wife, Blair, and her family connections to Alexandria. The couple lives much of the year in Kansas City, but has a summer home on Lake Miltona.
“My wife has been coming here for 51 years,” Gogel said. “Her parents and grandparents have been coming up since the 20s, so 100 years. (Friday) night at dinner, we found out that her grandmother has been coming to Lake Geneva. We love it up here...the lakes, the people, everyone is so nice.”
“Find what you do well and perfect it”
Those who come to a golf clinic with two players who have competed at the highest level might have expected a complex dive into the mechanics of the game. Maybe answers to what makes for the perfect swing.
But analyzing down to the tiniest details is not what has led Gogel and Lehman to success in their careers, so that wasn’t their message. Both led off the clinic with a similar point -- don’t try to be someone else, and keep the game simple.
“My drills were just trying to keep the club face square at impact,” Gogel said. “Tom was talking about just five clubs you need to worry about. Driving the ball, chipping, putting and wedges. I just try to keep it simple so more people can keep playing this great game.”
Lehman’s philosophy has long been to find what you do well as a golfer and try to perfect that. No two people have the exact same swing. He spends most of his practice time now chipping and putting, and his message to young players at the clinic included the importance of trying to master the driver, the wedges on shots 100 yards and in and putting.
With technology in equipment and the club speed players generate in today’s game to get distance off the tee, those three parts of the game are as vital as ever. Lehman called up his oldest son, Thomas (a young pro himself), to demonstrate as Thomas drove the ball well over 300 yards. That’s a wedge or an easy iron shot into the green then on a lot of holes.
“I just try to tell people what I know,” Lehman said. “What I know is what I share and that’s you do want to keep it simple. There are other approaches. Some people are way more analytical, way more complex than me, but for me that would be a big mistake. I’m more of a feel guy and keep it simple is always the best. The biggest thing is find what you do well and perfect it. That’s really my ultimate mantra. Whatever it is you do well, find what that is and perfect it.”
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A young golfer in the crowd raised his hand during the clinic and asked Lehman how often he played golf as a kid. His answer -- all the time. Lehman’s childhood consisted of breakfast in the morning before hitchhiking to the course. It was golf in the morning, afternoon and again after supper almost every day in the summer.
That was another part of the message Lehman wanted to get across to the young players in attendance. Determination, commitment and confidence can overcome anything, he said.
“You have to love the game,” Lehman said of competing at a high level. “If you don’t love it, you’re never going to be able to work hard enough to beat the guys who do love it. The foundation of anything is you have to love what you do and then you have to work really hard. But you can’t work really hard if you don’t love it.”
Analyzing their own game
Lehman and Gogel both followed up the clinic by playing in the Resorters Pro-Am on Saturday afternoon.
Gogel tied Brady Swedberg, Casey Vangsness, Don Berry and Jack Himenez among the pros who shot even par 72s. Lehman and Thomas Campbell tied for the win among pros after shooting 2-under par 70s.
Gogel is working to get back into competitive golf again as he looks to become a fixture on the PGA’s Senior Tour. He just turned 50 in February, the minimum age requirement to compete on the Champions Tour.
Gogel became a golf commentator after his career on the PGA Tour. He has played in eight Champions Tour tournaments in 2021, with his best finish coming in late July when he tied for 18th at the Senior British Open.
“The thing that has come back the slowest is competitive play,” Gogel said. “I was really out of the game competitively for 14 years, so I’m just now turning the corner. British Senior was a good start. I’ve had some good moments, and I’m enjoying the heck out of it. I just haven’t put together good scores where I feel like now I know I’m on the right track to competing.
“I want to win out there. Everybody does. That’s what keeps that tour alive is there’s a new crop of 50-year olds coming up all the time, but these guys can play. Tom Lehman is 62. He can absolutely compete out there and win. You know you have a window between 50-60 and maybe a couple years after that. I’m looking forward to the next several years being very competitive out there.”
Lehman feels like his game is on the upswing after struggling through much of this season. He has played in 22 events on the Champions Tour and has three top-10 finishes. He tied for 11th with rounds of 68, 71, 68 and 70 (277) at the Senior British Open.
“It’s been a difficult year,” Lehman said. “I haven’t played well, but I kind of have stumbled upon doing what I have normally done. For whatever the reason, I’m just starting to feel like I’m swinging my more natural swing. It’s starting to click a little bit.”
Lehman feels a lot of those struggles stem from simply not always feeling great physically at this point in his career. He has dealt with more lower body pain in his knees and feet.
“You don’t feel like you do when you’re 30. I’ve found that my knees are sore, my feet hurt more and if my legs don’t work right, my swing doesn’t work right,” Lehman said. “I’ve always been a really strong lower body supported player. So if my lower body hurts or is aching or lacking in flexibility, my swing suffers. More than anything, that’s it.”
Lehman still has the same enjoyment for golf that he had as a young kid spending all day at the Alexandria Golf Club, but the lifestyle required as a professional wears on him at times now.
“I love to compete and I love to prepare,” he said. “I don’t love traveling like I used to. I think the thing that will drive me to retire is going to be I’m sick and tired of traveling. It’s nice to be here rather than England. Being at home with your family and friends, it just feels better.”
Lehman and his family spend a lot of their summer at their home on Lake Darling. There is no place he would rather be this week as he helps celebrate a special Resorters.
RESORTERS PRO-AM SCORES
TOP-10 PRO SCORES - Tom Lehman - 70; Thomas Campbell - 70; Aaron Jacobson - 71; Brady Swedberg - 72; Casey Vangsness - 72; Don Berry - 72; Jack Himenez - 72; Matt Gogel - 72; Thomas Lehman - 73; Eric Chiles - 75; Chris Borgen - 75
TOP-10 AMATEUR GROSS SCORES -- Thomas Gogel - 70; Bryce Hanstad - 72; Herbie Champlin - 75; Jeremy Decko - 76; Matt Davis - 76; Nick Brundell - 76; Chris Wessel - 76; Bryan Tarnowoski - 76; Ryan Thompson - 77; Peter Hannig - 77