What is a golf professional, and what will be consider a professional to be in context of this article?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a ‘professional’ is defined as one who is characterized by or conforming to the technical and ethical standards of a profession. (2 : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.
Now that we have that out of the way Anne truly is a professional. Anne Sparks has entertained questions from me at clinics, at lunch, on the phone from her home in Palm Springs, California and even from her hotel room after a long day teaching others on the course. Other instructors may have told me to schedule another lesson, or retake the class again.
However, when we evaluate Annes dedication in terms of the definition offered above, one must ask exactly what profession is she conforming to? As I have come to learn, the PGA has high and exemplary standards, as well as Dave Pelz Golf. But I am sure many would agree that the Annes dedication goes far and above what many organizations expect from those in their employ.
Rather, I submit that the profession that Anne adheres to, and conforms with is the profession known as Excellence. Anne strives to be the best in all the endeavors that she has undertaken. Anne has excelled as a former high school kicker, a past competitive amateur swimmer who just barely missed the Olympics, a former Futures Tour Player, a sister and now a golf instructor. It is this profession that transcends all the things that Ms. Sparks has ever undertaken, and will continue to do in the future. In essence, Anne is the Head Instructor for the School of Excellence, and I submit that we all should take note.Anne Sparks has been an instructor for Dave Pelz Golf for approximately five years now.
How did this one time high school place kicker come to work for one of the most influential, pre-eminent golf instructors and researchers in the game? Well, RhodyGolf.com took a few minutes to catch up with Anne when she recently was at Centennial Country Club in New York.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Palm Springs, and then moved to Arizona for about 5 years. I currently live in Palm Springs.
Did you play any organized sports as a youth?
I was very active in sports. I was active swimmer, and after high school I almost made the United States Olympic Team for swimming.
However, the sport in which I was most active from the ages of six to seventeen was soccer. I loved playing soccer and I was very good at it. It is too bad that women’s soccer was not as established as it is today. Sometimes I wonder if my career may have been different if there were more soccer related opportunities at that time.
Believe it or not, due to my soccer skills I also played on my high school football team as a place kicker. Due to my athletic accomplishments I received a scholarship for being the top female athlete in my high school. I also was offered a full-ride scholarship to Northern Arizona University. I chose not to accept this scholarship, and chose to attend a junior college close to my home since my father was ill at the time and I wanted to be close to him.
So instead of millions of Americans saying Mia Hamm when it comes to women’s soccer, the name on everyone’s tongues could have been Anne Sparks?
(Laughing) You never know!
Why did you choose not to accept the scholarship to Northern Arizona University?
At that time my father was ill. I wanted to stay close to home to help him, as well as spend time with my dad. Instead, of going to Northern Arizona University, I decided to attend my local junior college.
I notice that golf isnt listed in the listing of the organized sports that you played as a youngster. When did you get involved with golf?
Well, it was my father who really got me involved with golf around the age of eight. I did not play a whole lot of golf in high school due to my other sports activities. As I was growing up, my father and I would go golfing together. While attending junior college, I worked in the cart room at a local country club. It was at the country club that I started playing again.
So you mean to tell me, the illustrious Anne Sparks began her golf career in the cart room of her local country club?
No. I forgot to tell you that my official golf career actually started from baby sitting for the professional at that same local club. I did such a great job baby sitting that I got promoted to the cart room!
Actually, this job was a great experience for me. I worked for the same professional for eleven years. I look back at this job very fondly. Not only did it give me my start in the golf profession, but it also helped me to define what I really wanted to do.
What were your goals at that time?
At that time, my goal was to become a head professional at a resort facility. Teaching was not anywhere on my agenda.
When did you get involved with golf instruction?
1990. I decided that if I was going to become an instructor, and be the best instructor that I could that I was going to relocate to Arizona. At that time, Arizona was one of the best places to learn since they had the most top 100 instructors in the country at that time.
When did you get involved with the LPGA?
I joined the LPGA around 1984 just when it was beginning. What is interesting—and what many people dont know—the LPGA is a relatively new organization especially when compared to the PGA. The LPGA is roughly 25% of the size of the PGA. At that time, not every state had its own LPGA section, now the organization has evolved such that every state has its own local section.
So, let me get this right. You decide that you wanted to become an instructor and decide to move to Arizona. Did you know anyone there?
No, I didnt. I knew no one.Basically, I went to a practice facility in Mesa which had six professionals. I had very little money, so what I did was make fliers and I distributed them. I persisted and went to work every day. It took a great deal of patience. But as time went by, I began to get students. Many of my students came from referrals. By the time I decided to leave Arizona, I had developed a client base of 350 students. This is why I believe that I have so much confidence in myself and abilities, primarily due to this experience.
Anne, share with readers how you helped one of your students achieve a very important golf goal.
One of my students was a retired school teacher. She had taught for over thirty years and one of her goals was to become a LPGA professional. However, she never could seem to pass her players ability test (PAT). I met her when I was taking my PAT, and in our particular class only 2 out of 12 players passed. After the PAT was over we exchanged business cards.A few weeks later she decided to contact me. She shared with me that she had gone to several top professionals and no one was able to help her realize her goal. After speaking several times, she decided to come to Arizona where we worked for 6 months together. During her next PAT, I caddied for her and she passed! It was probably one of my most rewarding teaching experiences.
What other rewarding golf teaching experiences have you had?
I have had the opportunity to work with many children. While in Arizona, I had a childrens golfset.