I first met Bryson in the summer of 2007 when I recruited him to be part of my Northern California Golf Association (NCGA) Junior All-Star Team. He was a skinny 14-year-old with the kind of clean, good looks that teenage girls whisper and giggle over. I had known his father, Jon, through Northern California golf. Jon had excelled as a player in his own right.
Bryson and his parents, Jan and Jon, were welcomed to stay at our house whenever Bryson had a tournament in the area. Jon, who usually was the one traveling with Bryson, and I became good friends. Jon would ask me periodically to look at Bryson’s swing at Poppy Hills Golf Course, where I was the director of instruction. Bryson’s main coach was Mike Schy, who conveniently lived near them in Clovis. But I was flattered that Jon trusted my teaching, as well.
Mike and I had grown up playing junior golf together, and we both had learned under the tutelage of the legendary Ben Doyle. Ben’s teachings were based on Homer Kelly’s book called “The Golfing Machine.” Ben had created quite a “culture of learning” at Quail Lodge Golf Resort. PGA Tour players and amateurs came from all over the world to seek his knowledge of the golf swing. So my teaching and Mike’s approach were very similar. You could say that Mike and I were two of “Ben’s Boys” spreading the good faith.
Based on geometry and physics, “The Golfing Machine” breaks the golf swing down into 24 components with three to 15 variations in each of those 24 components. The approach is that there are three zones and 12 sections of the golf swing. It’s the instructor’s responsibility to figure out each student’s compatible variations that fit his or her swing. Ben coined the term the “3’s” of G.O.L.F. (Geometrically Oriented Linear Force) on a sheet of paper that would later become the basis for his 6’ x 10’ vinyl golf mat—“Ben’s Facts & Illusions”.
Bryson had an extremely inquiring mind at a very early age. Mike had given Bryson “The Golfing Machine”, and he devoured it. Even at the age of 14, he was already experimenting with the idea of “The Zero Shift”, which is one of the variations for the 7th component (Plane Angle-Variation.) Bryson could already visualize that zeroing out the shift would make him more consistent.
Not long after, Mike and Bryson were modifying Nike irons’ mass and length that would become the basis of a single-length iron. At night Bryson would bombard me with questions about “The Golfing Machine” and other physics questions. He already was starting to memorize the book, along with memorizing the 24 components. He was also reading the putting documents that would be the basis of “The Art and Science of Reading Greens and Computing Break” written by H. A. Templeton. He was so excited about these documents that he loaned me copies to read.
Bryson had incredible physical energy, along with a mind that had to be constantly engaged. I had a Zoom board that he would love to jump on, testing his balance by swerving back and forth fervently – a cross between a skateboarder and a surfer, which would evolve into his love for slack lines. When things really heated up, I would throw him his Rubik’s Cube just so I could take a break from his whirlwind of curiosity. The Rubik’s Cube was my savior in airports, on flights and shared hotel rooms when I was his chaperone.
I knew Bryson was different, one of those very special individuals who had a constant, insatiable craving for knowledge and would settle for nothing less. Many people would report his outbursts of anger on the course, which I never personally witnessed. I just knew that Bryson did not direct anger at anyone. He was yelling at himself to focus and wanted to know the why. He would ask me for our large stainless-steel salad bowl before a tournament so he could fill it with water and salt to test if his golf balls were uniform in their balance.
I look back fondly on those times with Bryson and his parents. Jon also was my assistant coach. At the 2018 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, I was fortunate to walk alongside his parents again and reminisce while we watched Bryson compete. I wore a big hat and sunglasses trying to remain incognito. On the 14th fairway at Pebble Beach, Bryson spotted me, came over, gave me a big hug and said, “Thanks for everything, Coach!” What a moment for me! It brought tears to my eyes in front of my good friend, David Moret, a member of The Club at Pasadera where I instruct.
All Bryson’s quirkiness was well worth it. He’s a very caring person – a quality that sometimes gets lost in his intensity and dedication for personal excellence. I trust when he gets a little more settled into his heightened stature that Bryson will do a lot for the game and for others.