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Thompson Gives Thanks to Long-Time Swing Coach
Hours after he had finished a cycle of post-round interviews in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and autographed nearly every piece of paper or apparel placed in front of him, newly crowned Honda Classic Champion Michael Thompson placed a call from his cell phone.
His longtime coach, PGA teaching professional Susie Meyers of Tucson, Ariz., was patiently waiting at the other end of the line. "I couldn't have done it without you," said Thompson, as Meyers was getting choked up.
"I don't remember much more about the call," said Meyers, who has been Thompson's swing/mental coach the past 13 years. "I spent all Sunday watching my son, Chris, play in a tournament. I was getting texts on my phone all day.
"On the 18th green, after I had learned that Michael had won, Chris gave me a big hug. That was very special. I drove home and had time to relax and watch the replay on TV without getting nervous."
Meyers, who turns 53 on March 10, spent her former LPGA Tour life (1985-87) as Susie Berdoy, and is the PGA teaching professional at Ventana Canyon Golf & Racquet Club in Tucson. Meyers is married to her college sweetheart, Dan Meyers, a certified public accountant who competed in the 2011 U.S. Senior Amateur. In addition to Chris, 16, a scratch handicap player, the couple has a daughter, Carly, 17, who is not a golfer but someone her mom calls "remarkable."
Meyers may be the lone female PGA teaching professional to claim a modern-era PGA Tour winner as a primary student. The synergy between Thompson and Meyers also extends to Thompson's caddie, Matthew "Matty" Bednarski of Lancaster, Pa.
"Michael gave me permission to coach the caddie," said Meyers. "It's a rare chance to communicate everything about what is taking place during a round and learn about the way the two are working together. Matty has been great to work with. It is all part of the plan to help Michael make the next big step."
Last weekend, Thompson made one of those big steps, capturing his first PGA Tour event in the wind and cold at PGA National Golf Club.
Meyers, who began playing golf at age 14, recalled the first day that she met Thompson, who was a self-taught player until their meeting. "He was a 3-handicap player at age 14 and he shows up one day on my lesson tee," said Meyers. "When he started breaking par, he stayed with me. He is such an unassuming guy. You give him something to work on and he will go away one month and come back ready for the next thing you give to him."
One moment early in the coach-student relationship caused Meyers to get emotional. It was the start of many special moments between her and Thompson. "Not long after I got to know Michael, he asked me to be a speaker at his Eagle Scout ceremony," said Meyers. "I didn't realize what that honor meant until later, and I was very moved. From there, I have found myself being around Michael whenever he takes those next big steps in his career."
The steps Thompson has taken so far include reaching the finals in the 2007 U.S. Amateur, competing in his first Masters in 2008 and finishing tied for second last year in the U.S. Open.
Over the past 19 years Meyers has incorporated life lessons into her golf teaching, in what she calls a "holistic" approach to the game. "I wanted to do more on developing the mental game, and how that approach can help you manage your life," she said. "It all starts in the mind. The way I coach is strongly based in creating an environment for the student to learn."
Meyers has caddied for Thompson in the past, which has enabled her to build that coach-student relationship to a new level.
In 2008, Meyers partnered with 1991 PGA Teacher of the Year Michael Hebron of St. James, N.Y., at the PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit. Hebron, who is being inducted this month into the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame, gave Meyers the teaching framework that has enhanced her work with Thompson, along with collegiate and amateur club members.
"It is best not to give a lot of details because the brain slows down with too much information," said Meyers. "Teaching more about the golf club allows each individual to figure out how to get it done themselves." Thompson was faring well as a junior golfer, including an appearance in the Junior PGA Championship, on his way to a collegiate golf career. When Tulane University's golf program was curtailed by Hurricane Katrina, Thompson transferred to the University of Alabama. It was there that he met Coach Jay Seawell.
"Michael wanted to get a coach who was extra positive," said Meyers. "Coach Seawell is all of that and more. He did a great job with Michael. It fit him perfectly."
As Michael Thompson charts a new set of goals, there is Coach Susie Meyers always available at the other end of the line.
"I know how hard Michael has worked to get to this point and enjoy this," said Meyers. "Watching Michael conduct himself for four days at the Honda Classic was a testament to a young man who was confident in the way he thought. He had no expectations and he allowed himself to accept what was happening. He has a great sense of calm, a sign that he has the right mental approach that will serve him well in the long run."
The above report is courtesy of the PGA of America. For more information, visit www.pga.com.