Cameron McCormick couldn’t bring himself to watch the closing stages of the 2015 U.S Masters.
Best, he thought, to play outside with his two kids, Bella and Callan, whilst his wife Somer – keeping an eye on the telly, relayed the drama that was unfolding at Augusta .
He needn’t have worried. Jordan Spieth, his protege, carded a final-round 70 , to complete a compelling all-the-way four-stroke victory over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose. His score of 270 gave him a share of the tournament record with 1997 winner, Tiger Woods.
Two months later, he took out the U.S Open, becoming the youngest winner of the title in 92 years.
It was only the sixth time a player had won the Open and the Masters in the same year, and provided further evidence that the 21 year-old was the game’s budding superstar.
Spieth couldn’t have been more lavish in his endorsement of the Wangaratta-born McCormick.
“I have complete trust in anything he says,” he stated after his Masters triumph.
“He’s my swing coach, putting coach, short-game coach, mental coach, everything. I owe everything on the course to him. He’s a very special teacher…….”
Cameron McCormick had an ideal football pedigree. His dad, Daryl, played more than 120 games on a wing for Wangaratta in the sixties and seventies, and represented the Ovens and Murray League. An uncle, Trevor, a hard-hitting defender, was also a star for the Pies.
And his mum Jenny had football blood coursing through her veins ; she’s one of the Peakes, of Chiltern.
Sometimes, however, your dreams can send you off on another tangent.
Cam had played footy in the lower grades at Camberwell Grammar, which he attended after the family moved to Melbourne in 1974. But, with a slight frame, and the realisation of his limited potential, he drifted towards golf.
He took to it like a duck to water. After leaving school and deferring for a year, he did some travelling, then returned home to help out in his dad’s construction business.
Not a bad life is it ?…….working in the morning and belting balls all afternoon, at Eastern Golf Club.
It was on these afternoon forays that a few caddying jobs lobbed up. On one of them he met a touring American pro, Kevin Youngblood, who planted the seed in his head about applying for a golf scholarship in his homeland.
Cam didn’t need to think twice about that. He was accepted into Community College in Kansas. In the next step of his education, he moved on to attend Uni and become part of the golf program at Texas Tech, in the north-western town of Lubbock.
Armed with a degree in International Business, he briefly moved back to Australia, but returned to the U.S to be with Somer, the girlfriend he had met in his final Uni semester. The intention was to pursue his golf career in earnest.
But there were obstacles ahead. He had made a couple of failed attempts to secure his Tour Card, and now strived in vain to make his mark on the mini-tour.
He recalled the day the penny dropped that he probably wasn’t going to make the grade as a Professional Golfer:
“Driving from town to town, and living out of my orange Volkswagen camper, I was at a loose end. Reality hit me at the Nike Tour Qualifier in Alabama.”
“I played pretty good and shot one-under. The bloke I played with was the best ball-striker I’d ever played with. He shot 7-Under and missed by one.”
“I sat in my van, looked in the crystal ball and thought, I’ll never be able play this game for a living…….”
A year or so later, he was in a quandary.
“My career was going nowhere. Somer and I were living in New York City, where she was working. During the day I was working as a photographer’s assistant. At night, from 10 till 4am, I was passing out nightclub fliers on back streets.”
“Imagine the feeling, of people taking your fliers, then looking you in the eye as they screwed it up and threw it on the pavement………You never forget it.”
Cam and Somer moved back to Texas in January 2000.He was tentatively making plans to put his International Business Degree into practice, when he was granted an interview for a job at the Lakes Golf Club, outside Dallas:
“The head pro, who interviewed me had gone to Texas Tech. The next thing I know I’m behind the pro-shop counter, get connected to the pro’s friend at Dallas Country Club, where I move, and soon have the opportunity to start teaching,” he recalled.
His working week involved 40 hours in the pro-shop and 25 hours of teaching. The course of his life had changed forever.
“I realised that teaching was something I could do. That started my all-consuming quest for knowledge. Everything I did back then, and everything I do now, is about bettering myself. “
Cam became a full-time teaching pro in 2003.
When he was starting off, he wrote letters to many of the best teachers in the U.S, asking if he could visit and observe them. He received invitations from 25 of them. The impression that he gained was that all of the teachers he sought advice from enjoyed helping him.
He emphasises that the role has changed over the years. “We used to be called ‘teachers’, but these days it’s ‘coach’, which involves Psychology, Practice, Statistical Analysis, Game-Plan, Physical-Conditioning, Nutrition…… some of these are outside my area of expertise, but I’m astute enough to know where to send a player to get them.”
He was the director of instruction at Brook Hollow Country Club, in Dallas, when he was introduced to the player who would become his most famous student.
He received a phone call from a fellow called Shawn Spieth, and the conversation went along these lines: “I’ve got a son who’s a pretty good player. I’d like you to evaluate him for me.”
Cam had been teaching for five years when he met the confident 12 year-old. “He told me he’d shot a 63 a fortnight earlier. He also informed me that he wanted to win the Masters. He didn’t skip a beat; he looked me straight in the eye,” he said.
Spieth improved dramatically and, as he continued to progress, the pair developed a great relationship. Cam believed that his emphasis on competition struck a chord with the precocious talent. “Being together for that amount of time, you have another level of trust.”
Cam was voted the 2015 PGA Teacher of the Year, and has quite a stable of other young players under his charge. They include U.S Junior Amateur Champions Will Zalatoris and Noah Goodwin , 16 year-old star Karl Villips, Cole Hammer, who, as a 15 year-old, qualified for the U.S Open in 2015, U.S Amateur Four-Ball champion Ben Wong and Canadian Austin Connelly. A good percentage of the world’s top juniors seek his guidance.
He is now the Director of Instruction at Trinity Forest Golf Club, which opened in 2016, and also accepted an invitation to join the Golf Channel’s ‘Revolution Golf’ program this year.
Australia is never far from his thoughts, and he’s relishing the prospect of heading home later this month. He’ll be caddying for Jordan Spieth at the Australian Open in Rosebury, Sydney.
He’ll also take the opportunity to visit his dad, Daryl, who is recovering from a stroke, and he may be coaxed into having a round of golf at Waldara with his uncle, Neville, who’s one of the game’s stalwarts in this town.
Life never stands still these days, for the ‘Golf Whisperer’…………* With help from Golf Digest.
One thought on “‘THE GOLF WHISPERER……..’”
Great stuff KB. Love your articles. I remember our days well at the Chronicle when we toiled tirelessly at those bloody great typewriters. Great times. Keep up your good work and try to get a publisher. Your “ramblings” as you call them have the makings of a great book.