By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Northborough — “You don’t have the game you played last year or last week. You only have today’s game. It may be far from your best, but that’s all you’ve got. Harden your heart and make the best of it.”
Such a point of view made by the late, great iconic PGA golfer Walter Hagen may have had relevancy back in the early 1900s but today, clearly not so much. As long as there are dedicated and knowledgeable golf teaching professionals like Ken Chrzan, there can be no excuse for simple mediocrity and complacency and not enjoying one of America’s favorite sports to the fullest.
Chrzan, head golf professional at Northborough’s Juniper Hill Golf Course, this year celebrates his twentieth anniversary at Juniper teaching people of all ages and abilities to improve and have fun with the game that so many have embraced but at times can become admittedly frustrating. His students, who number in the five to six thousand range over his two decades, are not hesitant to express appreciation for what he has done by removing the elements that can make golf frustrating and in turn, making it one to enjoy.
“Ken’s an excellent teacher,” said Peter Sieurin of Northborough, who has taken lessons at Juniper over several years. “I was a teacher in schools for 39 years so I know a good teacher when I run into one.
“I just really like the way he approaches it. He works within your capabilities and doesn’t expect you to be Tiger Woods. He knows what you’re doing wrong instantaneously. He’s very knowledgeable and there’s no one else I would go to. You always leave here happier than when you came.”
“Ken is very good with the fundamentals which being a new golfer is good for me,” said Michelle Smith of Shrewsbury. “We started at the beginning and he’s been very patient and helpful in just working on form to start out. He doesn’t overdo it. We just work on one thing at a time and have had some success so we’ll keep going and see what’s next.”
Like most golf professionals, Chrzan fell in love with the game at an early age while growing up in his hometown of Utica, N.Y. Following high school graduation, he attended Ferris State University in Michigan, where he was a player on the school’s golf team and immersed himself in the sport both playing and practicing on a daily basis. There were hopes and dreams of playing the game professionally, but those dreams faded the more he began to understand what the PGA was all about.
“I played in a national event and I saw what I was up against in terms of how talented these people were and I knew then that I needed a second career,” Chrzan explained. “I was able to shoot in the 60’s, but these other players were so incredibly talented that I knew I wouldn’t make it and made the decision to become a club professional so I could stay connected with golf.”
At Ferris State, he enrolled in a program known as Professional Golf Management which taught him all aspects of golf including teaching. He completed the program and in 1987 earned his Class A PGA card which represents professional status in the game of golf.
An internship brought him to Framingham Country Club, but only for a brief time. Chrzan answered an advertisement by Juniper seeking a head golf professional and it turned out to be a perfect match. Building a client base was goal number one and the results have been extraordinary despite a somewhat slow beginning.
“Our first couple of years were a little bit rocky,” he admitted. “When Tiger Woods came on tour, we saw a massive growth in our junior programs. When that kind of hit, more people were recognizing us and little by little the numbers went up and up.
“One of the things I like most here at Juniper is that we continue to grow the game. We’re getting more and more people getting into the game of golf. We have a very strong junior program and we’re getting younger people involved and more families involved that continue to play the game year in and year out.”
Juniper Hill’s junior program is one of the most recognized in the area offering camps as well as weekly and hourly lessons for ages five and up into teenage years.
What motivates Chzran over his time at Juniper are the results he sees that can take people who have never played and need the very basics to more experienced players who need a quick-fix or tweak in correcting an element of the game that may have somehow gone awry. He has seen it all in the estimated 1,100 lessons he gives each year.
“When you see someone come in who’s very frustrated with golf and all of a sudden you hit that one little moment, that one little tip, that one grip position or setup change that makes a world of difference for that person that gets their game to where they want it to be, that’s very satisfying.”
For more information about the Juniper Hill Golf Teaching Center, visit juniperhillgc.com.