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Friday, March 29, 2013

Four Million Lessons (And I Still Can't Break Par)

Some time in the next few weeks, likely in the middle of April, GolfTEC will give its four-millionth golf lesson. As the digital counter in the lobby of GolfTEC’s Denver headquarters clicks closer and closer to the magic number, the company is getting ready to celebrate this milestone event.

The first GolfTEC learning center opened on April 10, 1995, in the Denver Tech Center mall. Today, there are 176 centers in the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Korea, with more on the way. GolfTEC employs more than 550 Certified Personal Coaches, most of whom are PGA professionals and apprentices; in fact, nearly 2% of all golf pros in the U.S. work for GolfTEC, which is responsible for 25% of the country’s private golf lessons.

While the party planning proceeds, GolfTEC’s first employee—Joe Assell, now CEO and president—reflects on the company's growth. “I couldn’t be more excited about our four millionth lesson,” says Assell. “Every step along the way, every time we open a new center, hire another coach, or help another golfer get better is proof that our idea works.”

That idea—which Assell developed with his then boss, Clayton Cole, the legendary past head professional at Denver’s Cherry Hills Country Club—was to bring computers and other technology to golf instruction. That might seem like a no-brainer now, but in the mid-‘90s the world was very different.“This thing called a computer was just becoming available to individual offices, schools, and homes,” remembers Assell. “To get some perspective, 1995 was the first year of two companies called Yahoo and Netscape. Technology wasn’t mainstream, so the idea of bringing golfers indoors and hooking them to a computer was very new.

“While the technology has improved beyond belief since those early days, the concept is very similar to what we started with back then,” says Assell. “From the day we opened we used body sensors and motion measurement, which remain at the heart of the computerized systems in every GolfTEC center today.”

As proud as Assell is of reaching the 4-million lesson mark, he is the first to say that the number of lessons given isn’t nearly as important as their quality. “What keeps every GolfTEC coach and employee motivated and excited is the success of our customers. We’ve had tens of thousands of golfers shoot their career rounds because of us, have tournament victories, win scholarships, club championships, and so much more.

“We like the numbers because they continue to validate our original idea of bringing the most up-to-date technology to golf instruction. And we still strive for that every day. But more important than any number is the fact that our customers are really improving. That’s the ultimate validation.”

There are two Golf Tec centers in Westchester, one in New Rochelle, the other in White Plains.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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