Editor's Notebook: Old friends provide new golf lessons

Bobby Shave Jr. pictured here with Dr. Eric Wilson (right)

Published: Sunday, August 08, 2010

By Jim Collins
JCollins@News-Herald.com

If Bob Shave Jr. gets his way, the teaching of golf will undergo a dramatic change.

Bobby has the expertise to back up his conviction. A graduate of the former Willoughby Union High School (and class president in 1955), he was at one time one of the premier golfers in Ohio – and has the trophies to prove it.

There were guys named Palmer and Nicklaus and Stranahan and Meister who were also pretty good, but Bobby could play with any of them.

In fact, he played seven full years and part of an eighth on the Professional Golf Association tour – until Jan. 1, 1968, when the powers-that-be at the PGA outlawed his putting stance.

He putted croquet-style, straddling the line between ball and the cup. The PGA, in its wisdom, declared that a no-no.

But his career in golf went on. He was the golf coach at Florida International University for 17 years, and still lives in Weston, Fla. (at the eastern end of Alligator Alley). And he is still trying to revolutionize the teaching of golf with the Bill Mehlhorn method.

Bobby grew up in a golfing family at Manakiki Country Club in Willoughby Township (now Willoughby Hills), which was run by his father, Bob Shave Sr., a professional golfer of some note. The Shave family also owned Blackbrook Country Club in Mentor, which it sold to the city of Mentor.

Bobby Shave was a four-year football and basketball player at Union High. He played quarterback and safety in football and was an outstanding basketball player. But it was his prowess in golf that gained him the most acclaim.

Bobby Shave Jr. speaking to College of Golf students in Port St. Lucie, FL.

He never won a PGA tournament in his seven years on the tour, but he came in second, third and fourth a number of times, and on the tour those top finishes pay good money.

It is his determination to instill the Mehlhorn method of teaching golf that occupied a great deal of our time at the reunion eight days ago.

We sat together for a long time at a table next to the dance floor, and every once in a while Bobby would stand up to demonstrate the golf swing. I am not sure all of the others were aware of what was going on.

Bill Mehlhorn was an outstanding golfer who died in 1988 at the age of 90. Bobby has four DVDs on the subject of “the swing,” and later on in this essay I will give a website where you can locate him.

“I’m on a mission to change the way the game is taught,” Bobby said. “It’s about naturalness, and using your own natural movements.”

He maintains that much of the stuff that is taught about golf is overly complicated and confusing. All you need to do is use your natural swing.

He asked me: Have you ever cut grass with one of those long-handled grass cutters with a two-sided blade at the end.

You swing it back and forth, frontward and backward, back and forth, cutting grass with your fore swing as well as with your back swing.

Of course I had. And that is exactly the swing you want to adapt to your golf swing. He stood on the dance floor and demonstrated – back and forth, a perfect tempo, with a perfect imaginary grip.

“I use a baseball, eight-finger grip on a golf club,” I told him.

“Nothing wrong with that,” he said. “Just don’t squeeze the club too tight.”

“Remember,” he said, “you’re cutting grass with the golf club.” I think he calls the lesson plan, “A Golfer’s Grass Whip.”

Bobby Shave, by the way, is already in the NOGA Hall of Fame.

If you want to check into a DVD on the golf swing the way Bobby insists it should be done, you can Google Mehlhorn Golf and click on “Welcome to Golf with Mehlhorn” (‘Hello, my name is Bobby Shave,’ it says) or “The Grass Whip.”

I spent a lot of time reading about it on the website.

Otherwise, I will see you soon on the practice tee or the putting green.