THE decision to drop out of university and pursue a career in golf has paid dividends for Matt Cleverdon after he was named Victorian Teaching Professional of the Year.
“I was studying commerce management majoring in sports management at Ballarat University and dropped out because I wanted to go down the golf path,” he said.
“I was working in a golf shop in Geelong, playing pennant and my golf got better in a short period. I was around golf and pros and decided a traineeship was a good way to go.
“I have a great passion for the game and it’s been fantastic.”
Cleverdon was delighted when he won the award.
“It was a great honour to win the award especially being from a great private club like Kingston Heath.”
The 30-year-old has been coaching for eight years and is building a reputation as a top teaching professional.
One of his students, Su-Hyun Oh, took out the Female Amateur of the Year Award.
Oh, who finished runner-up to Karrie Webb as last year’s Australian Ladies Masters, is the world number two-ranked amateur behind Kiwi sensation Lydia Ko.
Cleverdon also teaches US LPGA Tour rookie Breanna Elliott. He predicts both his protégés will have successful golf careers.
“They will be top-50 players in the world in the next five years – no question about that,” he said.
“Both are great ball-strikers, but they are particularly great precision iron players.
“When you look at the greatest players of all time they are all phenomenal iron players. Some have been good drivers and some good putters, but they have all been great iron players.
Asked what makes a good teaching professional Cleverdon said: “Willingness to continue to learn and good communication skills.
“I have been lucky I have been able to go to America and spend time with teaching professionals like Jim McLean, David Leadbetter and Butch Harmon.
“They keep things really simple and are able to communicate really well.
“I would like to be known as someone who keeps it simple and communicates the message well. That is what I strive to do in every lesson.”
There is no magic secret to teaching golf, according to Cleverdon.
“I went there (US) with expectations that they (Leadbetter, McLean and Harmon) were teaching some sort of magic secret, but they are teaching simple stuff – real base fundamentals.
“They are not getting caught up in technique.
“Everyone is different so you have to be able to communicate with people from different walks of life and with different skills by keeping it simple.”
According to Cleverdon, the biggest mistake he sees club golfers make is trying to make the game harder than it is.
“They look for complex answers to a simple problem,” he said. “They apply too much logic and not enough physics.
“They are trying to help the ball up when it needs to be hit down and trying to go left when it needs to go right.
“Amateurs understand it when you explain it to them, but when you are logically trying to think out a problem it doesn’t quite work out in golf.
“Getting results is important, but sometimes coaches can talk too much about what they know rather than just conveying the message.”