Harmons give golf clinic to local youth

There's no question where Butch Harmon stands on his student when it comes to the debate, who's the greatest golfer ever.

Harmon said that his pupil, Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer ever. But Harmon also said Woods has yet to become the greatest champion ever. That title still belongs to Jack Nicklaus.

Dick Harmon basically agreed with his brother, saying that time will tell before Woods is considered the greatest golfer -- and champion -- ever.

The Harmon brothers, considered two of the world's finest golf coaches, were at Sunridge Golf Course on Saturday to present a free clinic for the local boys and girls clubs. The clinic was presented by the Silver State Junior Golf Academy.

The list of top professional golfers who Butch has coached is long and among those on the list is Woods.

"I think he's far and away the greatest golfer to ever play the game," said Butch about Woods. "Jack Nicklaus is the greatest champion the game has ever known."

Butch said "there's never been anybody who has had all the facets of the game" like Woods. He also called Woods the smartest and most creative golfer to ever play the game.

"I think I'm as proud of Tiger Woods for what he's become as a man," Butch said. "He's truly a wonderful man. He's probably the most humble superstar I've ever met."

Dick wasn't ready to consider Woods the greatest golfer ever -- yet.

"You have to wait," Dick said. "He has a ways to go. If he remains healthy and focused, it certainly looks like he's going to be."

Dick did say that at this stage of his career, Woods is better than Nicklaus at the same stage of his career.

"But for 26 years, Nicklaus played at a high level. We'll have to see if Tiger lasts that long."

Nicklaus won 18 professional major titles in his career while Woods has won eight so far.

"If he's still winning majors 20 years from now, there's no telling how many he'll win," said Dick about the number of majors Woods will win.

The Harmons were also touched by another great golfer, their father, Claude, who was the 1948 Masters Champion. It's an emotional time for the Harmons as their father would have celebrated his 86th birthday today. Claude died 13 years ago.

Something that Claude instilled in their sons was working with youth.

"Junior golf is the foundation of our game," Butch said. "To get kids in golf you have to do it. It's part of our job."

Harmon said "it's unbelievable" what the Silver State academy is doing because the academy is introducing golf to youth who would have never known what the game is.

Butch said every time he does a clinic, he thinks of his father. "We all miss our dad," he said. "I don't think there's a golf lesson where I don't mention something my dad said."

Two of the greatest thrills for Butch, he said, was his father walking up the 18th hole about to become The Masters champion, and watching his student, Woods, do the same at the 1997 Masters.

"I think he had all the influence in the world," said Butch about his father.

"My dad was a great man. He was just a wonderful guy. He was a tough task master on me, but I deserved it."

Dick said working with youth has been a life-long mission for he and his brother.

"It's something that we've done our whole career," Dick said. "Our dad taught us that. We think it's important to promote the game because we love the game."

Dick also talked about what his father has meant to him. "He's had a wonderful influence on us," he said.

"There's not a day that goes by in the last 13 years we haven't thought about him. He's had an unbelievable influence on the whole family."

During the clinic, Dick joked with his brother about how easy it must be to be Woods' coach.

"It can't be too hard to teach Tiger Woods," Dick said. "All you've got to say is, 'good shot.'"

Butch said controlling the shot and not swinging as hard as one can is the key to distance. Butch said Woods rarely hits his shot as hard as 80 percent of how hard he can hit it so he can control where the ball goes.


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