Some degree of irony framed Paul Phillips’ 2022 Teacher of the Year award in the Utah Section PGA. The coronavirus that redefined his career kept him from competing in the Assistant PGA Professional Championship in mid-November, a few weeks after his award was announced.
While being disappointed to miss the Florida trip, Phillips would have to calculate the effects of the virus on his life as a net gain. Immersed in his job as the tournament and group sales director of Stonebridge Golf Club, Phillips got a jolt in the spring of 2000 when the pandemic halted gatherings such as corporate and charity events, a major component of his 27-hole facility’s operation in West Valley City.
Stonebridge had to adapt and develop new strategies; so did Phillips, a longtime Stonebridge staff member and the Section’s 2016 Assistant Professional of the Year. He realized he could switch his focus to “two things I’ve been missing: teaching and playing,” Phillips said.
He’s doing both of them very well lately. In his early 50s, the former University of Utah golfer has become one of the Section’s best players among assistant pros and seniors, and has created quite a niche in teaching. It all stemmed from Phillips’ evaluating how he could become a better player. One answer was improving his short game. So he visited Parker McLachlin, a former PGA Tour player who markets himself as the “Short Game Chef.”
The four-hour lesson at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona was “pretty expensive,” Phillips said, “but it was worth it.”
Especially after he used that knowledge to build a business. “We can become specialists,” said Phillips, who likes how students can improve their short games immediately, compared with full-swing overhauls that can take much longer.
And he’s good at it. One of his fellow Section members said he learned more about the short game in an hour from Phillips than in his previous golfing lifetime. “I can have success with everybody all the time,” Phillips said.
Written by Fairways Media senior writer, Kurt Kragthorpe