By Bryan Gathright : Photography by Kelsey Grudle
The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch hosted one of the premier junior golf camps the country has seen, July 7-9. The camp was a collaborated effort of Cordillera Ranch’s Bryan Gathright and Country Club of Mobile’s Tony Ruggiero. Tony and Bryan have been friends for years and have taught together on a number of occasions.
The camp brought together some of golf’s finest collection of talent to help develop tournament-ready junior golfers. A total of 29 highly skilled junior golfers attended this camp — 15 from The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch and the local San Antonio area, and 14 from Alabama and Florida. Among those attending were two juniors committed to play collegiate golf at Alabama, one committed to play at Auburn and one at SMU. Eventually, almost all of those who attended will have both the ability and opportunity to play college golf.
Tony Ruggiero has been the host of the Dewsweepers Golf Show on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio since 2007, where Bryan is a frequent guest. Tony teaches PGA Tour players Smylie Kaufman and Lee Williams as well as former Alabama golfers Bobby Wyatt and Robby Shelton. He recently published the #1 New Release on Amazon — Lessons from the Legends: The Best of the Dewsweepers, along with contributor Matt Rudy. Tony was also named Future Champions Top 25 Elite Junior Coach in the United States for 2016.
Cordillera Ranch’s Bryan Gathright has been a member of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers in America for the past 16 years and is a two-time Southern Texas PGA Teacher of the Year. Bryan has taught numerous PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players, and past pupils include Cordillera Ranch’s Jimmy Walker and Notah Begay.
Joining Tony and Bryan were their dear friends and teachers, Mark Wood, Wayne Flint and Cordillera Ranch’s Gevin Allen. Mark Wood is Director of Instruction at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. He is recognized as a Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher and a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has taught PGA Tour players Bo Van Pelt, Dudley Hart, Stewart Cink and David Toms. Mark is widely acclaimed for his teaching style and direct approach, and continually elevates himself by staying on the cutting edge in the golf industry.
Wayne Flint teaches in Birmingham, Alabama and has worked with some of the best players in the game including Jason Dufner, Iain Steele, Jay Hobby and Brian Gay. He has been a two-time PGA Dixie Section Teacher of the Year and coached over 200 collegiate players, taking over 100 high school players and guiding them into college golf.
Gevin Allen is the Director of Instruction at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch with 18 years of teaching experience. He is a TPI Certified Professional in Golf Mechanics, a US Kids Certified Instructor and a Positive Coaching Alliance member. Gevin teaches numerous outstanding young junior golfers and has been at Cordillera Ranch for 10 years.
This incredible pool of talent did not stop with golf instructors — three remarkable professionals from their respective fields added to this group to provide an unbelievable opportunity for the attendees.
Dr. Greg Cartin, a noted sports psychologist from Boston, Massachusetts who works with numerous PGA Tour players including Smylie Kaufman, worked with the juniors individually during the camp to help them develop a stronger mental approach to their game. Dr. Cartin recaps, “I thought the camp provided an incredible learning environment for competitive junior golfers. Instruction was provided by coaches who are not only skilled teachers, but are also passionate about youth development. Having the kids compete against each other in a tournament setting was the perfect complement to the instruction they received in the morning session. In my opinion, the camp represented the perfect learning environment.”
Cordillera Ranch’s TPI Level III Certified Trainer Ann-Kristin Allen joined forces with Kolby Tullier, fitness trainer to numerous PGA Tour players including Smylie Kaufman, Andrew Loupe and John Peterson, to provide the critical component of fitness to the attendees in the camp. Fitness is such a key ingredient to gaining strength and flexibility, but also in the prevention of injury.
A special addition to the camp was having three top collegiate golfers assist the instructors. Cordillera Ranch member and Baylor golfer Nick Thornton, Rice University’s Mitchell Meissner and Auburn University’s Ryan Benton added a great experience component to the camp.
With this amazing collection of professional talent, the attendees were provided the opportunity to improve in every phase of their game. Day one began with the Alabama/Florida juniors playing a Ryder Cup™-style competition with our Cordillera Ranch and San Antonio area juniors. Seven matches of two-man teams competed in a four-ball competition the first day and ended in a 3.5 to 3.5 tie.
However, the day did not end there. The kids were treated to good burgers and, more importantly, had the privilege of listening to The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch member and NBA coaching great Bob Hill give an incredibly motivating talk to both the kids and teachers.
Day two began with four hours of instruction covering both putting and full-swing. After a vigorous morning of work, the participants began the second day of a two-man competition between the groups. Coach Hill impressed all in attendance when he came out to watch the second day of competition. The matches provided a great amount of drama as the final match reached the 16th hole with our Cordillera group in a two-day tie, but trailing 2 down with 3 holes to play in the final match to decide the Cup. Nick Thornton and his playing partner, Trenton Leffingwell, won holes 16 and 18 with all of the participants watching and cheering their teams on to tie the two-day competition.
On Friday evening, Cordillera Ranch members Paul and Dana Heffernan hosted all participants at their beautiful home where the juniors could continue to practice their skills on the backyard Par 3 and shortgame area. The food and fellowship was amazing, and the Alabama kids have already requested to come back for a rematch next year to settle the tie.
The final day of the camp consisted of six hours of instruction. After three full days of hard work and fun, the juniors and professionals all concluded that this was truly an incredible learning experience and everyone looks forward to participating again next year.
Tony summarized the event by saying, “It was a wonderful experience bringing our juniors to a facility like Cordillera Ranch! They are still raving about it. The goal was to expose my top juniors to the best instructors, mental coaches and fitness experts so that they could prepare like tour players. This event was even better when you factored in the competition and the facilities at Cordillera Ranch. I really hope we are invited back. It was a special week for me and our kids.”
Bryan agreed, “It was wonderful hosting so many talented and dedicated juniors. It was great for the kids, but I truly believe it was one of the best weeks I’ve ever had teaching. The opportunity to bring so many talented teachers and professionals together with such an outstanding and passionate group of juniors is extremely rare in our industry.”