CNBC's Mark Rolfing went too far when he said James Mason's
triumph at the NFL Golf Classic "seemed right out of a movie,
like The Legend of Bagger Vance or Tin Cup." Mason, 51, is a
club pro from Dillard, Ga., who became only the eighth Monday
qualifier to win a Senior tour event, but he's no fluke. "The
guy's got real game," says Dave Eichelberger, who played with
Mason in the second round and went on to finish second, two
strokes back. After a pair of unsuccessful PGA Tour Q school
attempts in the 1970s, Mason chose the more secure life of a
club pro, but he spent as much time honing his own game as those
of his pupils. For the past few years Mason gave only 10 lessons
a week, and in the last 12 months he has crisscrossed the
country playing in 30 tournaments on mini-tours and on the
Senior tour, many through Monday qualifying.
GRACE UNDER PRESSURE Mason showed his veteran cool during the
final round. He bolted to an early one-shot lead, holing a wedge
for eagle at the 2nd hole and a bunker shot for birdie at the
6th, but he put himself in a pickle by hitting a wild slice into
the woods off the par-5 18th tee. Mason had the wherewithal to
recall a recovery shot he had played from a similar spot during
the pro-am: a low, hard hook under a tree and up the adjoining
10th fairway, leaving a clear shot back to the final green. On
Sunday, Mason not only pulled off a stellar five-iron punch-out
(left) but also followed with a clutch eight-iron to 10 feet to
secure the victory.
ROLE MODEL "I'm a gambler," Mason said on Sunday night, and he
wasn't referring simply to his style of play. Mason risked his
family's savings and the comfort of his club pro life for a shot
at the Senior tour. Countless guys ponder Senior riches, but it
takes guts to actually chase the dream. At 48, I've been
contemplating a run at the Senior tour, and Mason's triumph gives
me, and a lot of other middle-aged club pros, the kind of
inspiration we need.
Peter Krause teaches at Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids,
Minn., and is one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers.
THREE COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CNBC
THREE COLOR PHOTOS: CHUCK SOLOMON
To intentionally hit a low hook, like the clutch recovery James
Mason played from the woods at 18 on Sunday, you need to modify
three things from a regular swing: the address, club selection
and arm rotation.
CLUB SELECTION: Use a more lofted club because the low-hook swing
delofts the club face, meaning your seven-iron will fly like a
ADDRESS: Place the front foot perpendicular to the target and the
back foot at a 30-degree angle (1). This creates more turn in the
backswing, so you can attack the inside part of the ball on the
downswing (2) and create hook spin.
ARM ROTATION: Don't make the common error of trying to shape the
shot with the rotation of your body. Use your arms. To learn
correct arm rotation, imagine your hands are on a steering wheel.
Through impact, pretend you're rolling the right hand over the
left (3). Finally, finish as low as possible--at or below waist
level--to keep the ball down. This handy recovery shot takes some
practice. No doubt Mason perfected his during all those years on