PHOTOGRAPHY BY LEAH FRIEL

KEVIN CARLL CERTAINLY TOOK THE ROAD less traveled on the way to becoming head golf professional at prestigious Waialae Country Club.

“I grew up at La Mirada in Southern California,” he says. “My dad was a golfer but I played baseball, left fielder and pitcher. I played on the high school team, but I was also working at a golf course.”

When he threw out his pitching arm, and “got burned out on baseball,” he turned to golf. Like so many people he was immediately smitten by the game.

“Things just took off and I was addicted,” he says, noting his enrollment in New Mexico State University’s Professional Golf Management program. “But I didn’t play golf on the school team-I was kind of a late bloomer as a golfer.”

He’s certainly made up for lost time: Soon after taking the Waialae job in October 2010, Carll posted a 63 on the course that hosts the PGA Tour Sony Open. It certainly garnered some attention, to say the least.

When asked the single greatest flaw he sees in amateurs, he answers succinctly: “Swinging too hard.”

Carll says the thing he most enjoys about his job is “the relationships with people. I was at Turtle Bay before, and the difference is that in a resort setting you might be with someone for seven days and then maybe you never see them again. At a club, you get to know people, establish relationships over time and make new friends. I like that.”

Being the host pro to a PGA Tour event means he has duties most club pros don’t. When asked about his involvement in the tournament, he says he does “a little bit of everything. I’m the caddie master, run the pro-am, make sure all the carts are running, whatever needs to be done. When I was at Turtle Bay, we hosted Champions and LPGA tournaments. It’s kind of similar here with the PGA, but on a much grander scale.”

TIP 1: FIRST TEE JITTERS

Although many players have nerves of steel, I thought it would be nice to give a couple tips for those who fear the first tee.

Preparation – This has two parts: the day before the round and the day of. The day before the round involves equipment- checking your bag for sunscreen, rain gear, umbrella, golf balls, etc. You never want to put yourself in a situation where you are scrambling to find your umbrella or rain gear just before your round because it looks like it might rain. Inevitably, it will. Make sure you have enough balls to complete your round.

The day of your round consists of your pre-round routine on the range and practice green, which can be anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes. Everyone has different needs prior to a round of golf, so know what works for you and stick with it.

Slow down – The anxiety of the first tee will create an increase in adrenaline. To curb this, slow down your routine prior to teeing off. Try sitting in your cart for an additional minute to take everything in, or implement a five-second break between each swing on the driving range-anything to slow yourself down.

Tension – Lighten up your grip pressure. Treat the grip like a tube of toothpaste- don’t squeeze the paste out.

Practice swing – Maximum of two swing thoughts. Remind yourself of your swing thoughts during the practice swing. Once you are over the ball, your swing should be a reaction, not a thought.

To date, I have never heard of a match being won or lost with the first swing of the day. You should never allow one bad swing to be the indicator of what’s to come. If you allow yourself to believe that, you’re well on your way to a round filled with frustration. You have to be optimistic even if you’ve just hit a tree near the first tee. Ever heard a PGA Tour player talk about how bad they are playing and it’s hopeless? Probably not. Tour players are always upbeat (almost to the level of being self-brainwashed) and constantly convince themselves that they’re one good round from turning the corner.

That’s a good lesson.

TIP 2: INSTEAD OF FIGHTING IT, USE THE WIND TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

More times than not, golfers rarely take enough club while playing into the wind and swing way too hard. The following points will help you deal with those windy days.

Cover the shot – Cheat the balance of your stance to the left side. Keep your balance there through the finish. This will help you to stay over the ball to promote a lower ball flight

Take an extra club – If you are in between clubs, club up. Use the force of the wind to stop your ball. Think about it: How many times have you hit the ball over the green into the wind?

Shorten your swing – Less movement leads to smaller errors.