AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP | Barkley’s cup runneth over in reunion with Haney
STATELINE – It should have been dubbed as “The Haney Project Revisited.”
The last time swing coach Hank Haney worked with Charles Barkley, the NBA Hall of Famer was still struggling to eliminate golf’s most ridiculed downswing in the final episode of season one of “The Haney Project” on the Golf Channel.
The two were reunited late Wednesday afternoon on the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course driving range as Barkley began preparations for the American Century Championship that runs today through Sunday. Hours earlier at his press conference, Haney, the former swing coach of Tiger Woods, announced that he was through coaching touring pros, and that his future plans were to mentor juniors and friends like Barkley.
With the most-flawed swing in golf, Barkley can’t go any place without someone poking fun at his stop-and-go movement on his downswing.
“This is such an incredible place,” Haney said. “And it’s such a fun atmosphere, too. I’m used to going to golf tournaments, and there’s a little more pressure there. You know, the only pressure here is will Charles not hitch on one swing.”
Prior to flying into the area on Wednesday afternoon, Barkley arranged for a special instruction powwow with Haney.
Like it often is for Barkley on the driving range, the dreaded hitch was conspicuously missing from his swing. Barkley told Haney that he had been working on keeping his feet still and turning his shoulders.
Their reunion didn’t start well as Barkley began slicing shots into the Porta Potties to the right of the driving range. Haney soon put Barkley through a variety of drills to ward off the curse of his swing and build his confidence.
No matter how ridiculous the drills looked to those watching, Barkley worked up a sweat making swing after swing. Haney set up empty paper cups and paper cups with golf balls inside for Barkley to hit, trying to get the 11-time All-Star to repeat his good swings.
Haney even set up a Converse shoe next to Barkley’s ball, forcing “Sir Charles” to cleanly stroke the shot and not the sneaker. A water bottle soon replaced the shoe.
Time after time Haney set up the cups between the tee markers, humoring Barkley.
“Hank, you brought your own cups. I’m impressed,” Barkley said as Haney pulled some new paper cups out of his golf bag.
“When we’re all through, I should get a Dixie cup commercial out of this.”
After signing some autographs and taking some pictures with his fans, Barkley and Haney set out with Stuart Shipley of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office to test Barkley’s progress over Edgewood’s final four holes.
Haney, of course, brought his paper cups. From the tee box and the middle of the fairway, Barkley was asked to hit the cups. While many of Barkley’s shots sprayed off to the right, they didn’t dribble off the tee.
But the hitch eventually reappeared in Barkley’s swing. It showed up on his approach shot on the par-5 16th hole and on the tee box at No. 17. Several times, Barkley stopped his swing and started over.
“I’m serious. If I don’t play well this year, I’m going to take a year off and learn to play left-handed,” Barkley told Haney on the 17th tee.
Haney then tried a new approach after Barkley misfit a series of tee shots on the lake-front hole. With Barkley struggling to finish his swing, Haney asked the NBA analyst to exaggerate when following through his shot.
“Give me as goofy as you can get,” ordered Haney, who did just that in his demonstration to Barkley. Lacking the grace of Gary Player’s step-toward-the-hole follow-through, Haney sent his shot toward the green while making a mockery of completing his swing.
Barkley tried his best to make a ‘goofy’ follow-through, but Haney didn’t get the desired results. Finally, Haney made Barkley grip his right-handed clubs left-handed, and the former 76ers’ power forward began making smooth practice swings.
“This means a lot to him. He wants to play well for the fans,” said friend Brenyn Albright, who served as Barkley’s caddie on this day.
Barkley has finished last in the past four ACC tournaments, and only actor Brad Garrett kept him out of the cellar in 2005. If things don’t go well this weekend, his fans might start calling him, ‘Lefty.’
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