Golf Academy at West Haven
Virgil Herring, 2002, 2003, 2005 & 2006 Middle-TN PGA Teacher of the Year and 2003 TN PGA Section Teacher of the Year.

One of the Masters of His Craft
By Chuck Curley
Evening Sun Sports Writer

You would think winning a major award would give validation to the career which former Littlestown resident Virgil Herring has chosen.

However, even though he enjoys his new status as the Tennessee Section PGA Teacher of the Year, Herring said the reality of his career will hit him in April at a site far from his Nashville Area home.

"I get to go to The Masters and be at the Taj Mahal of golf", Herring said of his upcoming trip to Augusta National Golf Club. "I'll have my spotlight as a golf instructor. I'm in it and it involves one of my students."

That student is Brandt Snedeker, a Vanderbilt University golfer who won the 2003 United States Public Links championship and therefore qualified for The Masters.

Snedeker is one of dozens of golfers who have improved their games under the instruction of Herring, who recently turned 30.

"All I strive for is to be the best I can be," he said. "…Just me getting this award hasn't made me stop to think or change my ways. It' just who I am."

What Virgil Herring is is a man who once considered baseball as important as golf, though he eventually would attend Mississippi State University to major in Professional Golf Management.

Just as major league managers often come from the ranks of baseball players whose careers had fizzled, Herring's teaching career and his own business, Higher Performance Golf Academy came from an unrealized dream.

"I was so fortunate to be mentored by Bill Strausbaugh, "Herring said of the late golf professional emeritus at Columbia Country Club in Maryland.

Strausbaugh, the PGA Teacher of the Year in 1992, came to Mississippi State and struck up a friendship with Herring, who was aspiring to compete professionally. Strausbaugh invited Herring to his club for instruction.

"Even as I was hitting shots, he was letting me know it's going to be really tough out there and what it was like," Herring said.

As Herring watched Strausbaugh teach others, Strausbaugh's noticed Herring's eye for detail.

"He said: If this playing this doesn't pan out, you should be a good teacher. 'I enjoyed the teaching aspect of it more than the playing aspect," he said.

After graduating from Mississippi State, Herring took a job teaching at a course in Franklin, Tenn., in part to be close to his future wife, Bela, a golfer at Mississippi State.

From there, Herring went to Hermitage Golf Club in Old Hickory, Tenn., home of the former LPGA Sara Lee Classic, before his move this year to Spring House Golf Course in Nashville, where he operates his golf school.

Along the way, Herring's eye for instruction has been reflected in the referrals by golfers to him. In addition to working with Snedeker, he counts PGA Tour player Brad Fabel and Harry Taylor among his students. He conducts corporate clinics and teaches those who visit Spring House.

Those visitors include celebrities based in Nashville, the nation's capital of country music.

"It's an interesting situation. You think they are going to be different. You think they are going to be big-time, but they are not," Herring said. "Vice Gill is one of the nicest people in the world. Chely Wright is just a nice girl who wants to get better at golf."

And Herring says he treats them the same as any other student, in part because his philosophy about golf instruction never wavers.

"They don't want to embarrass themselves," Herring said of his beginning students, "and the simple fundamentals that make that happen are the same that the (PGA) Tour players work on."

"The fundamentals remain the same. It's hilarious, but it always remains true. You come back to the beginning, the fundamental turn and the balance. That's how I was taught by Bill Strausbaugh," Herring said.

Herring uses video replays of a person's swing during the opening lesson so that he and his students see what exactly must be changed. By comparison, Herring said he uses Tiger Woods as the example of the best golf swing.

"the information that you're giving has been out there for 100 years. Don't pretend like you're inventing it. Just make it personal and it will sell itself," he said.

Herring is doing exactly that. Much of his philosophy is detailed on his website, www.hpga.net, which was designed by one of his students and contains information published at the suggestion of his wife.

Penn State football, cinnamon rolls and fine wine among his loves.

The web page also notes The Masters is Herring's favorite tournament, which makes his trip to Augusta with Snedeker all the more special.

"He's so talented, it's ridiculous," Herring said."…He's the best chipper and putter I've worked with."

Success at Augusta will only build Herring's career, though over the past four years, Herring says he has given 7,914 lessons.

"Man, that's a lot of golf instruction and 80 percent of that is in a six-month time span each year," Herring said.

Therefore, Herring will likely add one or two assistants to his golf academy soon so he can devote more time to certain players and watch other teachers to learn new ways to teach the game.

It also will allow Herring more free time away from a career which he likens to a "mushroom cloud". But he is hardly ready to slow down just yet.

"I don't stop to look (back) because I'm still trying to be the greatest. Until I get to the level that I want to be at, I stop to look at the roses, but I don't look in the rearview mirror," he said.

Baseball? It hardly registers on Herring's meter now.

"When we lost our last (Hanover Post 14) Legion game, I haven't even thrown a ball since," he said.

  • Fine tune your game with Virgil Herring's golf instruction video.
  • If you have a question concerning an area of the golf swing or the short game, click here to email Higher Performance Golf Academy.

Virgil is Director of Instruction at:
Westhaven Golf Club
2140 Boyd Mill Pike
Franklin, TN 37064
(615) 579-5190
(Click here for directions)

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