James Parker is a PGA qualified golf professional and founder of the James Parker Online Golf Academy. He coaches students ranging from aspiring tour pros to mid/high handicappers to play the game better through his holistic approach to golf instruction.

My Life Story

I was born in 1978 just north of Birmingham, England. From the earliest times I can remember being good at sports. I was always doing well on athletics day and played on all the school sports teams and excelled at football (Soccer). I grew up in a normal middle class family. My Dad was a shop steward in a factory. My mom worked in a hospital. We went on holiday once or twice a year to Spain or somewhere else in Europe. As the eldest of three children I was the one who took it upon himself to show my brother and sister the rules of the jungle. Where to go, how to act, what to say, how to dress, how to be cool, how to get ahead. I was a teacher at a very young age even though I didn’t know it yet.

For the most part, I enjoyed my childhood very much. I was told I was a natural at things a lot. Because I was told this I even adopted my own little catchphrase to show off to my friends. “Natural talent” is what I used to say to my mates when they praised me on the football field or the athletics track or the golf course. Of course I now know that was a load of rubbish. The reason I was good at football and other sports was because I did it a lot! If me and my classmates weren’t doing some kind of sporting activity in school we were definitely doing something out of school. This may have consisted of getting a ride up to the golf course. Jumping on a bike with my clubs on my back and riding up to the course. Playing football over the park until nightfall. Inventing games with friends such as who can run to the end of the road and back in the fastest time. You name it, this is what my childhood consisted of. So of course when parents and teachers saw me on the football field or in the two hundred meter sprint, they were impressed. But, what nobody told me was that it was all because of my training off the course, pitch or track that virtually ensured I had a good result on it.

This was pretty much how life was for me up until I was seventeen. I was at one point, school athletics captain, football captain, I played for four different football teams up until I was sixteen as well as being Junior golf captain at the golf club. I started playing golf when I was around 8 or 9. My parents didn’t play, but it was just one of those games that I had to have a go at. Before long, I was hooked and my dad got me a membership at the local golf course. It wasn’t expensive to be a junior member at a private course back then. I think he paid maybe 100 pounds a year and believe me I made the most of it. I can remember playing 3 rounds a day some days during the summer holidays. That’s 54 holes, and I was walking! That’s when I really learned how to play the game and score. I think I got down to a 7 handicap by the time I was thirteen, and spent the next seven years getting down to a scratch.

Looking back my biggest mistake was not taking that many lessons. Sure, I had my fair share of group classes with the assistant pro’s and the occasional lesson from the head pro but for the most part I was figuring it out by myself. That’s the one thing I would do differently if I had chance. I’d have a regular lesson every week with the head pro. I don’t remember us being strapped for cash when I was a kid but we certainly weren’t rolling in it either. I think I felt as though I already had a nice cushtie gig with my golf club membership, I didn’t want to rock the boat and keep asking my dad for more money every week.

I finished sixteenth in the Under 15’s English Boys Championship. But still hadn’t made up my mind what I wanted to do with my life. I was good but I wasn’t exceptional, and at that point I was a better soccer player than I was a golfer. I was playing for the school football team, my sunday morning team, my town schoolboys team and attending my towns school of excellence program. I loved the game and still do. I’m a huge Manchester United fan and will be until the day I die. The truth is, around that time, maybe when I was 15 or 16 I needed to make up my mind what I wanted to focus on. I wanted football, but honestly at that point I just wasn’t making the grade like I was years before. It was then, when I was around sixteen years of age that I decided golf is where it’s at..

I stayed on at school in sixth form instead of leaving when I was sixteen to get some extra qualifications. My Dad sensibly advising me along the way. After sixth form and a brief stint in the golf section of a local sports retailer, I found my first job as a pro. Or so I thought!

Back then in the 1990’s in England, there wasn’t a minimum wage. So employers could literally hire people for pennies. I know, crazy when you look back at it, and it wasn’t even that long ago. So I got my job as an assistant Pro only to really have my hopes and dreams shattered.

Allow me to divulge – I was working in a golf shop at a golf course six days a week, working anything from 60-70 hours a week for exactly 62.50 (pounds) a week. Now I’d probably get out to practice for an hour a day or maybe even get 9 holes in when it was quiet but it wasn’t what I had hoped for and before long as any young seventeen year old kid would, I started to rebel! I realized something about myself. And that was I didn’t like being told what to do by some grumpy old talentless fart who was only paying me less than a pound an hour. I felt used, abused, and after maybe a year finally told him to shove it. I didn’t have any other work lined up but just had to get out. It was affecting my personality, and I just didn’t want to get out of bed anymore.

So I found myself at eighteen years of age, unemployed but more to the point unemployable. At that point in my life I was asking myself all kinds of questions like, should I have pursued a football career? should I have studied harder to get better grades to go to university (even though I hated studying)? The next year or so of my life I spent at an electronics company in their stores dept. My good friend Neil was one of the reps there and he got me an interview. I worked 8-4ish and played and practiced after that and at the weekends. What’s crazy is, I actually enjoyed my time doing this far more than I ever did working in the golf industry at a golf club. During this time I got my handicap down to scratch and won the club championship at my home club. This then gave me the confidence and reinstalled my desire to get back into the golf industry. I was growing up, and was starting to have some ideas about the kind of life and career I could have as a pro.

So after some deliberation and serious career talk with my Dad, I started enquiring at local courses again. And yes, you guessed it found another old, grumpy pro to work under. By this time however, the working conditions were a little better. Tony Blair and his Labour party had been elected into office and he soon brought in a new law and minimum wage. Granted 3.75 (pounds) an hour wasn’t gonna get me a table at the Ritz but it was better than a year or so before. Plus, I was teaching a lot more members for some extra cash and I was making it work, somehow. During this time I started my PGA training at The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield. This was a major bonus for pros living in the west midlands area because we didn’t have to travel very far to get to PGA Headquarters.

For the next three years I managed studying for my PGA Diploma, teaching members, working in the golf shop and working on my game. This was my university course and it put me in good stead for the future I must say. The three year course was not easy. There were assignments with deadlines that had to be in by a certain date. I had to pass all my assignments, plus attend and pass week long residential courses at PGA Headquarters at The Belfry. All this before you could move on to the next year. Subjects ranged from business management to golf coaching to sports psychology to club repairs, equipment technology and rules of the game. Plus many more. It was intense. And after a few moves from golf club to golf club for my day job during the three years. I passed my diploma and found myself at PGA Headquarters at The Belfry for my graduation ceremony.

It was then that I realized that I was part of a group of people that would in effect go on and teach the next generation of golfers. We had an obligation, and I found that humbling and not something to take lightly.

Although I now knew my life would be in golf, I didn’t want to go down the road of some of my mentors. Although I met and admired some different pros by that point in my life. I still knew I didn’t want a job as a head pro. Most head pro’s I’d met in England were all grumpy, they didn’t enjoy their job I could tell that. At this point in my life I started to look at what I was good at. I seemed to have a nack of getting on well with people. I always seemed to be busy giving lessons. But I also started to rack up some decent finishes in tournaments as well. I was starting to contend on the Midland PGA circuit, regularly finishing in the top 10 and also played well at the British Assistant Professionals Championship at St Ann’s Old Links GC. I finished 8th (-7) in the end, with rounds of 70-66-73. But was sitting pretty in second place on -8 with one round to play.

So after completing my PGA training and as fully qualified Golf Professional in my own right, I decided to concentrate on two main avenues of earning a living. Playing the game and teaching the game. In 2006 I qualified to play on the PGA Europro Tour. And although I didn’t win, did fire some nice scores and broke a course record along the way. I even traveled as far as Malaysia to try and qualify for the Asian Tour, and came state side to compete in some Hooters Tour events. I also tried out at European Tour qualifying school. But again, didn’t quite make the grade.

I new I could compete, and more importantly enjoyed the feeling. After a year of traveling around Europe, Asia and visiting the states. I was broke. So I drove down to Surrey, England (just outside London) for an interview with one of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 InstructorsMitchell Spearman.

Mitchell had formed a partnership with a company called TopGolf. It’s basically a multilevel golf range on steroids. The balls have tiny microchips in them and when you hit a target on the range, the data shows up on your screen in your hitting bay. Pretty cool stuff, and Mitchell’s name was above the academy door at each site. What also interested me, was that these TopGolf facilities were springing up like hot cakes in the USA as well. I accepted the job as a Senior Instructor working for Mitchell. He was always flying to and from the US which is where he’s based and he’d regularly stop by for a few days for training to make sure me, Adam, and him were all singing off the same hymn sheet. I enjoyed my time living in Surrey, was extremely busy there and started learning a great deal from Mitchell.

Chicago

After a year or so of working hard, I finally got asked the question I was waiting for.. I sat down with Mitchell in one of our meetings and with a slight grin on his face, the first words out of his mouth were “So, are you still interested in moving to America?”. I said yes, he knew I wanted to be offered a job in America and he made it happen for me. I’ll always be grateful that he gave me that opportunity. About two and a half months later, after all the paperwork and visas had been signed I was sitting in the first class cabin on a British Airways 747, at Heathrow airport, headed for Chicago.

It was the end of March 2008. The weather in Chicago was just starting to turn nice and I had a great teaching position as a Senior Instructor at the TopGolf – Mitchell Spearman Academy in Wood Dale, Illinois, in the suburbs of Chicago. The site was just down the road from Medinah CC, and for the first couple of months I also lived around the corner in Roselle. I then moved to Schaumburg for the remainder of my stay. Life was good, I immediately blended in and liked the culture a lot. I was giving more lessons than the other two full time pros combined and people seemed to like me. It’s a weird feeling being a Brit living in America. In a good way I mean. I’ve literally heard people say “I love your accent..” well over a thousand times! Now for someone who comes from an area in England that is ridiculed for our accent, it felt good.

We generally tend to pronounce our vowels a little differently. Such as “Hond” for “Hand”, “Opple” for “Apple” or “Mon” for “Man”.

I was pretty busy for six months or so until of October 2008. That’s when the weather starts to change in Chicago and people and their golf clubs hibernate. In a matter of weeks it went from in the 60’s to the 20’s. I never saw the weather improve because by February 2009 I was living and working in Alexandria, VA. Just across the Potomac river from Washington DC.

I did take a flight back a few months later however. To watch United in the champions league final against Barcelona with my good mate Kevin and his son. If you remember that final, it’s the one where we got hammered!

The weather is too brutal in Chicago for a Golf Pro. Really hot in the summer and really really cold in the winter. I didn’t play in any tournaments through the summer as I was too busy teaching, and the lessons got less and less through the winter. Mitchell created a opening for me at the Alexandria location so I loaded my stuff in a U-Haul whilst towing my car on the back, and made the 16 hour drive to the DC area. I left Chicago on a Sunday morning in the middle of a snow blizzard to arrive in Alexandria, VA to beautiful sunny skies.

Washington DC

I again immediately knuckled down. I spent pretty much all my time at TopGolf teaching and hitting balls with people. Sometimes up until 10-11pm. My schedule was booked up weeks in advance and I coached some great people and personalities. They ranged from Admirals, Colonels, Secret Service, Presidents (of companies), guys that worked in the library of congress, consultants, CEO’s, Pentagon employees, in some way everyone seemed to work for the government. It was impressive. And I realized I was living in a very very powerful place.

I again seemed to make friends easily, and because I was practicing again, I started to get my game back. After I had settled in I started to play more often and regularly got invites out to play at places like Congressional CC, TPC Potomac, Burning Tree CC and Caves Valley CC as I coached many of their members. I made it through to sectional (final) qualifying for the US Open which was held at Woodmont CC. 36 holes of high pressure golf if there ever were any. I didn’t play my best and ended up with something like 73, 74 playing with Guy Boros, a PGA Tour Winner back in 1996. I didn’t feel out of my league but my game clearly needed work if I was ever going to compete at this level.

It was at this time that I started to really dive deeper into the instructional world. I was close with my own game, so I was hungry to learn more and pass it onto my clients as well. I found myself following and learning everything I could from guys like Sean Foley, Mike Bennett, Andy Plummer, Martin Chuck, Mark Evershed, Dave Stockton, and many more.

The way I coached people back then was to observe their ball flight and reverse engineer what was causing it. For example, a fade is caused by an open club face to the path. I’d slow a students swing down on screen, through impact, to show the student the impact conditions and then work backwards through the swing to find the fault or faults that were causing it. But the guys, I was starting to listen to (as well as Mitchell) were talking more along the lines of exactly how to do it. They all spoke about the swing as if it were a machine, and although there has to be some give and take depending on the person. The machine has to operate in a certain way.

I was hooked, and since then I’ve been learning what people have to say on exactly how this thing called the golf swing works.

My research has lead me to find people like Homer Kelly, who wrote a book called The Golfing Machine back in 1969. This really is a piece of work and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about the golf swing. Since reading this book it’s given me the confidence to go deeper in my understanding and teaching of the game. I’ve read and own book’s by Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Eddie Merrins, David Leadbetter, Dave Peltz, Dr karl Morris, Dr Bob Rotella, Steve Elkington, John Jacobs, Harvey Penick, and the list goes on and on and on.

That’s one of the life lessons I’ve learned from all these great players and teachers. A good teacher never stops learning. Once you think you know it all and stop searching for answers, it’s all over. The passion dries up and the drive doesn’t exist anymore. I’ve been there a couple of times early on in my career, namely when I lived back in England being surrounded by all those guys who made bad career choices and took it out on the people around them.

Nowadays, I always want to hear what people are saying about a particular subject, whether it be the swing, how to play, how to practice, how to putt etc. I’ve learned over my career to respect experience. Nothing beats learning how to do something through experience. Therefore, I listen very closely to the people out on tour or have been on tour.

I spent two and a half years in the DC area. Firstly living in Alexandria, then moving to Arlington, then moving in with my then girlfriend Melissa in DC itself. We lived in a nice apartment about six blocks north of the White House for about a year and a half before packing up and moving to beautiful Los Angeles. She had a great job offer from her company that was now headquartered in El Segundo. We moved to Manhattan Beach in October 2011, and from that point onwards I’ve been a self employed Golf Pro. What I learned whilst living and working in DC is that this country is alive with opportunity. Being attached to one place of doing business was strangling me. I wanted out, so when Melissa mentioned her opportunity in Los Angeles and asked if I’d be interested in moving with her, I said yes!

Los Angeles

It was all starting to fit together. I loved and still do love the idea of being mobile. What I’ve learned is that if you have a trade and some talent you can take that with you wherever you are in the world. I had the experience, the talent, the girl, the freedom, all I needed now was a plan. There was something I realized about my life up until that point. In that, besides from obviously not yet earning a living on tour, I had got pretty much whatever I wished for. I’d always wanted to be a sportsman, I’d always wanted to live in America, I’d always wanted to be a teacher, I’d always wanted to get married on the beach. And I’d always wanted to run my own business.

Me and Melissa got married on the beach just outside Cancun in October 2012.

Since moving to LA I’ve been pretty much on this entrepreneurial adventure. I was offered jobs within the industry out in LA but I turned them all down. I just didn’t like being told what to do, simple. So I joined a country club in Calabasas and started teaching people there as well as working on my game. Life as a golf pro is so much easier this way. I’m totally in control of my own destiny and I haven’t got someone telling me to be here at this time, and do this at this time. I’m personable so getting clients has never been the issue. Just standing in the middle of a driving range allowing others to watch me practice is normally enough to get them to enquire who I am and what my deal is. This normally leads to a business card exchange and I hear from them via email to book up a session.

I got through the first stage of US Open qualifying again. I got through some pre-qualifiers on the PGA Tour to play in the Monday qualifiers. But it still wasn’t happening. So I started to go even deeper into the mechanics of the swing, NLP, psychology, biomechanics, and learned some pretty cool stuff. It was then that I decided I was going to start on online business.

The idea behind my online golf academy is to provide you with instruction no matter where you are in the world. I actually got the idea from learning how Rory Mcilroy stays in touch with his coach Michael Bannon in Ireland. Michael has an online academy and Rory sometimes sends his swing to make sure nothing has fallen out of whack. I actually had an original website made but to be honest I went cheap and it didn’t match up with the vision I had for it. I then found the guys at Square It Up, and hired them to build my site and the functionality it needed. It didn’t come cheap let me tell you. But seeing how my life had turned out so far, I thought if I build something like this I can grow it into something special.

Well, firstly let me say, it’s not an easy thing to do. Start your own business that is. I mean a real business. There’s a lot of brain power goes behind it all, and I’ve hired a lot of people who are way smarter than me to help me. I’ve had to learn about internet marketing and copywriting, social media, making videos, and I’ve learned a lot from people like James Wedmore, Mike Dillard, David Wood, Marie Forleo, Gary Veynerchuck, Tim Ferris, and the list goes on. All absolutely rocking it on the internet and I must admit I’ve stole the odd idea or two from these guys.

Here’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s all about the value you offer people. All these people listed above have some much valuable content out there for people to learn and improve their lives from. Why wouldn’t anyone want to buy their book or purchase an online course or something similar from them. I did, and they all came up trumps in my opinion, and I’m not easily pleased.

Since 2013, when I built my online academy. I’ve been all in with regards to building a personal brand for myself and providing others with some really valuable information. The Internet is still in its infancy, and there’s lots of people trying to figure it out. I think the way to go about it is to give first, and give big to build up trust. Giving without wanting is what separates the best from the rest.

I always try and over deliver when someone hires me or pays for my services. Even though my time certainly doesn’t come cheap nowadays I always try and give people more than what they pay for. That way my perceived value goes up, people are happy and then they tell their friends, and they tell their friends.

Dallas, TX

We spent a couple of years in LA before moving just north of Dallas, Texas in October 2013. Melissa was offered a position at her new headquarters in McKinney so – again playing the loving husband – we packed up and drove with the dogs across country. I immediately positioned myself well and joined Stonebridge Country Club, meeting with private clients on a regular basis. When I’m not teaching one on one or a small group, I’m in front of a computer sending my Online Academy members their mobile (video) lessons back. I’ve got nothing but great feedback for what I’ve created at my online academy and every month the number of visitors/traffic increases.

The Future

I’ve always used myself as a guinea pig when it comes to learning something new about the game or the swing. And because of that, I’ve built a pretty good swing for myself. I like following the careers of people like Steve Elkington, Dave Stockton or Grant Waite, or Bobby Clampett for example. They were, and are great players in their own right but also great teachers. Showing a deep understanding of how it all works and how to pass on the knowledge to others. When it’s all said and done I’d like to be known as someone like this. Someone who is respected for the game he has built for himself but also the quality information he shares with others.

So in addition to running my online academy and coaching students at the beautiful Pete Dye Signature course at Stonebridge CC in Mckinney, Texas. I’ll also be out there competing, trying to get to the next level, learning and passing on the knowledge along the way.

I hope my story inspires you to do something great.

Think about what YOU want in life. Think about it a lot. And I’m sure it will become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Best of luck with your golf game, and feel free to leave a comment or question below.

James

To be continued…..