Trini-born golf coach aims to contribute to sport in T&T
To non-golfers, the sport seems like a sport where people with money spend leisurely time on the greens, networking and hanging out.
But when you hear Tony Bryan talk about golf, you realize it’s much more than that.
Bryan sees golf as a metaphor for life.
For the 60-year-old golf coach, the game is about problem solving, cognitive development, math skills and stress management.
“A basketball court or cricket or soccer ball or netball or something has the same boundary lines. You know, if you go and play cricket, it’s the same border. When you play football, it’s the same size, the same as basketball, you have clear parameters. When it comes to golf, it’s a different golf course every time,” he explained.
“You go to different courses and it’s not the same parameters and at certain times you also go to certain areas where it can be cold. So you worry about the wind factor. Sometimes you see a tree that’s about a meter tall and next year that tree is about 10 feet tall and it’s like I hit that thing over there. Things change. So I added life skills to say, hey, one day the tree will be so tall, so your problems will be so big. And the next day your problems are like this. And how do you control that? But it’s the same tree you’re dealing with, only you have to handle it differently.”
Bryan, who currently coaches tweens and teens through First Tee in Maryland, where he lives, said he focuses on cognitive development as one aspect of his coaching.
“Whenever I teach, I teach by showing children different puzzles for solving problems, such as math. Remember those math problems if John had four apples and Jill had three? Guess what? Those are the types of problems you face in golf. You know, if the tree was three feet tall and it’s five feet tall today, how high do you have to hit it? Well, I gotta get it two feet. Also, that means I have to have a big swing. So there you are. That’s your solution,” he said.
“But then the other part of the solution is that you are here today, but yesterday we saw the same tree. You will never hit it in the same place. Like basketball, it’s the same spot you hit every time. But in golf, the ball rolls here or the ball rolls over there, but you still have to go over that tree, so cognitive training. They focus on the mind and also focus on breathing to relieve stress. You play against yourself and you have to find life solutions or golf solutions just like you do in life.”
These are the lessons Bryan wants to teach to children in Trinidad and Tobago.
Born in Trinidad, Bryan spent many of his formative years between his country of birth, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom before emigrating permanently in 1990 when the coup took place.
Still, the former banker remains “Trini to de bone” and longs to contribute to the country’s development through golf.
A keen athlete and fitness expert, Bryan was involved in many sports while living in T&T. He’s done everything from sailing to tennis, but when he immigrated to Washington DC he discovered golf and became instantly hooked.
Some friends from Trinidad, DC, invited him to play golf, but Bryan said he missed the ball every time he swung the club.
“Every time I looked down the ball is still there and not over there and being very competitive I wanted to know why I kept making mistakes. I thought I was that athlete, so I said, you know what, I’m going to come back tomorrow and try, and then tomorrow, and then every day was a morning. So I had to hit that ball and like that game and it became an addiction for me,” he said.
Gradually he improved, but then Tiger Woods burst onto the scene in 1997 and Bryan, motivated by someone who looked like him and was dominating the game, decided to take his place in a mainly white game.
He recalled going to a country club to buy golf clubs and was told by a clerk there to go to Walmart instead because they were cheaper.
“It pissed me off and it made me say I need to be here,” said Bryan, who had tricked someone into buying the exact same golf clubs for him.
As he delved further into the game, Bryan watched many programs for children, but on the courts where he played he did not see children who did not resemble him.
“I remember going to a trainer at a place called Langston, an African American trainer in Washington DC. Langston Golf Course is one of the oldest black golf courses and I said hey I know you’re in this zip code but I want to play at a country club nearby and I want to bring kids from the public schools. Why can’t these children go from here to there?” he recalled.
“I actually took a semi-private class and said let’s take some kids and start a program. You could be the trainer. His name was Ed Artis and we started a junior program. I asked him to teach me coaching and he taught me and then I started coaching and I got certified in golf fitness and performance by the Titleist Performance Institute. Nobody at Titleist looked like me back then because everyone was white.”
Tony gives lectures
He joked that while breaking various ones like Tiger Woods he was making pennies, not millions, but people saw the value in what he was doing.
Its program has been expanded to include 144 children of different races and backgrounds. He also began coaching collegiate golf.
A board-certified health and wellness professional who works as a daytime wellness manager for the US Department of Health and Human Services, Bryan has been able to combine his knowledge with sport to also focus on injury prevention through a program with Titleist.
“I started out in fitness, but then I got curious about how the body moves and I did science and kinesiology and then biomechanics. I worked on joints, the tissue that is myofascial, and then on the ligaments and tendons, because that’s where the body breaks down. With my background in science and fitness, it started to come together, and I created programs to make sure you get from here to here with the least amount of injury,” said Bryan, who holds a BSc degree in applied functional science from The Gray Institute in Michigan .
In 2019, Bryan conducted a program with children at the Millennium Golf Course in Trincity. He said the program started with three children but, to his surprise, grew to 80 on the second day.
“It was the best experience I’ve ever had, just looking at them, learning, and then really embracing what I had to teach and their testimonies. I actually asked them to write down their experiences and it was the nicest thing I’ve kept,” he said, also praising the local coaches, who he said were really good.
Bryan also wants to work with the coaches to bring them up to an international level, particularly through the use of technology and standards in dealing with their young charges.
He was most recently with T&T in October of last year where he was a guest speaker at the Novel Sports Golf Performance Symposium at Pointe-a-Pierre Golf Club.
He said: “It was well attended and not only that, they want more so the good thing about all of this is that it’s not just talk. They want more. And I would like to be a part of it. And again, I would like to be part of my culture and I give that back.”