FEATURE – After more than 21 years of offering summer golf camps to adults and youth (over 4,000 to date) around the world, golf legend Billy Casper has launched the first Billy Casper Golf Academy, located at the picturesque Ledges Golf Club in St. George.
“I run into grown-ups all over that went to my golf camps,” Casper said. “I thought, why don’t we create a very elegant golf academy in the St. George area. People love to come to St. George! Beyond the beautiful golf courses, we can offer a wonderful experience to participants with the national parks, Tuacahn, and the beautiful weather!”
Many golf academies throughout the world are associated with a big name, but seldom, if ever, do the guests get to see or have an experience with that particular professional golfer. At the Billy Casper Golf Academy, students will have an experience like no other, as they will get to interact with and learn firsthand from one of the greatest players in the history of the game.
Casper enjoys the intimate relationship with the guests, combined with cutting-edge technology that they will be able to offer to each golfer.
“Modern-day teaching technologies provide golfers with readouts and visual aids on their swing,” he said. “A professional can instruct all day, but until the student can see it, they often can’t correct it. I’m really excited about the potential for learning we will have at the academy with the visual technologies we will be able to use to teach.”
At the Billy Casper Golf Academy, guests can experience half-day golf schools, one to three-day golf schools, corporate groups and retreats, and individual lessons. Instructors Nick McKinlay and Byron Casper are the head golf instructors, bringing over 40 years of total experience.
Casper spent quite some time discussing his career and many accomplishments.
“I have five important memories that really impacted me as a golfer,” he said. “My first win in 1956 at the Labatt Open was important, as it was my first win on tour. Then, winning the 1959 U.S. Open at the Winged Foot Golf Club in New York really opened the door to the rest of my career.”
Casper recounted struggling with a hand injury in 1963 that took him off tour for three months.
“I faced a lot of questions in mind when I returned: Can I hold up for 72 holes? Can I handle the rough? Would I be the same golfer?” he said. “Well, I played in Hartford, Conn. and won the Insurance City Open Invitational. All my questions were definitely resolved!”
His fourth important memory occurred in 1966, when he came back from seven shots after 54 holes and caught up to Arnold Palmer, eventually winning his second U.S. Open after an intense playoff the next day. The fifth and final memory he shared was winning the Masters in 1970, after another playoff against Gene Littler. Over the life of his career, he had a total of 69 professional wins and 51 PGA tour wins, making him the seventh most decorated player of all-time.
“If you could pin me down, winning the Open in 1959 was the most important event in my golf career,” Casper said. “It opened the doors to everything else. It also led me to the Utah Open, where I found my home, in more ways than one.”
Casper also discussed the lessons learned beyond the game.
“Golf is much like life. You have good days, and your hazards, and you have to work yourself through it. It teaches you patience, love, and understanding. It is a game that builds and continues to build,” he said. “Just like in life, you keep learning as you progress. You are opened up to more and more — you never stop learning, in golf or in life. You learn little things, and those little things are so important to become better golfers, and better people.”
Casper’s book, “The Big Three and Me,” describing the trials and tribulations he experienced as he became one of the greatest golfers of all time, was published in 2012.
In the end, Casper has come full circle.
“You know, the two most important pictures in that book are of my wife of 62 years, Shirley, and a picture of four generations of my kids, grandkids and great-grandkids,” he said.
Visit the Billy Casper Golf Academy website for more information.
Written by Jared DuPree for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.
The editor of St. George Health and Wellness magazine, DuPree earned a doctorate in human ecology with an emphasis in research, wellness and relationships from Kansas State Univerisity. He also earned an international master’s degree in business administration from the University of South Carolina with an emphasis in consulting and entrepreneurship. DuPree has written numerous works on wellness as it relates to individuals, families and communities. He enjoys traveling, cooking, hiking, fishing, playing basketball and spending time with his wife and three children.
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