(Golf Digest April 2005 issue.)
Course: Hunter’s Green Country Club, Tampa
Improvement: 24.0 Handicap Index in mid-2003 to 3.0 in 2005
Occupation: Junior, Wharton High School, Tampa
Goal in 2005: Lower high-school scoring average below 37 (for nine-hole matches); play in U.S. Open qualifier
Long-range goal: Make the PGA Tour
Byars went through a common learning curve and shot-bending pattern, as a young golfer: He started as a slicer, converted to a hook to gain distance but “overdid it a little.” With the help of his instructor, Rick Bradshaw, at the Jim Dent & Rick Bradshaw School of Golf in Tampa, he’s now hitting a more controllable, right-to-left shot, or as he puts it, “a one- or two-yard draw.”
Byars says he didn’t get serious about his game until two years ago, in his freshman year. He broke 100 within five months and broke 90 even faster, and after that it “kinda came easy.” But not without some guidance. Bradshaw helped adjust Byars’ backswing so he didn’t bring the club back so far inside and gave him some drills to reinforce the correct backswing positions.
Byars is now the No. 1 player on his high school team and reaching high for the future. For now, his short-term goals include breaking 70 for 18 holes and lowering his nine-hole scoring average by a shot or more during high-school matches.
Byars runs almost daily to gain endurance, does sit-ups and push-ups and has joined a Fit 4 Life program. “My dad did it and gained like 20 yards,” says Lance. Byars also subjects himself to a demanding 21- to three-hour weekday practice regimen (12 hours on weekends), or as much as he can squeeze in after school. That breaks down like this:
Byars says he realizes that, in today’s precocious world, getting totally serious about his game at 14 two years ago means he might be a late bloomer. But, hey, he says, “K.J. Choi didn’t start until he was 16.”
Case study by Peter McCleery