BISHER: Anderson creates teaching hub on Ga. coast

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

ST. SIMONS ISLAND — About 30 years ago, Todd Anderson pulled stakes and left Rockland, Mich., in the suburbs of Grand Rapids, and headed south on a personal mission.

His destination was Alabama — Tuscaloosa, to be exact — where he hoped to make the golf team at the university, where the weather was more cuddly, and where he might earn a Crimson Tide scholarship. His plan worked; he not only succeeded, but became captain of the Alabama golf team — and got to watch Bear Bryant coach football up close as a kind of bonus.

Todd is 49 now, looks 35, is as trim as a sprinter, and his features bear the kind of healthful bronze that comes with days spent under the kindly Southern sun.

He had his chance to play the professional tour. A group of friends in Grand Rapids pledged their support, but Todd had other plans. He wanted to teach, but you don’t get appointed a professor of golf, you earn it. He played his dues the routine way.

First, there was a stretch behind the counter in a club shop, then a move up the ladder to his own shop, and he was on his way.

His first station was Elk River in the North Carolina mountains, then to Old Marsh in Florida, and the Breakers at Palm Beach later came calling. This was just about as high as a guy could go, but he still wasn’t where he wanted to be. He wanted to be a teacher, and as fate would have it Bill Jones III, CEO at Sea Island came to interview him, and since 2004, Todd has progressed to director of instruction at the Sea Island Learning Center, where golfers of various ilk — from such aspiring hopefuls as Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, to 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover — come to put a shine on their game.

Thus, Todd Anderson has had a pass at every phase of golf, and this is what he chooses.

“I had my chance at playing and developing my game, but I decided I wanted a base, rather than roam,” he said.

And it all came to fruition in late January, when he stood before his peers and accepted the award as PGA of America Teacher of the Year Award in Orlando, joining in the great society of teaching professionals that includes Harvey Penick, Paul Runyan, Jack Flick and a gallery of great professionals who have furthered the art of the game.

Golf Digest has named him one of the game’s 50 greatest teachers.

The Sea Island Center and St. Simons have become a campus of golf teaching. Several players of prominence have settled on the island — Davis Love III, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jonathan Byrd, Brandt Snedeker and several others who maintain temporary residences.

Others drop in for a tune-up, and Todd has a cluster of his own full-time clients: Brett Quigley, Charles Warren, Billy Horschel and Snedeker, and as many as 25-30 players may pass through the learning center during the year.

“When I was about 25, a group of friends offered to back me on the tour,” Todd said. “But you’ve got to have the desire to do it, and I didn’t. This is what I like to do, and I where I want to be.”

He’s a teacher to the amateurs and a consultant to the pros. He has worked with several distinguished teachers of the game, and, as he put it, “I’ve learned something from them all, and I pass it on at Sea Island.”

Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.