JOSHUA BOUCHER | Staff Photographer
Dave Wedzik, left, instructs Ed Schmidt on how to achieve a better start line through the position of the face of the club.
Dave Wedzik had his cup of coffee on the PGA Tour, and like many before and after him, it left a bittersweet taste in his mouth.
Wedzik, who was appointed as director of instruction at Chautauqua Golf Learning Center in January, spent close to a decade playing professional golf on developmental tours. In 1999, he got the call to play in the Greater Milwaukee Open, a now-defunct PGA tournament, where he missed the cut by seven shots.
“It was one of the best times of my life,” Wedzik said of his playing career. “It was just something I looked back and was so glad I did, [but] it was tough.”
The golfing bug never left Wedzik. Soon after leaving his aspirations of breaking into a career on the green, Wedzik decided to teach. Mike Bender, an instructor who runs a golf academy near Orlando, Florida, was Wedzik’s teacher and a source of inspiration for Wedzik to open his own golf academy in Erie, Pennsylvania.
“He thought it was nuts because I was playing full time, but I’d go out and watch a bunch of his lessons,” Wedzik said. “I enjoyed how other people were learning. So it was fairly easy for me in that I felt like I had a knack to teach, but I also now know what a student goes through when they’re working on something different and how difficult something could feel when you ask them to change something.”
Wedzik teaches at Golf Evolution, his 10,000-square- foot indoor golf academy located in Erie. Its location makes it difficult to split time between Chautauqua’s practice facilities and Wedzik’s home, but he sees Chautauqua as a supplement to teaching people in and around the area.
“At first, I didn’t think I had the time,” Wedzik said. “I didn’t know how I was going to pull this thing off. But what I ended up working out was that it was almost this perfect little spot for me [in addition to] an indoor place.”
In addition to teaching at Golf Evolution, Wedzik has been the worldwide director of instruction for Medicus Golf Schools and created the 5 Simple Keys Learning System, which currently tops the marketplace for instructional golf videos. Wedzik and Erik Barzeski, who will join the learning center as head instructor, co-authored Lowest Score Wins, a self-published golf instruction book released last year.
In Chautauqua Institution, where tradition reigns over technology, the learning center turns that idea on its head: video analysis and launching monitors, as well as several training devices, breakdown player’s swings and strokes from the tee to the green.
The learning center, which opened in 2008, boasts three practice holes, a chipping green that simulates approach shots, two putting greens and a sprawling driving range on the north end of the expansive area — along with picturesque views of Chautauqua Lake. Wedzik invites golfers of all levels to take advantage of improving their game.
“From a lesson standpoint, we make it a big focus that we don’t expect anyone to try to rebuild their swing,” Wedzik said. “We want to isolate what they need to do better, give them one simple thing to work on and then it’s only that. So that’s important to a person taking a lesson and we’re not going to try and fill their head with a lot of stuff. We’re going to try and keep it really simple for them.”