‘Full circle’: One of golf’s best instructors moves back to Chicagoland, becomes hockey dad while staying connected to the game he loves

‘Full circle’: One of golf’s best instructors moves back to Chicagoland, becomes hockey dad while staying connected to the game he loves

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — An anesthesiologist by trade and a lover of golf, Romy Patel spends his free time these days enjoying a unique anniversary gift.

“It was totally surreal,” Patel said. “Especially knowing his stature in the golf world — Learning from one of the best is pretty cool and definitely a little surreal at the moment.”

The man Patel and several other students are working with is legendary golf instructor Hank Haney, who calls The Golf Practice in Highland Park his home course these days.

“I grew up in Deerfield and I was at the store down the street and I saw this sign, ‘The Golf Practice,'” Haney told WGN’s Kaitlin Sharkey. “And I thought, ‘I wonder what that is?’ So, I came in here and this nice girl was showing me around. She didn’t know who I was.”

For the uninitiated, Haney has spent most of his career in golf as the personal instructor for several PGA Tour golfers, none bigger than the most gargantuan figure in golf today — Tiger Woods — Who Haney spent six years coaching himself.

“My career has gone full circle, because when you first start coaching, you teach whoever you can teach, you teach a lot of beginner clinics and stuff like that,” Haney said. “And then I was fortunate enough to teach touring pros and the best you know when I worked Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara and so many other pros.

“When I did that, I didn’t teach the amateur players, [I did] very rarely, and now that’s all I’m teaching. I don’t teach pros anymore and I’m enjoying it more than I ever have.”

Haney, who previously called the Arizona desert his home, moved back to Chicagoland on the wings of his son’s aspirations to play another sport.

“We moved here for my sons hockey,” Haney said. “I’m 68 and I have an 11-year-old and its my only child and he plays hockey and he’s pretty good. So, this is the best place you can play hockey [and] we came to play on the Chicago Reapers team.”

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Haney’s 11-year-old son, Henry, picked up skating just a few years ago, and his path to the Reapers has turned Hank into a hockey dad.

“The first time he skated, we had a house in Flagstaff, Arizona, and he skated at an outdoor rink and he was like, “I want to play hockey,'” Haney said. “And I’m like, Oh my God we’re so far behind. He just stood out there all day long and he kept skating and skating and I thought, ‘Maybe he has a chance.’

“Then he made one team, and another team, and then he made this team here so, he loves it. Our friends think we’re crazy and they all tell me how cold it is here and I’m like, ‘I grew up there I know what it is,’ but I’m not picking where I’m living based on temperature, I’m picking it based on what’s best for my son.”

While Henry stays busy with school and hockey, Haney wanted to continue his passion for teaching and he said the owner of The Golf Practice, Chris Oehlerking, was more than happy to have him.

“I pinch myself every time I see him here working with people, just to know we share the commonality of wanting to help people,” Oehlerking said. “There’s a wealth of knowledge that he brings, that helps me and my staff develop as coaches.”

As Haney has settled into The Golf Practice, the word of his return to Chicago’s north shore has garnered plenty of attention.

“[Haney] did ask us where we wanted him to teach in the facility,” Oehlerking said. “[He said] ‘You can put me in the back,’ and we said, ‘We like you right there, because it’s where most people walk past,’ and there’s been a lot of interest from people to get instruction from him.”

In the end, Haney was happy to oblige and happy to get back to what he loves to do.

“It’s just fun to help people, to be honest with you,” Haney said. “When you’re good at something and I’m good at this, I like to do it and to see that joy that people get. People are so passionate about golf and they wanna hit better shots, they want to do that. That’s fun for me.”

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