Success Comes with An Open Mind Says Teacher of the Year Dan Sniffin
Dan Sniffin has come a long way from his remote beginnings in the middle of Nowhere, Wyoming, to being recognized as the 2018 Colorado PGA Teacher of the Year.
“Being the recipient of this award is obviously a huge honor for me – I am thrilled and shocked and everything all at once,” expresses Sniffin. “I am extremely thankful to the many professionals that have mentored me and that I have learned from. I’m also thankful that the golf community is so willing to share knowledge and ideas.”
It wasn’t until Sniffin was 10 years old when his family moved into a Colorado community with a par-3 course that he started playing golf with his dad and was struck by the golf bug. His infatuation for the game enabled him to hone his skills enough to play on the University of Colorado Golf Team. This was such an “awesome experience” that after college, instead of getting a job in finance (his field of major), he decided to chase the dream of playing on the PGA Tour. According to Sniffin, after six years of playing the mini-tours, he was tired of being broke and on the road. He still loved the game and decided he wanted to get into teaching golf. At the advice of his supervisor Rudy Zupetz, PGA, General Manager at Sanctuary, Sniffin applied for a teaching position at GolfTEC, a place where he would have the opportunity to teach every day. After seven years at GolfTEC, Sniffin took the position as Director of Instruction at Omni Interlocken Resort where he is currently in his fifth season.
Since at Interlocken, Sniffin has shifted the emphasis of Omni’s instruction program away from the golf schools and golf camps concept and moved toward working with their own members and referrals to help them improve their game. This approach has proven to be a more sustainable business plan than the one-and-done approach.
“I’ve been lucky to have had great teachers and mentors myself, and I know what a difference that makes” concludes Sniffin. “It would be a privilege to be able to work with young teachers who are passionate about getting better and being the best teacher they can possibly be.”
What does it mean to you to receive Teacher of the Year Award?
I am quite honored to be recognized with this award. It is important to me to always improve, to learn more about everything related to the game, and to be able to communicate it effectively to students. To be recognized for all of those hours of not only teaching but for those hours of learning and failing is a real honor. I take a lot of pride in what I do so it feels good to be recognized.
What do you believe are the qualities you possess that support your nomination for this award?
I think the quality that has served me best is that I am always on a quest to do things better, to see improvement in anything I do from my hobbies to my professional skills. When you equate that to teaching golf, it is important for me to learn from my mistakes. I reflect a lot on how my students are doing based upon what I have taught them. I try to figure out better ways to deliver content, to improve the sequence of swing changes and to prioritize what to work on. I am always trying to figure out ways to be better as a teacher.
What are some tools you use in your profession that you wish you had known when you were beginning your career?
An open mind. As vague as that sounds, once I learned that I didn’t know it all, that was the point in my teaching career that I started improving and becoming a better instructor. Coming off of playing on the mini-tours and having come close to the PGA Tour, I walked in to my first teaching position thinking I knew it all. I remember going to training and thinking that this was a waste of my time because I already knew all of this. I was 100 percent wrong! So for me, understanding that there are things out there that I do not know and realizing that this will always be the case has helped me the most in advancing in my career.
As it relates to golf, what is the best piece of advice you have received and what advice would you give to others?
To paraphrase Butch Harmon, “The minute you think you know it all is the minute you cease learning and improving.” That hit home for me and made me seriously think about my own mindset and what adjustments I needed to make. Here is a guy who has taught Tiger, Greg Norman and many other great golfers and he is saying that he doesn’t yet know it all.
As far as what advice I would give to other, the main thing I try to convey to my students is that as their golf instructor, I can’t teach them how to play golf, I can only teach them how to learn how to play golf. They have to learn on their own. If it were possible for me to put my brain in their muscles and hit the shot for them, my job would be must easier. Instead, it is my job to teach them how to learn as quickly, efficiently and accurately as possible.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Understand that time is your most valuable asset. Time is finite and no matter who you are or where you are, you only have a certain amount of time so use it wisely. Don’t waste it.
What is your proudest moment as a golf professional?
Generally speaking, I have a lot of moments where I am still very proud. Of course, those moments are balanced by my failures.
These days, my proudest moments are when I hear of the successes of my students. It might be anything from a career round, winning a tournament, signing a letter of intent at a university or anything else that makes their day. You know you’ve turned into a coach when you get more excited about the successes of your students than you do about your own game. It’s like I’m living vicariously through my students but I’m okay with that.
Tell us something about yourself that others may not know.
A couple years ago, I taught myself how to play the Master’s Theme song on the guitar. I posted it to YouTube and have since had a few people call me to ask permission to use it and to learn how to play it. Be warned, I am not a professional musician by any means! For anyone wanting to watch the video, go to https://youtu.be/IlPxVFFYuN4.