2016 NE Section Teacher of the Year: Debbie O’Connell Best Practice

Best Practices By Debbie O’Connell
LPGA NE Section Teacher of the Year


The manner in which LPGA Professionals positively impact our students varies greatly. One student may be very competitive and striving to win the club championship, while another has a goal to not feel embarrassed on the golf course. Some students just crave the motivation, inspiration and confidence they gain from time with an LPGA instructor.

One day I asked a new student her goals and she replied, “To hit my 7-iron. I cannot hit my 7-iron!”

I replied with, “You mean you want to learn how to hit your 7-iron even better?”

She asked, “Is that Golf Positive stuff?”

I smiled and said, “Yes!”

I listen carefully to the words of my students as they explain their game and their goals. Negative words, thoughts, and beliefs get in the way of a student’s path to reaching his or her full potential.


My teaching philosophy is to get my students out of their own way. As an example, one of my students was the runner up for her club championship four times. She is a very competitive person who hates to lose. As we were talking about the upcoming club championship she confessed that she was fine not winning because she works and the defending champion does not work. It was obvious she was in her own way. We discovered she actually hates losing so much that she didn’t allow herself to go all out with the hunger and belief to win. It would have hurt and upset her too much to lose if she put her heart and soul into winning. We focused on eliminating limiting beliefs. She gained the confidence to give her absolute best effort with a belief that she could win, realizing that if she didn’t she would be proud of her effort.

Most of my students get in their own way because they try too hard. The tension in their bodies as they are attempting to swing makes it a challenge to execute effectively with great rhythm, tempo and timing. I’ve had students with swings needing a tremendous amount of improvement actually hit terrific shots by getting relaxed and letting the club swing effortlessly. They gain confidence immediately.

Here are some of the strategies I use to help my students swing with less tension:

  • Taking a deep breath before swinging
  • Tightening muscles and then releasing the tension just before swinging
  • Smiling at the golf ball during a swing
  • Swinging with a chip between their teeth and not crunching it during a swing
  • Gripping the club with the thumb and index finger of the dominant hand off the club
  • Humming during the swing
  • The baseball swing drill
  • Hitting off a tee

To summarize a few of my best practices:

  • Listening carefully to my students to find any limiting beliefs and then changing the beliefs to a empowering beliefs.
  • Using drills, strategies and explanations to help my students swing tension free.
  • Leaving my students inspired with more confidence and feeling better about themselves and their golf game.

Obviously, I work on the technical performance skills to improve my students golf games as well. The improvement is much quicker with a positive mindset and effortless swing!


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