Bloomington 'Swing Doctor' Sellers can get you back on top of your golf game

Bloomington 'Swing Doctor' Sellers can get you back on top of your golf game

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BLOOMINGTON - Even though he's about to start his second season on the PGA Tour, D.A. Points isn't any different than the less-polished disciples of Twin Cities golf instructor Rick Sellers.

When things have gone awry and Points needs some pointers, he knows who to call.

"Rick is such a smart individual, not only about the golf swing but he understands golf and golfers," Points said. "He's really good about understanding what each person needs.

"My dad calls him the 'Swing Doctor.' When you're sick you go see a doctor. When your swing is sick you go see Rick."

The 48-year-old Sellers has been healing the wayward for nearly 25 years, first as a club professional in stints at Bloomington, Lakeside and Crestwicke country clubs before becoming a full-time instructor in 2000.

He has worked with professional golfers (Points and Peter Jacobsen), celebrities (Cal Ripken, Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams and late night TV host Carson Daly) and lower-profile players (members of University High School's reigning state champion boys and girls teams).

Sellers, who gives lessons at his indoor facility on Commerce Parkway and at The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course, takes the same approach with all of his students regardless of their handicap.

"Anybody can say they're a golf instructor, but you have to help people," said Sellers, the Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year in 2004. "To the people that come to you for lessons, golf is a real big deal and it's real important for them.

"Teaching golf is hard, and it takes a lot of time to learn what to do to make the correct change. Everybody has a little something different they want from the game and up front you have to ask people what they want."

Sellers, who grew up in Quincy with former Illinois State golfer and Champions Tour player D.A. Weibring, turned to teaching after his dream of a playing career fizzled.

"I tried to play professionally for about six years," Sellers said. "I played the mini-tours in the winters with aspirations of making the Tour, but I could never look myself in the eye and honestly say I had what it took to be able to do it.

"I loved golf and still wanted to try and play, so I became a club professional so I could practice and play. Eventually I realized it wasn't something I could do, and I had already started teaching so I stayed with it."

Points, a Pekin native and three-time Illinois State Amateur champion, has worked with Sellers since the age of 11 after a recommendation from Weibring.

"I work with Rick kind of on a need-basis," said Points, who played in college at Illinois. "A lot of times because he knows me and he knows my swing and my tendencies, he doesn't even have to see me. He can say go out and work on this a little bit or make sure you're doing this. Then I can go out and it can help me.

"The great thing about Rick is I may be starting to panic a little bit, but he'll tell me something and it's like a light goes on. I'm really fortunate he and I have that kind of rapport."

Sellers, who jokes "I rarely see (Points) when he's playing real well," has developed more than a teacher-student relationship with Points.

"Rick's like an older brother to me," said Points, who will open his PGA Tour season today in the Sony Open in Hawaii. "Rick's been a true mentor and coach about a lot of things, not just golf."

Sellers met Jacobsen through Weibring's annual fund-raising event at ISU. While Jacobsen's primary teacher is Jim Hardy, who introduced the one-plane golf swing in his book "The Plane Truth About Golfers," Jacobsen also consults regularly with Sellers.

"The more time I spent with Rick I noticed he had a very good eye for my golf swing and a great sense of humor as well," said Jacobsen, one of the more personable players in the sport.

Jacobsen credits Sellers with helping his game during both of his Champions Tour wins, the 2004 U.S. Senior Open in St. Louis and the 2005 Ford Senior Players Championship in Detroit.

"To play at the professional level these days it is extremely helpful to have someone who knows your game and what your tendencies are with your golf swing," Jacobsen said. "Generally the guy who wins each week is the guy who can find his swing or putting stroke the quickest when he's not quite comfortable with it.

"It is very hard to go play 72 straight holes without hitting a stretch where you feel a little 'off' with your swing or putting stroke. Maybe it's a simple tip or maybe it's some words of encouragement from someone you trust, but there's certainly a fine line between missing a cut and winning a tournament on the PGA Tour."

Sellers downplayed his role with Jacobsen, saying he serves as Hardy's "eyes" when Hardy is unable to work with Jacobsen.

"When I work with Peter I'm not really introducing anything new," Sellers said. "I just know what he should look like. There have been a couple of instances where my eyes have been beneficial to Peter and because of that he has developed some trust in me."

Sellers said developing trust is important with all of his students.

"The only thing I have is a reputation and the only way to develop that reputation is if the person standing in front of me is getting better," Sellers said. "I need to make sure the people in front of me get better.

"When D.A. Points plays well it's rewarding. But it's the everyday person who comes back to you with a story about how well they played, that's really rewarding. That's what you do it for."

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