Kent Chase really wanted to golf as a kid.
“All I ever did was figure out a way to get to the golf course,” the Ahwatukee Foothills resident said.
After moving to the Valley from Chicago, his father put all four of his boys into golf, but it only stuck with 9-year-old Chase.
“None of my brothers loved it,” he said. “They did their own thing and I was this golf nut.”
So Chase convinced his parents to let him ride his bike 10 miles to the golf course with his golf clubs on his back. It was on the fourth day that the car hit him.
“Bam, there I went flying out into the street and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Chase said.
Cut up, bruised, and with a bike that wouldn’t roll, Chase begged the driver not to call an ambulance. He knew if his parents found out, his privilege of riding his bike to the golf course would be revoked. When the driver insisted on calling, Chase ran, golf clubs on his back, pushing his unrollable bike into the orange grove. He found his way out the other side and made it to the pro shop on the golf course.
“I said, ‘You gotta help me I’m going to lose my privilege. Can you get my bike to work?’ and they go, ‘Look at your clothes, you’re cut up, your mom’s gonna see that.’” Chase said.
The pro shop gave him a new pair of golf slacks and long-sleeved shirt. They even got his bike to roll again. When he went home that night his mother seemed suspicious of her son’s new clothes, but didn’t know he had been hit by a car.
“She bought it,” Chase said, “I didn’t tell her until I was 20-something about that day. But I didn’t want to lose my privilege. That’s how much I loved golf.”
Chase went on to play golf at Coronado High School, where he helped them win state championships pretty much every year. He went on to play at Scottsdale Community College where he made All-American. He moved on to Florida International University where he got a degree in hospitality management while playing on the golf team. While in Florida, he met and was taught by “Wild” Bill Mehlhorn, an “amazingly shockingly gifted teacher,” who taught him how to teach.
Chase got good enough to get a sponsor for four years. He played on the PGA tour from 1980 to 1984. After losing his sponsor, he had some tough choices to make. He chose to teach golf, and in 1984 started teaching at Moon Valley and has been teaching ever since. He started in The Kent Chase Golf Academy around 1988.
Chase teaches mostly younger golfers.
“I’ve taught plenty of older people, but young people have these amazing goals and ambitions, and parents have amazing goals and ambitions for these children,” Chase said. “They want a future in the sport and they want to get that college scholarship to whatever school they want and they want to play on the tour, they want that badly.”
According Chase, 6 or 7 is the average age for kids to start golfing, but he likes to start them as young as 3. Some of his students, like Alberto Sanchez, an Arizona State student who will be playing on the tour, has taken lessons from Chase for years.
One of his youngest students has been getting some press lately. At 4 years old, Hannah Pearson won the Best Pee Wee Golf Swing in the World.
“They’re like little sponges these little kids,” Chase said. “They will listen and do whatever you tell them if you know how to say it the right way and if you stay on their level, which I’m good at.”
Chase has lived in Ahwatukee Foothills for the past 24 years and now teaches at the Whirlwind Golf Resort. He moved to the Whirlwind to help get his kids to the golf course.
“It’s like a perfect situation to teach golf close to home and I knew my daughter would play a lot more if it was close to home, which she did,” Chase said. “So we spent our whole summer together just hopping in the car and going to work together.”
During his 30 years of teaching golf, Chase has won quite a few awards, his favorite being the Southwest PGA Teacher of the Year in 2008 and the First Master Teacher of junior golf, recognized by US Kids Golf.
For more information on the Kent Chase Golf Academy, visit kentchasegolf.com or call (602) 243-0931.
• Brittany Stehmer is a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She is interning this semester for the AFN.