Mike Malaska, the Nicklaus Academies
worldwide director of instruction, named
2011 PGA of America National Teacher of the Year
Mike Malaska, the PGA Director of Instruction at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club in Superstition, Ariz., who pioneered a standard of physical fitness evaluation for all golfers that evolved into today’s model program, is the recipient of the PGA Teacher of the Year Award. The award was established in 1986, honoring outstanding teachers of golf among the PGA of America membership.
Malaska, 57, a 31-year member of the PGA of America, oversees the development, implementation, training and certification of all professional instructors at Jack Nicklaus Golf Academies and Golf Centers around the world. Nicklaus Academies has facilities in the US, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Denmark, China, Korea and Japan with planned expansion in the coming years in India, Canada, South and Latin America, South Africa and Russia. Back in the 1980’s, Mike spent three years in Japan opening the successful Jack Nicklaus Golf Centers. Upon his return, Malaska spent 16 years as a Senior Instructor alongside Jim Flick with the Nicklaus-Flick Golf Schools.
“I have known Mike for more than 25 years, and I have been fortunate to witness his maturation into an outstanding teacher of the game of golf, as well as a spokesperson for the game,” Jack Nicklaus said. “Mike has a strong commitment to the game, a true passion for playing and teaching the game, and he brings an infectious enthusiasm every day to the golf course. He has a rare ability to not only motivate people to learn but also puts them at ease during what can be at times a stressful process. He makes the game fun, and inspires people to continue to grow, learn and enjoy the game. These are the types of people we need in our game to help secure its future.
“Mike is a wonderful representative of our Jack Nicklaus Academies’ program, and his ability to help countless golfers of all levels of playing ability makes him ideally suited to serve as our Worldwide Director of Instruction. This is a well-deserved honor for him and all of us who have been fortunate to know Mike are very pleased and proud of him.”
PGA of America President Allen Wronowski said: “Our 2011 national award winners reflect the best values and qualities of our Association. By their career work, our recipients have left an impact among their Section peers, their respective communities and influenced others throughout the country. They are inspiring to juniors as well as aspiring professionals.”
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Malaska was an all-round standout sports performer first in basketball, baseball, swimming and skiing before concentrating on golf his junior year in high school. His interest in golf innocently began as a “business venture” while Malaska was 14-years old and jumped a fence with his friend to search for golf balls at Nibley Park Golf Course. The host PGA Professional, Tom Sorenson, caught the youngsters in the midst of their ball search and in turn for ending the trespassing, offered to give them a part-time jobs at the course. Mike took to heart the writings of Jack Nicklaus in Golf My Way and Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf which served him well.
Malaska accepted the offer and went on to attend Weber State University, earning All-American honors in 1974. He graduated in 1976, and turned professional that year, absorbing the golf teaching precepts of such teaching professionals as Don Johnson, Ben Doyle, Joe Nichols, Tag Merritt, John Schlee, Jim Flick and Bob Toski. From the blend of methodology of those respected instructors and his own personal professional playing career, Malaska inserted the fitness element that he calls “the athletic personality”. That concept, said Malaska, is determining the make-up of the student, from how they move to the small motor skills that they possess. “Then you can determine what needs to be developed and how to get the most of their practice time. You also clear up the confusion that they have as to what makes sense to them in their swings and the development of their game.”
In 1986, Malaska teamed with physiologist Pete Egoscue of San Diego to develop “The Swing Game” in a feature presentation in 1990 at the second PGA Teaching and Coaching Summit. The groundbreaking presentation is now part of most player development programs.
“Mike spent many years working alongside my long-time friend and instructor Jim Flick, so he understands how I like to approach the game from both a playing and teaching perspective,” Nicklaus said. “Just as important, Mike was and is a tremendous athlete who has a strong understanding of the physical make-up of the body and the mechanics behind the swing. In an era where we are seeing more and more good athletes gravitate to the game, Mike is able to bridge the body’s mechanics and teaching methodologies to get the most out of a person’s golf game.
“Mike’s contribution to what makes Nicklaus Academies successful around the world is immeasurable,” said Ted Simons, Executive VP / COO for Nicklaus Academies. “With Mike’s insight into every facet of the individual and their golf swing, and his passion and ability to communicate that to our staff professionals separates what we have developed for the Nicklaus Academy programs. He is an open book, a sponge for information of different concepts and ideas that he then evaluates and personally tests. Mike then brings those concepts that will truly help our students enjoy the game of golf.”
Malaska and his wife, Charlene, live in Mesa, AZ, and are parents to daughters Jennifer, 27, and Ashley, 21, a senior and member of the BYU women’s golf team.
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