George Connor sat back in a chair on the patio of Gillette Ridge Golf Club on a warm summer evening, looking like a man who was at peace with himself and his surroundings.
Seems as though the 44-year-old Director of Instruction at the Academy of Golf at Gillette Ridge has found a home, one where he can truly exhibit his talents as a superb teacher of the game. He’s a man who is always looking to better his own skills as an instructor for the betterment of his students.
“This is a great place for me to be. I have solid support, the golf course is wonderful and all I have to do is teach. I’ve done it all, from working in a pro shop, the merchandising and everything else. But something I’ve always wanted to do is just teach and I can do that here. I’ve been lucky to work with a wide array of students, from recreational golfers to people who have won CWGA and AJGA events and collegiate players.”
Connor has an impressive resume. He’s been the Connecticut Section PGA Teacher of the Year, one of Golf Magazine’s Best Teachers in Connecticut and is listed in Golf Digest’s Top Teachers in America. He has conducted golf schools in Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina.
In addition, he is a certified Titleist Performance Institute Instructor, certified in instruction by the Professional Golfer’s Association (one of only three in Connecticut), a certified Level 2 (the only golf pro in Connecticut) by K-Motion Interactive for use of the K-Vest, and is a certified Aimpoint Instructor.
He began his career with American Golf Company as an assistant at Kenney Park Golf Course in Hartford, soon rising to general manager. From there he went to Suffield Country Club for four years, worked a year at Longmeadow Country Club and moved on to the Hartford Golf Club, where he spent 11 years.
He and his wife Tanya, have four children, Pablo, 14, Dylan, 12, Bailey 11 and Reagan, 11 months. The family lives in Bolton.
Connor plays golf when he can, with members at Gillette and occasionally in pro-ams or pro-pro events. He’s good enough to have shot a career low round of 69 at Suffield CC. But it is teaching that excites him and occupies most of his time.
“I really enjoy helping people get better at the game. I talk to each student and find out what their goals are and then we set up a plan. I tell them this is what it will take to get to where you want to be and are you ready to invest the time and energy into accomplishing your goals. There is always some instant gratification when you are working with students, but it is more of a long-term commitment to improve that is needed.”
He continued, “Sometimes it can be frustrating for students. You can’t take a pill and 60 minutes later you can play golf the way you want to. There are hours of practice you have to put in sometimes and you have to have physical conditioning and lead a healthy life to be a good golfer.”
Connor, who authors a column for Golfing Magazine, is one of those rare golf instructors who can take a rather complex swing thought or approach to the game and break it down to understandable terms for any level of player. He approaches the game from a realistic and ground level view rather than setting unrealistic goals for his students and clutter their minds with a myriad of mechanical thoughts that they may never be able to employ on a golf course.
Although he has spent a majority of his career at private clubs (he’s been at Gillette Ridge for three years), he feels comfortable at his present job.
“Being at a public facility is a nice experience because you get to work with anyone who wants to get better, not just members. And we have a variety of people who play here, from beginners to accomplished players and everybody in between.”