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Summerhays was an aspiring but struggling Tour player, doubting his ability and questioning what to do about it. Finau was just beginning his journey in professional golf and hitting the ball incredible distances, but his lack of control was holding him back.
In each, the other saw promise. The pair joined forces as coach and student, launching one of the most successful partnerships on Tour today.
For the debut episode of “Swing Whisperers” — a new video series available exclusively to InsideGOLF members — we sat down with Summerhays and Finau to illuminate the evolution of Finau’s swing and how their teacher-pupil relationship has resulted in huge performance gains for one of the world’s best players.
You can watch the video above, or keep reading for some of the highlights:
1:21 — Early days
Summerhays says he never planned on getting into coaching. His aspirations were playing at the pro level, and for good reason.
“You were a stud,” Finau says.
But once Summerhays got to the PGA Tour, his downfall became chasing the mythical “perfect” golf swing.
“I made a lot of mistakes as a player,” he says. “But looking back, that helped me become a well-rounded coach.”
When Finau was deciding to start working with Summerhays, he only had one question: Are you done playing? He wanted a full-time coach, someone who he could work with for the long term. Summerhays said he was, and off the went.
“He saw something in me, something I hadn’t heard in a long time,” Finau says. “I was ready to take that journey with him.
2:45 — From hooks to slices
Finau said he grew up hitting swinging hard and trying to hit something between a draw and a hook. Once he turned professional, he had enough power, so he started chasing more accuracy and switched to a fade. Each created issues in his swing that needed to be addressed, but it was a tradeoff worth making.
“I do think it’s important to grow up learning to hit it far,” Finau says. “That’s what I did.”
4:34 — Setup changes
As the pair began working to “neutralize” Finau’s ball flight to give him more consistency, Summerhays explains that the first step was tackling his setup. Finau strengthened his grip by moving his right hand more under the club, and aligning his forearms so his right arm was slightly below his left. Both of those adjustments had the effect of shifting his swing direction less across the ball.
“I don’t think anybody should start working on in-swing stuff until the setup is fixed,” Finau says.
7:31 — A scary injury
What was supposed to be an unbridled moment of joy at the 2018 Masters Par-3 Contest turned into a one of horror when, while celebrating a hole-in-one, Finau dislocated his ankle while running backward. More so than he led on at the time, Finau was in much pain, and in short order he and Summerhays had to make some adjustments so that Finau could play.
“We were playing with some 85 percent of your weight on your back foot at setup,” Summerhays says.
“It was still hurting with each swing” Finau says.
14:37 — Why the partnership works
The real secret to Finau and Summerhays’ success isn’t so much in swing changes — it’s in their relationship. Their bond is built on trust and honesty, which is essential to any good coach-player partnership, Summerhays says.
“I was looking for a swing coach, but what I got was a great mentor and a great friend,” Finau says. “I got a lot more than I bargained for.”