LOS ANGELES — Rickie Fowler didn’t learn to love the game at a country club; he got his work in at a range in Murrieta, Calif., with Barry McDonnell, his first coach.
McDonnell, who died in 2011 at age 75, had a major influence on Fowler’s life — his signature was Fowler’s first tattoo — and Fowler’s parents trusted him to teach their son, often dropping him off at the range to learn under McDonnell and picking him up at dark.
“I spent probably almost as much time with him as I did my family growing up,” Fowler said.
One of the lessons McDonnell taught Fowler was how to work the ball both ways and be creative with his ball-striking, which Fowler talked about on a GOLF Subpar Podcast appearance in 2020. McDonnell was old school, Fowler said, and he probably didn’t know how to work a video camera to record and watch Fowler’s swing anyway.
“It was very much, ‘Go out and hit shots,'” Fowler said. “If I was drawing it too much or cutting it too much, he’d be like, ‘Alright, hit a couple of hooks and see where we are at from there.’ Kind of dig it out of the dirt.”
Fowler said the approach helped him learn the fundamentals without getting too mechanical.
“Like, if I was sitting there he’d say, ‘Let’s hit a draw from this pin over to here,’ because the range I grew up on is very flat. There’s some pins out there, but luckily it’s all grass so you are getting the real effect, you aren’t hitting off a mat. Just learning how to hit golf shots.
“It’s not necessarily teaching, ‘OK, you have to be in this position to do this,’ he continued. “It’s like, ‘Alright, you have to hit it from here and make it go to there, figure it out.’ So once I got on the golf course and even today, sometimes I go back to thinking swing thoughts are out the window. … I think that was a good thing that taught me the imagination of it and being able to hit shots when you are out there on the golf course trying to visualize those things when there is nothing really there to look at.”
You can follow the final round of the U.S. Open here, as Fowler searches for his first career major title.