Ronnie Black of Lovington helps Jimmy Joe Robinson of Clovis with his golf game Saturday during a lesson at the Clovis Municipal Golf Course. Black was at the course to give lessons. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer
As he walked to a bench adjacent to the driving range, Ronnie Black was feeling the effects of a long day in sun.
The svelte 47-year-old Lovington resident and former PGA Tour veteran had just finished a full day of giving golf lessons to area enthusiasts Saturday at Clovis Municipal Golf Course.
“I met some really great people and people who had a passion for golf,” said Black, who stopped playing on the tour full time three years ago.
Area golfers were just as impressed with Black.
Danny Smith and Weldon Killough said part of the allure of the clinic was having hands-on instruction from a PGA Tour veteran.
“We’re very fortunate in rural America to have a PGA Tour pro to work with us amateurs,” said Killough, a semi-retired educator from Clovis.
“For the better player, Ronnie is exceptional,” said Smith, who works as a train conductor. “If you have a nice base, he can do a lot to help you.”
Black asked Clovis club pro Charlie Maciel to hold the lessons. The two have known each other since their youth. Maciel agreed, which Black said many other course pros wouldn’t do.
Black said his game improves when he gives lessons, especially when he’s physically showing players the right form. He said the biggest problem he saw Saturday was grips.
“If the grip’s not right, you can’t swing it right,” he said. “If Jack Nicklaus had a grip like some of these guys, he wouldn’t be able to play well either. Tiger Woods, maybe.”
Black has seen Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer Lee Trevino and the best golfers in the world over the last quarter-century, but none top Woods.
“Tiger Woods has a perfect body, he has a special will to win, but his mental toughness is what puts him apart,” Black said.
He would know.
Woods won his first two PGA tournaments in a three-week span in 1996. Both times, Black was the leader going into the clubhouse on Saturday.
“I could have changed the course of history if I had played really good,” Black said.
Black said he was still competitive on the tour when he stopped playing full time. He said the tour was taking a toll on him physically and mentally and ate into his family.
“I couldn’t be a PGA Tour player and a good daddy,” he said.
So three years ago, he moved his family from Scottsdale, Ariz., back to his hometown. He’s occasionally played in PGA Tour events, but plans on competing in the Champions Tour when he turns 50.
“It says a lot about him to get out of the fast lane and bring his kids back to Lovington,” said Killough, who has followed Black’s career since he was an all-state golfer and basketball player.
Black said if he can make the PGA Tour practicing on Lovington’s course, there’s no reason someone from Clovis couldn’t make it.
“You can start on Clovis and get to the PGA, yes, but your game has to improve and your challenges have to progress,” he said.