During the last few seasons, Peter Gerard’s injury list was almost as long as his victory total.
One of the most consistent players on the Northeastern New York PGA tour, the 47-year-old Gerard admits that he would probably be on the disabled list if he were competing in any other sport.
Yet the head pro at Mill Road Acres Golf Course in Latham picked up his fifth
NENYPGA Player of the Year award in 2007, and he’s looking forward to another banner season.
“Yeah, I’m still pushing back the injuries,” said Gerard. “They say when you turn 40, stuff falls apart and things wear out. They were right. Most of my problems have been soft-tissue concerns that are irritated with repetition of use.
“Both of my rotator cuffs are bad. My knees were always OK before, and I played hockey growing up. I never had problems with my knees or my ankles before, but now both knees are hurting, and so are my ankles. I’ve also got a little tendinitis here and there. It’s all about wear and tear.”
Gerard keeps promising to have surgery in order to correct some of his problems, but then he keeps putting it off.
“I guess I’ll get to it sometime. The problem is that when you favor one part of the body, it aggravates the others. Doctors warned me that if I don’t take care of some of my problems, something else will happen. I’m always favoring something. But I guess doctors are the worst patients. I’m always telling my students what to do to stay healthy with their games, and then I don’t do it myself.”
Despite his health concerns, Gerard continues to be one of the best players among the club professionals. He’s won just about every major at least once, including the NENYPGA Stroke Play and Match Play titles. He’s also won six Vardon Trophy awards for having the lowest stroke average.
“To me, the Vardons are almost as important as the Player of the Year awards,” said Gerard. “If you win the Vardon, it means you are playing consistently well. It’s nice to win all the big tournaments, but if you’re shooting 69 or 70 consistently, you are playing very well.
“Most of the guys don’t have time to play as much as they would like because they are working at the course or giving lessons. You’ve got to make the most of the time you have.”
Gerard, who edged former Taconic Golf Club assistant Josh Hillman for Player of the Year honors, didn’t expect to win the prestigious award last fall.
“It was surprising. I didn’t play terrific last year, but I played steadily. It was one of those things where I was just good enough. Obviously, if you are playing less, you are putting less time into your game. I’ve got off-course responsibilities, just like most of the other guys, but I still love to compete.”
Gerard said that if he could play with only one club, he would grab a wedge.
“Wedges are my strength,” he said. “Whenever someone asks me how to score better, I tell them to concentrate on their 9-iron, wedges and putter. They can throw the best of their clubs back in the bag.”
Gerard said the short game is the difference between shooting big numbers and breaking par.
“If you’re not driving the ball well, it’s still OK if you have a good short game. It’s also OK if you’re not hitting your irons that well, and you keep missing the green. You can keep your round from going badly if you have a good short game. It can bail you out.”
Gerard said everyone should get to know how far they can hit their wedges in all types of conditions.
“The big thing is having options,” he said. “I carry a pitching wedge, gap wedge and lob wedge. If it’s a windy day, you may need to hit several different clubs the same distance to get the job done. You have to learn how to hit your clubs high, low and medium. Trajectory and distance control are the keys. If you can hit your ball a certain height, the conditions won’t affect your shot. You’ve got to take the conditions of the greens into account and hit the right shot at the right time.”
Gerard is not only one of the best players in the section, but he is also one of the NENYPGA’s finest instructors. He’s been named the NENYPGA Teacher of the Year several times and has instructed golfers of all abilities, from newcomers to Futures Tour players and PGA Tour members.
“My philosophy in teaching is that everyone is different,” he said. “Everyone has different goals and different experiences. It’s my job to assess where they want to be and how quickly they want to get there. I make sure they have reasonable expectations, and then I try to expedite their improvement so they can find the quickest way to meeting their goals.”
Gerard said that the economy has changed the way people treat their passion for golf.
“Golf is a business, and it’s our job to get the existing players to play better so they will play more often. You’ve got to get the beginner to get the ball airborne. The way gas prices are getting out of hand, people have fewer expendable dollars. If they get too frustrated with the game, they will quit.”
Gerard believes in simplicity.
“My whole thing is about square contact with the ball. There are many ways to accomplish that. I want to find the quickest way for someone to get the benefits of the instruction and to enjoy the game.
“I’m also not a fan of a lot of practice,” he said. “I’d rather have somebody hit 10 balls and walk away because they knew what they were doing than have them hit 10 buckets of balls and not hit them correctly. That’s what golf is all about, to understand your results and why you got them so you can correct yourself.”