Serhan's philosophy founded in fun - PGA of Australia

Serhan’s philosophy founded in fun

If you follow elite amateur and professional golf, you have likely heard the name John Serhan. A PGA of Australia member for 29 years and the 2022 PGA NSW Coach of the Year – High Performance, the long-time Head Teaching Professional at St Michael’s Golf Club in Sydney has developed a knack for taking promising junior players to the highest level.

His stable includes 2022 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship winner Harrison Crowe and Sarah Kemp, who at 38 is playing arguably the best golf of her career on the LPGA Tour.

To watch Serhan at a tournament is a tiring experience for the observer, the younger brother of former New South Wales Open winner George Serhan constantly watching and filming his players.

Serhan is often unable to help himself from jumping in as caddie, too.

His commitment to his charges is admirable, and when speaking to his players it becomes clear he is more than just the PGA Professional they trust with their game.

“As a person, probably one of the best blokes I’ve ever met. Easy going and easy to talk to when you need him, almost like a second dad,” says Nathan Barbieri, pictured with Serhan and runner-up at the 2019 Australian Amateur.

Adds Crowe: “He’s rare. He’s extremely selfless. He’s always putting everyone else in front of himself. He’s just a top human being.”

Serhan, too, notes his closeness to students that become like family through the amount of time spent together. However, beyond the personal touch to his coaching that sees Kelsey Bennett suggest he is “like my therapist”, Serhan’s eye for the golf swing and simplistic methods are more than proven.

“I think we have just got a great relationship,” says Crowe.

“We work really well together in just kind of gelling, working through things together, not necessarily him just telling me what I need to do.

“It will always be a two-sided conversation. He’s such a great coach, such a great person.”

Those conversations don’t come via a strict methodology that can so often be the criticism of elite coaches, despite Serhan admitting he does have his preferences. His ability to work with a player’s natural movements is arguably one of his greatest traits.

“It’s about trying to lay a foundation – a good technical foundation – and getting them to play lots of different shots I think is really important,” Serhan says of his philosophy.

“I know there are two trains of thought out there, whether you’re teaching just to play one side all the time. For me, I want to have awareness of the club and be able to move the ball around so they can create shots while they’re out there and it’s more fun when they do that.

“I think it’s important to understand that we are all unique. Obviously we all have systems, we have all preferences in our head that we like. I like to think that actually most of my players look different, because we try and embrace their uniqueness.”

Discussing the importance of club face at impact, attack angles, repeatability and removing any strain on the body to achieve those all-important elements, Serhan’s approach to elite golf revolves around fun. Particularly when it comes to embracing a young player’s enthusiasm, rather than stifling it.

“Just making sure that whatever they are doing is fun, so they’re finding a way to make it fun for themselves, so they are enjoying their practice,” he says of young students.

“Balancing out really the ‘range rats’ to being on course and playing games and setting little targets on course.”

Although Serhan might be best known for his work with the Crowes, Kemps and Bennetts of the world, he approaches the game and teaching in the same way for the St Michael’s members, be they nine or 90, with fun the overall driver.

That includes Kemp who he jokingly calls “an old big kid”.

“Whether they are 17 or 37, I honestly hope the same principles still apply because I believe there is a child within all of us, who wants to get out and muck around and have fun,” he said.

Believing his work with young players, including the St Michael’s junior program that Crowe calls “the best I’ve ever seen”, keeps him young, Serhan’s simplicity in his approach and personable nature is indicative of many PGA Professionals coaching at all levels. And comes down to a simple driving force.

“You want to see good people do well.”

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