Ron Schieck was among the thousands wandering Hazeltine National Golf Club last fall during the Ryder Cup when he stumbled into an unusual opportunity presented by Mayo Clinic.
Eight months and hundreds of drills later, the 1972 Austin graduate is now reaping the benefits of reluctantly testing Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine's golf performance training program. The strength, balance and flexibility exercises assigned to Schieck after high-tech evaluation has him feeling like a young man again — though his score hasn't necessarily improved.
Joe Eischen, a Lourdes grad who leads Mayo's golf performance program in Rochester, says scoring isn't his focus. Instead, he fixes the "hardware," which lays the groundwork for fixing the "software" through additional skill work. It's open to newbies, professionals and everyone in between.
Schieck, who lives in Lakeville, was one of nearly 500 who visited Mayo's booth at the Ryder Cup. Some of those people followed up on that free introduction to visit Mayo's impressive new facility at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center, which opened three years ago to increase the visibility of a program created in 2001.
It proved to be a nerve-wracking, humbling experience as Eischen put Schieck through his rigorous regiment.
"This was a full blown workout system — it was tiring," Schieck said. "I hadn't done an organized workout athletically for many years. I'm not new to athletics, but I had some anxious moments. Am I going to embarrass myself?"
What might have been embarrassing to Schieck — being unable to stand back up after attempting a squat with a golf club over his head — was enlightening to Eischen. The evaluation, which for an additional fee includes a swing analysis using a computer program designed by Titleist, allows Eischen to craft a program tailored to specific deficiencies.
"When I was in high school, we were told not to lift weights because it would screw up your swing," said Eischen, who used to travel with PGA legend Nick Faldo as his physical trainer. "Now we have the best players in the world working out like wild. You play golf with your body, so if it's tight or weak or not balanced, you're probably not going to be as consistent or perform to your ultimate.
"The things we give them don't look like golf drills, but we're working on that hardware."
The drills may seem simple — core exercises, strength and balance work with rubber bands, and foam rollers, among other things — but Schieck was amazed at his progression. For example, he now cranks out 20 squats as his warmup.
Still, the first trip to driving range was a disaster. His newfound power and flexibility created a smooth, easy swing — and so many shanks that his golf-loving family needled him mercilessly; his daughters golfed at St. Thomas and Minnesota State, Mankato.
Luckily, a simple tweak to his stance created positive results and Schieck is now singing the praises of Eischen and Mayo's program to all who will listen.
"I would do it again in a heartbeat," Schieck said. "I have shared with as many people as will listen to me about what I've gone through, sharing with them the benefits. If they would choose to do something like that, it's nothing but positives. And it's not just golf — it's daily activities, too."