By Robert Bicknell

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December 3, 2006

Good teachers are as hard to find as good doctors...

With the exception of Rafi Kot, I never seem to have much luck with doctors and lately, I could easily develop a negative opinion of the entire medical profession in general.

Recently, I have been having back problems so I went to a hospital here in Hanoi for help. Fortunately, a friend referred me to a neurologist who enjoys a mystery and is helping me find the cause of the problem.

In a nutshell, I have all the symptoms of a compressed disk according to people who have had one, but it doesn’t show up on the MRI. Funny enough, I have less pain when I play golf because the follow-through at 125 MPH stretches my back and provides some relief. The pain, twitching and numbness comes from when I sit in a chair for more than 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I am in agony and getting very few hours of sleep each night.

I had the same problem with a doctor in Thailand who, for two full years, adamantly refused to accept that there was something wrong with my wrist other than tendonitis. Nothing I said could persuade him to do a CAT scan or an MRI until, finally, an old traditional Thai massage lady in Phuket, checked me over and said "Not tendonitis, that’s broken." Then she drew a diagram for the doctor. He CAT scanned me right away and confirmed HER diagnosis. Wonderful, two years of agony while I played with a broken cartilage in my wrist because some quack was arrogant and stubborn.

As a professional athlete for over 28 years, I know when something is bruised or when something is seriously wrong. I have had tendonitis, impact injuries, broken bones, torn muscles etc. So when a doctor tells me something that I KNOW is incorrect, I want to hit wedge shots off their head.

The very best golf teachers have empathy for their students. Learning golf or correcting a bad habit is the most frustrating thing on earth to do and if your teacher does not try to keep your spirits up during the process, he is making things more difficult. Also, if your teacher asserts that "there is only one way to do things – his way"…find a new teacher.

Sadly, not all teachers have empathy and have tried to mimic doctors by remaining "detached". In my opinion, this is the worst thing a teacher or doctor can do because it gives the student or patient the impression that they are not a person but rather an object.

When I got malaria in 1996, Dr. Rafi Kot got out of bed and met me at his clinic at 10 pm in his pyjamas to make sure I got treated before the next attack. That’s the kind of doctor I appreciate, one who cares about his patients. He will always be one of the good guys in my book.

Golfers should demand the same loyalty and care from their teachers as well.

Caddies are another case in point. Ask a PGA Tour caddie how his player fared that day and he’ll often reply, "We had a good day out there, a few rough spots, but we got over it and got the job done."

Note the use of the word "we".

A good caddie will never let the player bear the stress of the situation alone. A good golf teacher will make sure the student knows he is not alone. A good doctor will keep trying until he finds out what is wrong and help fix it.

One dirty secret is that not all teachers are good, not all doctors are wizards and occasionally, a few boneheads will slip through the gaps. I was hitting balls at a range in the US last year and some guy couldn’t stop hooking his shots. He claimed he’d been to 10 different pros and nobody could help him.

I fixed him in three minutes and when I told him I worked in Vietnam, he was stunned. He said he couldn’t find anyone "that good" in the US.

I should’ve told him I have the same problem with doctors…

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