Haney's New Project

It was author F. Scott Fitzgerald who once said, 'There are no second acts in American life', but he most certainly never met North Texas uber teacher, Hank Haney.

The former Tulsa Parks and Recreation golf teacher has certainly come a long way, several acts in his golf life since his humble beginnings, and the former Tiger Woods teacher says it's only getting better.

"My life is a lot better now, a lot better," he says as he walks into his Hank Haney Golf Academy, located just off I-35 in Lewisville, on a chilly Monday morning with his new wife Suzanne close alongside.

Less than a year after his much publicized breakup with his world famous golf student, Tiger Woods, Haney says he is happier now and looking forward to perusing his unusual array of varied projects with his customary determination and gusto.

There are golf academies in South Carolina and China to oversee, not to mention an array of North Texas facilities, which includes a newly opened one near Dallas Children's Medical Center.

His public golf course in Texarkana still thrives nearly a decade after opening.

There is his hugely popular Golf Channel TV Series titled, The Haney Project, where Haney attempts to fix a famous celebrity golfer.

The first series with Charles Barkley was a big, no pun intended, opening success, the second with Ray Romano not so much, but the third with Rush Limbaugh a nice ratings rebound.

"A great listener. One of the best students I ever had," he said of his most recent famous student.

Haney, 55, has unleashed the power of the Twitter in a much quoted and tweeted feud with current Woods mentor Sean Foley, and hopes to get his number of followers as high as his teaching lessons once where.

Haney is still quoted, featured, and discussed in the sports and now entertainment realm.

His popular Teach the Teachers seminars are a hit both locally and nationally, and he is a fixture at various North Texas golf shows.           

But Haney also knows and accepts, that as much as he's eager to get to the next stage of his life, he won't get away from the shadow of his former role as Tiger Woods' personal coach. The same coach who chose to fire Woods via text message before he was ever asked to leave.

"I had six years with the greatest player in the game. I appreciated it, but after that I said, I'm done with Tour players. How can you top that?," he says.

While he's happier working on his TV show and myriad of other projects, Haney knows he cannot escape the memory of his former World No. 1 student, nor does he especially try.

"I'm interested in seeing how he is doing," Haney said of Woods. "I thought he played well at Doral, but he didn't putt well. That's been the problem a lot. To dominate like he did, he is going to have to get his putting going.

"To get back to number one in the world, he has got to putt better. Switching to the Nike putter (which Woods did at Doral) is a big, big change. It will be interesting to see how well he does at Augusta with the Nike putter."

Indeed, during a photo shoot, Haney received regular Twitter updates from Woods' play during a televised exhibition at his home course, Isleworth Country Club in Orlando.

"He hit it in the water on No. 8. Wow, I've never seen that before."

But one thing Haney is very clear on, he has no interest in helping Woods get back to his former stature in any kind of teacher-student reunion.

"I left for a reason. He hasn't changed. Six years is a long time together."

In a series of interviews last year on the reasons he left Woods, Haney made it clear their time together wasn't always pleasant, famously telling Golf Digest, "it didn't get dysfunctional, it was always dysfunctional."

"Someone asked me a question, I was honest," he says now as he nears the one- year anniversary of their breakup via text message following last year's Masters. "What are you going to do? Never say anything? They didn't want me to talk."

Less clear to Haney and most people who have followed Woods' once untouchable career is his ability to break the one record which has been in Woods' sights since he was 10 years old, his idol Jack Nicklaus' mark of 18 professional golf majors.

Woods currently needs four majors to tie and five to break the record, a stellar career for most golfers.

"He's got a lot more time to do it," Haney said, "if he hasn't lost some passion.

"It's going to be tough, it's not going to be easy," he added. "It could be really tough. It's a hard thing to do."

As for the question of Tiger's lost passion, Haney knows from personal experience recovering from a recent divorce like Woods has, isn't always easy. He also acknowledges the clear fact that the younger generation of players don't fear Woods on the course like the older players once did.

For his once unstoppable student, Haney says it will ultimately come down to passion, and if Woods can regain his once white-hot fire.

"I don't know. I just don't know. That's the question isn't it? Passion and his putting."

Haney says in a sense Woods' two years of struggles may wind up helping him.

"It could be very positive. The bar will be lowered for him. He couldn't keep up that pace. He will just focus on the majors and try to well play in those."

Since their breakup, the pair, which used to talk or text on regular basis, has spoken once.

They saw each other at a charity golf event in Ireland last summer before the British Open. Haney called the conversation cordial, but the weather wasn't the only thing that was cool that day.

"It was just a lot of pleasantries."

One thing that hasn't been very pleasant this year is Haney's highly public feud with Woods' current teacher Foley.

Two more different golf teachers have probably never taught someone like Woods and like the grade school playground, it's hard to tell where the war of words started.

Foley said he didn't want to overextend himself with other projects like he claims Haney did. Haney fired back with a few choice words with the charge of unprofessionalism exchanged.

"I've never seen a guy like this Foley. I've been teaching longer than he has been alive and he's got all the answers," Haney said.

The two have never spoken in public, but their word battles were enough to rivet the media center during several spring PGA Tour events.

"The number one topic were my tweets in the press tent this spring. That's amazing," Haney said.

So was the fact that Woods won more than half of the events he played in while Haney was his coach, including six majors.

"It still amazes me he doesn't win all the time. That's how good he is. He (Foley) needs to remember if Tiger is going to do it, it's going to be news."

Asked if he has any advice for Woods' current teacher, Haney had a quick reply.

"I'd tell him the same thing Butch (Harmon) told me. It's not as easy as it looks, pal."

That's the way Haney has made his TV Golf Channel show The Haney Project look in the three seasons it has aired.

The first season with former NBA and current TV commentator Barkley exposed his outsized personality and unorthodox swing along with Haney's subtle humor. The understated straight man to Barkley's constant banter.

The most recent season with Limbaugh, a golf and political lightning rod if there ever was one, exposed more Limbaugh extroverted personality and more Haney ability.

"Sure, I listened to his radio show and knew what he was about, but we really didn't talk politics. I respected him as an incredibly passionate individual and a really hard worker and he respected what I did as well."

Still, Limbaugh couldn't help himself at times Haney found.

A number of clunked iron shots would always be called an "Oprah Winfrey" after his longtime liberal foil.

Haney attempted to rotate Limbaugh's swing in one of the early episodes, only to have Limbaugh protest.
           

"Hank, I've found nothing good ever happens from going to the left."

"Well, it does in golf," the dry humored straight man shot back.

"Really for a big talker, he was a phenomenal listener," Haney said of his student loved and hated by millions. "He was one of my best students and really a great guy to be around."

Not surprisingly, the search is on for a person Haney could help for season four. With the show gaining in popularity, there is no shortage of people who would like to be helped by one of North Texas' finest teachers.

"We're looking for somebody who could move the needle and help promote the show," he said.

A Chicago-area native, Haney played golf at the University of Tulsa, where he taught in the Parks and Recreation Department. After stops at Pinehurst and PGA West in California, he first came to North Texas in the late 1980s where he became the Director of Golf at Stonebridge Ranch in McKinney.

He volunteered as head golf coach at SMU when the school was having trouble finding a full-time coach and later worked with Adams Golf CEO Barney Adams at his own teaching facility next to Stonebridge.

Haney said he's always proud to be part of the Texas heritage of great teachers.

"Texas has always had great players and I think great teachers as well. You look at guys like Chuck Cook, Harvey Penick, Dave Pelz.

"When you think of golf, you always think of Florida, California and Texas as the best. I'm very proud to be here and be part of the good teachers in this state."

Always working on his second, third, fourth and more acts in his highly successful and entertaining golf life as a teacher, entrepreneur, celebrity and twitter typing savant.