Note:First, let me thank Carl Mickelson
of Pelz Golf for providing me pictures of Anne
Sparks for this article, and in general for his
availability to answer our questions for both
this interview, as well as the ‘Chop the
Head off the Rattlesnake’ by David LiCalsi,
Lead Instructor for Pelz Golf.
I met Anne Sparks last year when I attended
the Dave Pelz Golf One Day Scoring School at
Maplegate Country Club. Since that first meeting,
I have come to rely on Anne’s guidance
and mentoring to help improve my putting and
my overall approach to the game. I hold Anne
in the highest esteem and as look at those who
have impacted my development; it certainly has
been Anne Sparks. So to the say least, it is
my great pleasure to share with you what I knew
about Anne, and what I have learned about her.Annie
Sparks of Dave Pelz Golf in RhodyGolf.com's
Read Anne's Interview
First, before we can go any further, it is
necessary for us to define the word professional.
I have found that many use, and misuse this
word. In fact, I contend that this word is largely
So, what is a
golf professional, and what will be consider
a professional to be in context of this article?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary,
a 'professional' is defined as one who is characterized
by or conforming to the technical and ethical
standards of a profession. (2 : exhibiting a
courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike
manner in the workplace.
Now that we have that out of the way Anne truly
is a professional. Anne Sparks has entertained
questions from me at clinics, at lunch, on the
phone from her home in Palm Springs, California
and even from her hotel room after a long day
teaching others on the course. Other instructors
may have told me to schedule another lesson,
or retake the class again.
However, when we evaluate Anne’s dedication
in terms of the definition offered above, one
must ask exactly what profession is she conforming
to? As I have come to learn, the PGA has high
and exemplary standards, as well as Dave Pelz
Golf. But I am sure many would agree that the
Anne’s dedication goes far and above what
many organizations expect from those in their
Rather, I submit that the profession that Anne
adheres to, and conforms with is the profession
known as ‘Excellence.’ Anne strives
to be the best in all the endeavors that she
has undertaken. Anne has excelled as a former
high school kicker, a past competitive amateur
swimmer who just barely missed the Olympics,
a former Futures Tour Player, a sister and now
a golf instructor. It is this ‘profession’
that transcends all the things that Ms. Sparks
has ever undertaken, and will continue to do
in the future. In essence, Anne is the Head
Instructor for the School of Excellence, and
I submit that we all should take note.Anne Sparks
has been an instructor for Dave Pelz Golf for
approximately five years now.
How did this one time high school place kicker
come to work for one of the most influential,
pre-eminent golf instructors and researchers
in the game? Well, RhodyGolf.com took a few
minutes to catch up with Anne when she recently
was at Centennial Country Club in New York.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Palm Springs, and then moved to
Arizona for about 5 years. I currently live
in Palm Springs.
Did you play any organized sports as
I was very active in sports. I was active swimmer,
and after high school I almost made the United
States Olympic Team for swimming.
However, the sport in which I was most active
from the ages of six to seventeen was soccer.
I loved playing soccer and I was very good at
it. It is too bad that women's soccer was not
as established as it is today. Sometimes I wonder
if my career may have been different if there
were more soccer related opportunities at that
Believe it or not, due to my soccer skills I
also played on my high school football team
as a place kicker. Due to my athletic accomplishments
I received a scholarship for being the top female
athlete in my high school. I also was offered
a full-ride scholarship to Northern Arizona
University. I chose not to accept this scholarship,
and chose to attend a junior college close to
my home since my father was ill at the time
and I wanted to be close to him.
So instead of millions of Americans saying Mia
Hamm when it comes to women's soccer, the name
on everyone's tongues could have been Anne Sparks?
(Laughing) You never know!
Why did you choose
not to accept the scholarship to Northern Arizona
At that time my father was ill. I wanted to
stay close to home to help him, as well as spend
time with my dad. Instead, of going to Northern
Arizona University, I decided to attend my local
I notice that
golf isn’t listed in the listing of the
organized sports that you played as a youngster.
When did you get involved with golf?
Well, it was my father
who really got me involved with golf around
the age of eight. I did not play a whole lot
of golf in high school due to my other sports
activities. As I was growing up, my father and
I would go golfing together. While attending
junior college, I worked in the cart room at
a local country club. It was at the country
club that I started playing again.
So you mean to tell me, the illustrious
Anne Sparks began her golf career in the cart
room of her local country club?
No. I forgot to tell you
that my official golf career actually started
from baby sitting for the professional at that
same local club. I did such a great job baby
sitting that I got promoted to the cart room!
Actually, this job was a great experience for
me. I worked for the same professional for eleven
years. I look back at this job very fondly.
Not only did it give me my start in the golf
profession, but it also helped me to define
what I really wanted to do.
What were your goals at that time?
At that time, my goal was to become a head professional
at a resort facility. Teaching was not anywhere
on my agenda.
When did you get involved with golf
1990. I decided that if
I was going to become an instructor, and be
the best instructor that I could that I was
going to relocate to Arizona. At that time,
Arizona was one of the best places to learn
since they had the most top 100 instructors
in the country at that time.
When did you get
involved with the LPGA?
I joined the LPGA around
1984 just when it was beginning. What is interesting---and
what many people don’t know---the LPGA
is a relatively new organization especially
when compared to the PGA. The LPGA is roughly
25% of the size of the PGA. At that time, not
every state had its own LPGA section, now the
organization has evolved such that every state
has its own local section.
So, let me get this right. You decide that you
wanted to become an instructor and decide to
move to Arizona. Did you know anyone there?
No, I didn’t. I
knew no one.Basically, I went to a practice
facility in Mesa which had six professionals.
I had very little money, so what I did was make
fliers and I distributed them. I persisted and
went to work every day. It took a great deal
of patience. But as time went by, I began to
get students. Many of my students came from
referrals. By the time I decided to leave Arizona,
I had developed a client base of 350 students.
This is why I believe that I have so much confidence
in myself and abilities, primarily due to this
Anne, share with readers how you helped
one of your students achieve a very important
One of my students was
a retired school teacher. She had taught for
over thirty years and one of her goals was to
become a LPGA professional. However, she never
could seem to pass her player’s ability
test (PAT). I met her when I was taking my PAT,
and in our particular class only 2 out of 12
players passed. After the PAT was over we exchanged
business cards.A few weeks later she decided
to contact me. She shared with me that she had
gone to several top professionals and no one
was able to help her realize her goal. After
speaking several times, she decided to come
to Arizona where we worked for 6 months together.
During her next PAT, I caddied for her and she
passed! It was probably one of my most rewarding
What other rewarding golf teaching experiences
have you had?
I have had the opportunity to work with many
children. While in Arizona, I had a children’s