When Cooke, who moved with his family as a child from London to the U.S., went to the University of Virginia on a golf scholarship, he had the same dream as most. “My goal going to college was to play on the PGA TOUR,” the tall, lanky 42-year-old said, “but I didn’t get much better.
“Every year (Virginia) was in the Top 20, but I was the No. 6 player in a five-man lineup. By my fourth year, I knew I wasn’t going to (become a playing pro).” Instead, he pursued a master’s degree in education/pedagogy. “I told my professors, I want to be a great golf coach.”
He has become that and more. Cooke, who joined Sea Pines in 2014, was named “Teacher of the Year” by the Carolinas PGA Section, the nation’s largest with more than 2,000 professional members and 725 golf facilities. A visit to his state-of-the-art center at Sea Pines' Plantation Golf Club demonstrates why.
Employing swing-analysis technology, hands-on instruction and interaction with students, he makes learning fun. That’s especially true when he works with younger players.
“Probably 80 percent of my personal instruction is players 30 and under – juniors, college and mini-tour players,” he said, his British accent unchanged. Since 2012, 15 of his juniors have earned college scholarships.
But Cooke also enjoys group lessons with adults and especially children. “Every other week, we run a clinic for kids, and it’s really fun, a great change of pace,” he said. “I have a blast working with them. We make up games that resemble golf, and the ‘rug rats’ have a great time and leave happy.”
To teach golf to children “makes you think outside the box on coaching technique,” Cooke said. “We’ll take clubs out of their hands and toss a basketball around or do all sorts of jumping exercises, so it’s entertaining and they’re moving.”
He laughed. “It’s also amazing how that applies to older resort guests, too.”
His methods work. Cooke in 2009 was recognized as a “U.S. Kids Top 50 Instructor,” was named to Golf Digest’s “Best Young Teachers” (2010-13) and is one of the magazine’s top teachers in South Carolina. He has written instructional articles for Golf Illustrated and Golf Digest, has appeared on Golf Channel and did an instructional segment on GolfChannel.com’s “Weekly Fix.”
“Tim is a major reason why our learning center has risen to the top echelon of golf instruction in the U.S.,” said Cary Corbitt, Sea Pines’ vice president of sports and operations.
Cooke gives credit to his staff: Skip Malek (in charge of the resort’s golf schools), Rick Barry (private and individual lessons), Matt Cuccaro (director of performance), Marcus Hunt (juniors program and club fitting) and LPGA Master Professional Dana Rader. But it begins with Tim Cooke.
“I’m fortunate to have had Sea Pines offer me a chance and let me grow and elevate my profession,” he said. The fortunate ones are his students who learn golf – and have fun. For information on Cooke and Sea Pines’ Golf Learning Center, visit https://www.seapines.com/golf/instruction/golf-instructors/tim-cooke.aspx, or call (866) 561-8802.