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Swing analysis moves into computer age


In this highly technical age, it is no longer unusual to see a computer in a golf shop. Handicaps, tournament pairings and results, informational notices, even the shop's paperwork, may be punched in and spit out in far less time than any manual method used in past years.

Now, make room for a computer in the lesson center.

At one time, the teaching professional relied on his eyes to spot flaws in a pupil's swing. Later, video cameras were introduced, speeding up the process and enabling the teacher to show the student the good and, very likely, bad parts of a swing.

Now comes Dave Petrie, director of the human performance lab at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center, taking this to another level.

"Actually, the Ariel Performance Analysis System, which can analyze performance techniques and pinpoint the smallest of errors, may be applicable to the top athletes in a variety of sports, as well as those in recreational pursuits," Petrie said.

With a golfer, for instance, Petrie will put light-emitting markers at each of 19 joints involved in the golf swing, then videotape (from two angles) the student going through a normal swing.

The camera shoots about 60 frames a second, the swing takes between two and three seconds, and now you have as many as 180 frames of your golf swing.

Once a swing is on tape, a computer can lock in on each frame. The markers show up as dots, the dots are connected and, presto, a three-dimensional stick figure emerges.

"Instead of worrying about baggy pants or floppy shirts, we can actually see such things as hip-shoulder rotation and club head speed," Petrie says.

Don't ask him to get any more technical about the swing; he's not a golfer.

Neil MacDonald, another member of the sports medicine center family, however, knows Billy Bassler, head golf professional at Rolling Road Golf Club, and talked to him about using the equipment.

The result was that Mark Evenson, who works full time as a Rolling Road assistant and teaching professional, became involved with this in his spare time and uses it in off-hours teaching at the Golf Driving Range on Washington Boulevard at the Beltway.

Evenson, 27, was a Congressional CC assistant pro for a year before moving to Rolling Road 18 months ago. Of putting together an instructional booklet, he says: "Through the golf swing, we create accuracy and distance, but no two swings are alike. And there are no short cuts to creating a fundamentally sound golf swing. It takes time and practice."

Petrie cut through a lot of this when he said, "This is probably over the head of the average golfer, but for the low handicappers and pros, this is it."

Well, almost. Certainly the routine provides a highly accurate visual image, but as Petrie pointed out, "The student goes out and works on his routine, corrects his flaws, and now, a month or two later, he has a new swing." And lots of pictures of the old one.


The Maryland State Golf Association will conduct four of its championships this week, beginning with the 38th men's Pro-Amateur tomorrow at Prospect Bay Country Club, where 86 teams are entered.

A field of 49 will be seeking the 15 available places in the championship draw when qualifying is held for the Women's Amateur Tuesday at Old South CC. Defending champion Kathy Altemus of the CC of Maryland is an automatic qualifier.

There are 48 entries for the 70th Junior Boys and 11 entries for the 19th Junior Girls Tuesday at Sparrows Point CC.


* The old Project Survival tournament returns as the Project Reach One! Teach One! on Aug. 1 at Mt. Pleasant GC. The entry deadline is Friday with Mt. Pleasant professional Jim Deck. Information is available from (410) 254-5100.

* The Churchville Lions Club will hold its second annual tournament Aug. 8 at Geneva Farm Golf Club. The entry deadline is Saturday, with additional information available from (410) 836-2074.

* The second Mideast 2000 tournament, in support of a non-profit, non-partisan group committed to peace and human rights in the Middle East by the year 2000, will be held Aug. 6, at Willow Springs GC. Information is available from Mohammed Mirzai (410) 644-4980 (ext. 220).

This week's schedule: Tomorrow-- Maryland State Pro-Am championship, Prospect Bay CC, 7:30 a.m.; Middle Atlantic PGA Pro-Am, Belle Haven CC, 8 a.m. Tuesday -- Maryland State Women's Amateur, Old South CC, 8 a.m.; Maryland State Juniors, Sparrows Point CC, 8 a.m. Friday -- Middle Atlantic PGA Pro-Junior tournament at five sites, including Rocky Point GC, 9 a.m.

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