After playing golf professionally for 15 years, Rob Strano decided to retire and become a golf coach.
Around the same time, he said, “God put it into my heart to learn sign language. Then I was amazed to find out that no one was teaching golf to the deaf in sign language.”
Strano has since been teaching golf to deaf children all around the country at professional golf events, including at THE PLAYERS, where he held a clinic on Tuesday for nine middle school students from the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.
“This will be our 17th year here,” said Strano at 9 a.m. as he got ready to begin the all-day learning experience for the students out on the Dye’s Valley Course, adjacent to the Stadium Course, where players were making the rounds on the first practice day.
Strano, a Golf Channel lead coach from Destin, Florida was joined by a group of PLAYERS special events volunteers, who were there to serve as his assistants.
They began the day with a lesson on teeing off, then learned how to putt.
Strano said they would follow that with a visit to a golf equipment van to see the players’ equipment being made. Then they would head over to the 17th Hole Experience, the replica of the famed Island Hole, for an hour of further instruction and practice, followed by lunch.
“It’s a full day,” he said.
Since Strano knows sign language, he was able to instruct the students as a group and individually without an interpreter, which Karen Newton, assistant middle school principal, said was wonderful, praising his signing ability as “very clear.”
Tim Bush, who is in his 16th year as a volunteer at THE PLAYERS and his sixth one with Strano, said he was so inspired by Strano that he took sign language classes as well, so he could communicate with the kids.
“He’s a great communicator,” Bush said. “He teaches them how to grip the club, how to turn their shoulders. He starts them with tennis balls and rubber clubs, then he graduates them to regular clubs. He’ll critique them as they hit, as they do different skills. His love of doing this and his communications skills are amazing.”
Last year at the 17th hole replica in Stadium Village, a young boy who had never hit a golf ball before hit a hole in one, Bush said. “It was because of the way Rob taught him to swing.”
Michael Johnson, web media communications manager at the school, said he has been bringing deaf students to Strano’s clinic at THE PLAYERS for eight years.
“For a lot of them, it’s their first exposure to golf,” Johnson said. “And they love it.”