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Picayune People: Former golf pro Gib Kizer has a firm handle on the game

Gib Kizer and dog Rusty at Delaware Springs Golf Course

Burnet golfer Gib Kizer and best friend Rusty on the links at Delaware Springs Golf Course in Burnet. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

If you ain’t got that swing, Burnet golfer Gib Kizer can teach it to you. Kizer learned the perfect swing 60 years ago before becoming a golf pro at the age of 19. Now mostly retired from a lifetime on the links, he gives lessons on the Delaware Springs Golf Course in Burnet. 

“It’s the hardest game in the world, unless it’s done right,” Kizer said. “The most dangerous thing in golf is to get comfortable doing the wrong thing.” 

For him, it all starts with the right grip. 

“Hold the club this way with the perfect grip. You’ll be a better golfer two weeks later,” he said. 

Kizer began playing when he was 5 years old. His father, Roy, took him to Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin, where the elder Kizer worked as the greenskeeper for 38 years. Gib began as a caddy at age 7, working four hours to earn 85 cents. To supplement his income, he retrieved lost golfballs for a nickel a ball. 

The 79-year-old credits his dad for introducing him to the man who led him to a career in golf: University of Texas head golf coach Harvey Penick.

“When I was 8 years old, I had a chance to play with Mr. Penick,” Kizer said. “He was the greatest teacher of the game in the world. I picked his brain for 44 years.”

The golfer recalled “grabbing a club like a baseball bat and I thought I was good.”

Penick corrected him by showing him the best way to grip the club. He taught him how to flex his knees correctly, the alignment and stance, and the hand and upper body positions at the address.  

Gib Kizer demonstrates a golf club grip
Former golf pro Gib Kizer demonstrates his club grip. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

“Two weeks later, I hit the ball better than I ever had in my life,” Kizer said. “His theory in golf was everybody can be perfect on the address. (Penick) placed a perfect swing around everyone he ever taught.”

By the time Kizer was 15, Penick offered him a scholarship to UT. Kizer was a member of the state championship teams at Austin High in 1957, 1958, and 1959. After the youngster won the Austin City Golf Championship and the Texas State Public Links Championship as a senior in high school, “my phone started ringing” with scholarship offers. 

But he stuck to his commitment to the Longhorns. After he completed his freshman year, Kizer went to see his coach after having an epiphany. 

“All I want to do in my life is be like you,” Kizer told Penick. “I want to be a golf pro and teach golf.”

Penick understood and gave Kizer his blessing to leave the university for a career on the links. It took Kizer only three years to get his first head professional job, the same amount of time he would have been a student-athlete. 

His first jobs as head golf pro were on courses in Wisconsin. When the links closed for the winter, Kizer would play on the PGA Tour. His best finish was 11th at a tournament in San Diego.

“I earned $1,900 for 11th,” he said. “Today, you’d make over $100,000. My (club) members would put up the money (for entry fees). From November to April, I’d do what I wanted to do. I loved it.”

He spent the majority of his 25-year career in golf as the pro at Morris Williams Golf Course in Austin. In all, he worked at nine different courses, always emulating Penick as he taught other golfers.

“I enjoyed teaching because I taught somebody the best I could, the same way I learned,” Kizer said. “It was fun for me to see them hit a golfball better than they did before. It never felt like work; I never did it for the money. I do it to see people get better.”