Program makes computer the teacher

April 25, 1993|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

It seems as though golf, perhaps more than any other sport, thrives on modern technology.

The "build a better mousetrap" theory has produced steady improvements in balls, clubs and -- thanks to new equipment -- the courses we play.

In recent years, science has played a particularly vital role in these improvements, and now the best teachers come armed with video cameras and computers to assist in analyzing their students' games.

Which is what Mike Larson is all about these days.

Larson, a 2-handicap golfer at Prospect Bay Country Club, is president of NeatSystemsInc., a computer research and development firm in Annapolis. A combination of computer and golf expertise has led him to build a program that may be used as a teaching aid.

"Right now, we're concentrating on golf, putting the programs in some professionals' shops, but we wrote the programs in a generic format," Larson says of his project. "There may be some bigger markets out there, too -- bowling, tennis, various recreation and youth leagues, for instance. The possibilities are unlimited."

Without question, there is a large base of new golfers out there, and it is likely most of them grew up in the computer age. As a result, they have the hardware at home and/or in the office and are perfectly comfortable with it.

"I can see where older golfers, many of whom are not into the computerized world, would be more inclined to take lessons from the club professional," Larson explained the other day, "but believe the computer programs will heighten their interest level and give new focus to a way of retaining information from these lessons."

The program can store files from any video source (TV, VCR, camera), give instant access to these files, select a file (or a sequence of frames) and allow it to be viewed from full screen (one window) to quarter-screen (four windows).

It is possible also to play two files at once, overlay different files (superimpose one over the other) and add graphics.

Larson sees a time when professional shops will have "video clubs" for their members. Some features would be the potential for filming students' lessons and maintaining a history of progress, seeing one's own improvement or recalling positive swings when things aren't going well.

Additionally, the pro could send the lesson tape off to a nationally recognized teacher for a critique. "Through a 'video club,' being able to offer members a lesson with Peter Kostis, Bob Toski or David Leadbetter, for instance, without leaving home, would certainly enhance the pro's stature, as well as improve the play of the member," Larson said.

The company president has had an extensive career in the field. A Rockville native and graduate of the University of Richmond with a mathematics-economics major, Larson began by working for Sperry (formerly Sperry Rand and now called Unisys).

He formed his own company in 1984, providing a service that helped regional telephone companies computerize their operations. The switch to golf has developed in recent months.

"I saw a film on the golf swing and realized we could develop this as a product," Larson added. "I'm not a golf teacher, but I have played the game long enough and been around teachers enough to be able to modify what we already had for this program."

Miscellaneous

Entries close for the Middle Atlantic Golf Association's Senior Fourball championship on Saturday. Charles Harris and Jack Rites of the CC of Maryland are the defending champions for the event, scheduled for May 10 at Bonnie View CC. . . . The annual Middle Atlantic PGA Head Pro championship has drawn 65 entries for the 27-hole event tomorrow at Turf Valley CC (South Course and the front nine of the North.

This week's schedule

Today: Maryland State Golf Association team match championship, 12:30 p.m. Tomorrow: Middle Atlantic PGA Head Pro championship, Turf Valley CC, 8:30 a.m. Wednesday: Middle Atlantic PGA pro-partner, Shenandoah Valley GC. Friday: Middle Atlantic PGA Woody's Iron Masters, Woody's Range, Herndon, Va., 8 a.m.; Women's Golf Association team matches, various sites, 9 a.m.

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