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Meehan: Gildersleeve-Jensen’s work gets national attention

Rick Fancher’s golf game needed fine-tuning before a January trip to a warmer climate, so he called longtime instructor Kathy Gildersleeve-Jensen.

“I set up a session on a Saturday, which probably wasn’t totally convenient for her,” the Spokane attorney said. “It’s in the middle of a snowstorm, but you could open up the door (at the Jensen-Lindeblad Impact Golf Academy at Indian Canyon) and I would hit balls out into this snowstorm.

“I doubt very many instructors would do that.”

Nor would many instructors ignore the clock and stay well past the allotted one-hour lesson.

“I’ve had to tell her, ‘It’s time,’ said attorney Gary Gainer, who works with Fancher. “Finally, I have to say, ‘I have to get home.’ ”

It’s all in a day’s work for Gildersleeve-Jensen, who was recognized as 2012 PGA Pacific Northwest section teacher of the year. As one of 41 honored by PGA sections across the country, Gildersleeve-Jensen was nominated for the 2013 national teacher of the year award.

She put together a presentation as part of the nomination/application process and sent it to the Northwest section, which checks for accuracy and forwards the information to PGA headquarters in Florida.

Gildersleeve-Jensen found out recently she’s one of three finalists for the national honor. That’s out of 27,000 PGA pros from 41 sections. Michael Breed, host of Golf Channel’s The Golf Fix, won the 2012 award. Past winners include Hank Haney, Jim Flick, Jim McLean and Harvey Penick.

“I can’t believe I got this far,” said Gildersleeve-Jensen, who will find out in August if she’s the national winner.

Those who know G-Jensen, as she refers to herself on her Web site, aren’t surprised one bit.

“When you’re teaching, you might get people who are down in the dumps, their husband is making them take lessons or whatever,” Indian Canyon pro Gary Lindeblad said. “In about two minutes she has people excited about golf.

“If you can get their attention and they’re excited, they want to be there and they want to learn. She does it better than anybody I’ve ever seen.”

G-Jensen’s presentation centered on, well, just that.

“They’re looking at how you are communicating. They’re trying to grow the game and how to do it in all different ventures and get it out to the masses,” she said. “I do a ton of stuff on the Internet; it’s one of my biggest allies. I may give five, 10 lessons all over the world in the morning before I get to the Canyon.”

G-Jensen’s client list is roughly 75 percent male, but it also includes players of all ability levels from all walks of life – youngsters, prep and college golfers, pros and seniors. She gives Web lessons to two New York police officers, golf-company executives and groups of 8-10. Years ago, she tutored Oakland A’s closer Dennis Eckersley.

She noted that online lessons via Web cam help people who “want lessons now and don’t want to waste their time.” She doesn’t take a cookie-cutter approach.

“From Kathy’s perspective, one size doesn’t fit all,” Gainer explained. “She is looking at the good points of your swing and improving on those rather than trying to make your swing look like Jack Nicklaus’. She’s not trying to make you into something you’re not.”

G-Jensen is a big fan of her students and the game.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time. My husband is the superintendent at Deer Park,” she said. “Golf teaches morals, patience and it’s given me way more than I can give back. I’m trying to catch up, but it’s a great game. Safe, family-oriented, kid-oriented. You just grow up with the game.”