The first time Grant Waite met with Jodi Ewart Shadoff, it rained. He filmed two swings, and they talked about her back pain. Ewart Shadoff, who had missed the cut in eight of her last 10 events, feared her career might be cut short. Waite offered a few swing change suggestions to ease the pain and said he’d see her soon at the LPGA stop in Arkansas.
The first hole at Pinnacle Country Club is on the shorter side, and Waite, a former winner on the PGA Tour, watched Ewart Shadoff knock it to 6 feet from about 70 yards. What happened next made a strong impression.
“She walked on the green she just kind of really stopped breathing,” said Waite. “I could tell by her body language how stressed she was. Not only the situation of where she stood the money list, but playing golf at the moment. I said I’ve never had more of an urge to walk on the green and give a player a hug and say everything is going to be OK; I can help you.”
Ewart Shadoff finished seventh the next week at ShopRite, helping to secure her status for 2022. And then, roughly one year after they started, the 34-year-old Englishwoman won in her 246th start on the LPGA.
“He has walked in my shoes,” said Ewart Shadoff of working with Waite. “He knows what it feels like. He knows what it feels like on the golf course. What’s cool about working with Grant is, he knows how I think. He knows the emotion that it takes to win.”
After competing on the PGA Tour for 13 years, Waite, the 1993 Kemper Open champion, switched gears to teaching. His roster of Tour clients included Charles Howell, Aaron Baddeley, Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir.
The Kiwi then stopped coaching to join the PGA Tour Champions, that is until two surgeries to repair a torn rotator cuff resumed his teaching career. In addition to several PGA Tour hopefuls, Waite’s current roster of LPGA clients represents a wide variety of players in various stages of their careers.
That list no longer includes Patty Tavatanakit, however, who recently told Waite that she wanted to go her own way. He first began working with the talented Thai player ahead of the 2021 season, and she broke through with the Chevron Championship title and Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award. The pair have worked together on and off this season.
In addition to Ewart Shadoff, Waite’s list of clients includes promising players gearing up for Q-Series and a major champion back from maternity leave. Here’s how he’s helping each of them:
Waite predicated a Ewart Shadoff victory two weeks before she got it done.
“She’s extremely talented,” said Waite. “She just had blockages. My goal was to just strip those blockages away.”
Waite kept telling Ewart Shadoff that she had everything it takes to win. Convincing a player who had begun to doubt it would ever happen was a significant part of the process.
They also worked a great deal on putting, matching speed to line, an area that has long given Ewart Shadoff fits.
Before Ewart Shadoff won the Mediheal, Waite told Golf Channel analyst Morgan Pressel that Ewart Shadoff is as good as any player he’s ever coached.
“It’s not positive thinking,” said Waite. “It’s just pointing out a reality of how good she is.
“One of her strengths is that she always fights. I’ve seen her salvage rounds; I’ve seen her salvage tournaments. I knew that fighting is in her. It’s inherent in her. It’s not something that she tries to do.”
Paula Creamer and Waite are both members at Isleworth, and the 10-time LPGA champion reached out about working together last September, while pregnant with daughter Hilton Rose.
“He’s definitely watched my body transition over a year together,” said Creamer. “We had the time to be able to break down everything. We had the opportunity to do that since I wasn’t out here, maternity leave. We took advantage of that and we have changed all aspects of my game.”
Waite said Creamer, 36, is as competitive as any player he coaches and described the changes to her swing as significant.
“She wants to understand what she’s doing,” he said. “She wants to be better. She wants to go back out and be a competitive player on the tour, not just somebody that makes up the numbers. She wants that, and I think she’s capable of doing it.”
Creamer returned to the LPGA at the Dana Open in Toledo. She has competed in five events this fall, with her best finish, a T-29, coming at the Mediheal.
“I trust him and I trust what he has kind of envisioned with my golf swing and what we can do,” said Creamer, “and now it’s just up to me to take it to the course.”
Amelia Garvey is exempt into the final stage of LPGA qualifying thanks to her top-35 finish on the Epson Tour money list. Garvey, a fellow Kiwi who graduated from USC, placed 33rd on the money list with three top-10 finishes.
Garvey underwent major swing reconstruction with Waite to help produce more consistent strikes. The powerful player finished third on the Epson Tour in driving distance and ninth in greens in regulation. Waite said she swings 105 mph on average.
“It was a long road to try to get the swing where it needs to be,” said Waite.
“All this year she has worked extremely hard in her development. I think her swing is really very powerful and is one of the better swings that you’re going to see on a female golfer. It’s very impressive.”
Duke grad Ana Belac only recently started working with Waite. He noted that like Garvey, Belac has quite a bit of swing work to do. The native of Slovenia finished her career at Duke with the program’s seventh-best scoring average of 72.90 and helped the Blue Devils win the 2019 NCAA title.
Belac finished first on the money list in the shortened 2020 Epson Tour season to earn her LPGA card. She’s currently 149th on the CME points list and ranks 128th in greens in regulation.
Gabriela Ruffels switched from tennis to golf at age 15 and, even as a former U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, is still relatively new to elite-level golf. Ruffels missed advancing to Q-Series by one stroke last season and spent 2022 on the Epson Tour, where she finished 15th on the money list. (The top 10 earn LPGA cards.)
Ruffels led the tour in birdies for the season, recording 18 more than No. 2 Hyo Joon Jang.
“She makes lots of birdies, clearly she led the tour in birdies,” said Waite, “but she makes too many mistakes. It’s not because she hit wild shorts. It’s because she’s not saving in the most basic, simple motions.”
Waite said the next step is to help Ruffels develop more shots, shore up her short game and learn how to read a golf course the first time she sees it.
“With Gabi, it’s really just getting her to understand how to be a professional,” he said, “how to go about practicing her game, things we’re going to develop and how you developing them while still playing tournament golf.”
LPGA Q-Series will be played the first two weeks in December over four different courses in Mobile and Dothan, Alabama.