- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
It's halloween, and Ed Hipp is surrounded by enough cosmetics to resurrect Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. Resplendent in black pumps and a white brocade gown, he outlines his mouth with eyeliner and trowels foundation onto his cheeks. Hipp smears on some go-to-hell-scarlet lipstick, and his makeup is done. The 44-year-old family man wears a face that has become an odd caricature of womanly beauty. "I'll tell you the difference between our golf team and others in Iowa," he deadpans as he leads his kids away for a little trick-or-treating. "We're the only one with a coach who's a cross-dresser."
That turns out to be the least of the differences. As coach at tiny Maharishi High (enrollment: 179) in Fairfield, Hipp applies mystical precepts to golf. His unorthodox training techniques run from sun salutations to aromatherapy to pulse therapy to a hopped-up form of transcendental meditation (TM) called yogic flying. Hipp's Maharishi Pioneers are undeniably transcendent. Last May, in only their third season, they won the Iowa state high school Class 1A championship by 19 strokes. Hipp called it a "consciousness-based victory."
To clear their heads and calm their nerves, golfers try a host of relaxation strategies. Greg Norman dabbles in Zen; Tiger Woods can be hypnotized talking to his psychological coach over the phone. Hipp says TM is the only method that both flushes a golfer's mind of thought and joins his consciousness with other invisible fields of the universe, such as gravity. "Having gained equanimity in birdie and bogey, then I am to come out and play," Hipp wrote in his two-act play, The Song of Golf. "In this yoga, the resolute intellect is one-pointed, like a wedge shot in a windless place."
At 6'0" and 185 pounds, Hipp seems to be a solid enough phenomenon. He's a gentle, measured, corduroyed kind of guy who preaches inner peace and metaphysical fitness. His golfers meditate up to three hours a day, eat no red meat and get to bed by 10 p.m. "Our whole lives are a preshot routine," says Pioneers captain Noah Schechtman. "Ed never puts competing before enlightenment. He's the only golf coach in the state who spends more time coaching the player than the swing."
Duffer dharma is more elusive than a Zen koan. "Golf is a game," offers Hipp's own golfing guru, Fred Shoemaker, who founded the School for Extraordinary Golf in Carmel Valley, Calif. "In order to have a game, something must be more important than something else. If what already is is more important than what isn't, game's over. Golf is a game in which what isn't is more important than what is."
What is certain is that after dropping out of North Carolina State in 1972, Hipp went to Europe, where he learned TM. He liked meditating so much that he began teaching it. Fifteen years ago he moved to Fairfield, where adepts of Maharishi were living and sowing karma amid the corn and bean fields of southern Iowa.
Hipp didn't take up golf until he was 25, but when he did, he took it up devoutly. By 1988 he was managing Fairfield's municipal driving range. It was a marginal operation, and in 1990 Hipp took over the lease. Hipp had his 11-year-old stepson, Devon Abrams, and a bunch of his classmates retrieve range balls. In return they got 50 cents an hour and free lessons. Those early Hippsters became the core of the Maharishi Pioneers. "I taught them to generate each shot from the basis of calmness rather than the basis of reaction," Hipp says. "And that golf is a series of breakdowns. The winner is the one who manages those breakdowns best."
Like Hipp, the Pioneers have more than a little aura of tranquillity about them. The coach's most diligent pupil, the aptly named Lyric Duveyoung, used to practice the Bertholy Method of posed positioning for 2½ hours a day. Duveyoung won Fairfield's 1992 junior title as a 14-year-old and has successfully defended it every year since. Last year he snagged Iowa's Class 1A high school individual crown.
The Pioneers formed in 1994. In their inaugural season they finished 10-1 in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference and third in the state. In '95 they were 13-1 and second in the state. This year they were 13-1 and won it all. Even bad weather doesn't faze them. "The key is patience and surrender," intones Schechtman. "If you get anxious over a bad hole and press, you lose your connection with nature."
To keep that connection, Hipp and his Pioneers meditate twice a day, in the morning and early evening, on sheet-covered mattresses spread out in the Maharishi Patanjali Golden Dome of Pure Knowledge. They practice an advanced form of meditation called TM-Sidhi, otherwise known as yogic flying. "Golf is a test of mind-and-body coordination," Schechtman says. "Yogic flying is the ultimate test." He folds his legs in a yogic knot, rests his hands lightly in front of him and silently chants his mantra. For five minutes he idles motionlessly, eyes shut in serene contemplation. Suddenly he begins to shake. And rattle. And roll. And rising to the occasion, he bounces on his bum like a human Super Ball. He hops startlingly high and surprisingly far, propelled, he maintains, only by his belief in the teachings of Maharishi, the Seer of Flying. "When I'm in the air I feel like I'm getting a zap of bliss," he says. "Or hitting a really good tee shot, a perfect shot."