The Academy provides scholarships to a few students, but the meter is running for the rest. "We don't want only rich kids to come here," says Leadbetter, "but there's certainly a class factor. It's expensive to play golf, especially in the States."
Other countries do it differently. In Sweden kids can join a golf club for as little as $22 a year, and the top players get training and financial support from the Swedish Golf Union. The Australian Sports Institute runs a similar quasipublic program. The Spanish Golf Union subsidized Sergio Garcia on his way to stardom. But the U.S. Golf Association does not provide development subsidies, and there is no national junior team. That leaves junior coaching to the private sector—or, as Leadbetter sees it, to Leadbetter. "Golf was really the last pro sport where people found their own way to the top," he says. "Now it's becoming more structured."
The famous teacher, though, does not subscribe to the total immersion policy of Marc O'Hair and Earl Woods. Two of Leadbetter's children—James, 5, and Hally, 7—are still happily "playing" golf. But Andy Leadbetter, 15, is a two handicap and starting to take the game seriously. A few months ago he told his dad he wanted to leave home and enroll at the Leadbetter Academy. Leadbetter, with a lump in his throat, said he'd think about it.
"We're looking at sending him," Leadbetter says. "He'll probably be old enough next year. I just want to make sure that he's responsible, that he's ready to fend for himself." He hesitated. "To be honest, you don't have your kids forever. You get a little bit selfish. You don't want to see your kids go."
What's a father to do?