A year ago this week PGA Teaching Pro Rick Sessinghaus was stuck at home in Burbank. Covid-19 restrictions kept him from traveling and he was given no choice but to be glued to his television set as his mind was focused on an event half the world away, the Open Championship, or sometimes referred to as The British Open. It one of the premier events on the professional golf calendar.
So on the morning of July 18, he watched with his father, his son and his most accomplished student’s agent. That student was Collin Morikawa, who came away victorious in the 149th edition of the event.
Sessinghaus, a lifelong Burbank resident and 1989 Burbank High graduate, is the coach of Morikawa, who grew up locally in La Canada Flintridge.
“There was definitely some screaming and yelling when he’s making birdies and some par saves,” Sessinghaus said of watching it from home. “(I was) extremely proud and got to talk to him pretty quickly afterwards, we Facetimed. It was a very special moment.”
This year Sessinghaus won’t need a television set as he will be on site at The Old Course at St. Andrews as Morikawa will attempt to be the first repeat champion since Tiger Woods accomplished the feat in 2006.
“He played real well at the U.S. Open about three weeks ago. I think he’s in a good mind set. He’s hitting the ball well,” said Sessinghaus prior to departing for Scotland. “A lot of it is how is the weather going to be and other variables that are out of his control. It is certainly going to be a challenge. There are a lot of great players out there.”
Sessinghaus has been working Morikawa, currently fourth in the World Golf Rankings, since he has was eight years old. Morikawa is now 25.
“I met him at (Glendale’s) Scholl Canyon at the end of the driving range. I was working with a lot of competitive juniors and his parents knew that. His parents came down and asked me if I would work with him. I talked to him a little bit. I saw him hit a few shots. Pretty much every week we would have lessons from age eight until 18 when he went to college. I saw him once a week,” Sessinghaus said. Then he went to college. Obviously I wouldn’t see him as often, but we would talk on the phone.”
Sessinghaus, who now goes by Dr. Rick Sessinghaus, has a Ph.D in Applied Sports Psychology which helps make him one of the most sought after coaches in the game. He is listed as one of the top 50 instructors in America in the 2021 edition of Golfdigest.com.
While he began teaching players how to swing back in the 1990s after his playing days at Cal State Northridge ended, Sessinghaus’s methodology has evolved as he has become more advanced in his approach to the game.
“I don’t take on any new swing instruction any more, just because I’m not in town enough,” Sessinghaus said. “I’m good at that, but my passion is the mental side of the game and getting these players to perform under pressure and prepare for tournaments, how to practice better and how to deal with the ups and downs and focus, confidence and emotion.”
Sessinghaus, who said he travels to about half of Morikawa’s tournaments, in 2007 authored the book “Golf: The Ultimate Mind Game”. When not with Morikawa he works with a number of other clients when he is home.
“I’m at the golf course four or five times a month, but I do a lot of virtual coaching because of my sports psychology background,” he said.
Technology has helped Sessinghaus grow his clientele base to all corners of the globe.
But it was his start locally that at least for now, has given him the most accolades.
“By the age of 24, he has won two major championships. He won two majors quicker than anyone, even Tiger,” Sessinghaus said, also referring to Morikawa’s victory in the 2020 PGA Championship.
The accolades for Morikawa don’t figure to end any time soon.
“There’s been a handful of very good juniors that I’ve worked with that I felt had a chance to succeed at on the PGA Tour, but he was consistently always getting better. He was a three-time All-American at Cal Berkeley. He was the No. 1 amateur in the world,” Sessinghaus said. “He’s always been trending in the right direction and we’ve just kept getting better and better and better. He’s got a great work ethic a nd a great attitude and a great family and a great support system. You can’t expect you’re going to get a guy who has won two majors already, but I did believe he was going to be successful on the PGA Tour.”