Jon Bullas believes there's a different energy in the air when coaching young golfers.
A local golf instructor has spent his life learning from the best.
Now, he can consider himself one of the best.
Jon Bullas, 43, was named one of the top 50 youth golf coaches in the country by U.S. Kids Golf at the 2020 PGA Show on Jan. 22 in Orlando. The honor is voted on by a panel of U.S. Kids Golf representatives. The award criteria involves how much time coaches spend working, as well as their impact on their communities.
Bullas has worked as a U.S. Kids Golf instructor since 2006, and runs the organization's golf academy at Laurel Oak Country Club in Sarasota. It is one of four U.S. Kids Golf Academies in the country, and the only one in Florida. At his program, Bullas said, kids learn through game-based instruction, with an emphasis on fun. Bullas said his goal is for every player to walk away from the program with a lifelong love of the sport, though he has also coached winning players, such as Noah Kumar, a Cardinal Mooney senior who is ranked as the 53rd-best junior golfer in the country by Golfweek.
"I think it is every golf pro's responsibility to create the next generation of golfers," Bullas said. "I've invested a lot of my time, not only my course hours but the hours away from the course, hours on the computer doing the background stuff that no one sees. I have been fortunate enough to meet some of the best instructors in the world and study under them. It was exciting to be recognized. It was nice to give that back to the families and students who have come through the program. Without them, this doesn't happen."
Bullas' mentors include Jim Hardy, a swing coach who has worked with pros such as Matt Kuchar and Vijay Singh, John Godwin, U.S. Kids Golf's director of player development, and John Bryan, the company's vice president.
Bullas, who was born in London, graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2000 before spending four years on various professional tours across the globe.
He then spent two years coaching in England before moving to Florida in 2006.
Bullas said he first got involved in the kids program after noticing kids playing with ill-fitting clubs, which hinders their ability to develop a proper swing. Bullas' program has 30 sets of clubs for golfers to borrow at no cost, meaning they can find a set that fits. He still coaches adults, too, but the kids bring an energy that adults can't match.
"We have some 4- and 5-year-olds out here," Bullas said. "To see them hitting their balls and then smile, it's great. You can give an adult the best lesson in the world, and then they hit the perfect shot, and they will say, 'Not bad, let's see if I can do it again.' Whereas kids will be jumping up and down.
"I love to see that. It's a different kind of energy. That's the draw for me."