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Allred shows locals the ropes during break in tour

Jason Allred stepped to the driving range tee and hit one shot that faded high and right. Another was low and hooked dramatically. Then half a shot. Then a low bullet.

If one didn't know better, you'd think the Nationwide Tour professional didn't have anything on the players to which he was giving a clinic Tuesday at Rogue Valley Country Club.

However, he was trying to hit said shots. When David Smith, Dennis Flenner and Joe Hubbard took their turns, they were less certain which shot was coming next.

The three area businessmen were instrumental in bringing Allred, an Ashland native, home this week to speak Tuesday at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet. As such, they were treated to a clinic by Allred, with help from his father, Gene, who taught him the game.

Playing close to home last week in Livermore, Calif., and a break in the tour this week allowed Allred, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., to visit. He's back in action next week in Valdosta, Ga.

As Allred hit a variety of shots, his father called out the ball flight he wanted.

"If my dad wasn't here, I'd hit the shots and then tell you what they were supposed to be," he said with a laugh.

As Allred instructed, interested onlookers wandered over for a listen.

Allred had a couple of primary suggestions: Keep it simple, and make practice fun by having it approximate actual play.

"With a good grip, posture and set-up," he said, "90 percent of the time you're going to make a good shot."

Simple enough.

When ron Nelson won 11 straight PGA events in 1945, Allred said, his chief asset was a good grip, the better to avoid careless shots.

On the practice range, Allred said, "make it as much like playing as you can. Rather than hit balls brainlessly, pick out targets."

He then hit a couple of chips shots to different spots.

"Wedges and short irons are a great way to practice to establish rhythm and balance," he said.

At the chipping green, he said, he'll sometimes chip, then putt out, and move from hole to hole, treating the practice like a nine-hole, par-3 course.

The session began with the three students hitting balls. Allred watched, then offered advice. He encouraged Flenner, who is the boys soccer coach at Phoenix High, to remain in balance through the shot, similar to the pros on TV.

At one point, Allred was asked if he had to buy his equipment.

"Believe it or not," he said, "they pay a me a little to use their clubs."

To which Flenner replied, "They pay me not to."

Hubbard exhibited fine form and a high finish, but it was suggested he relax a bit, release some of the tension through his torso and arms, a tip he found helpful.

In the next stall, Gene Allred was working with Smith, who stood amid clubs pointing every direction. It was a "pivot drill." Swing on the target line, square your feet, rotate your left lat muscle past center and maintain right knee flex. Then Gene Allred grabbed Smith's hair to keep his head up, a trick Jack Nicklaus used, he said.

After he topped a shot left and squirted another right, Smith exclaimed, "This is hard!"

Jason Allred asked him to hit a couple of balls, but Smith laughed, "I don't want to screw up my new swing."

Said Gene, "Don't expect too much right away. It's like baby steps."

Jason Allred finished with a couple of tricks, bouncing a ball on a wedge, between his legs and around his back before popping it up and hitting it in midair, a la Tiger Woods in a commercial. He also got a ball to spin like a top on the face of his club.

His toughest shot was attempting to hit two balls in succession &

first a high fade, then a low hook &

and have the balls collide before touching down. He saw Chi Chi Rodriguez do it once.

"He said the only two people who could do it were him and his brother," said Allred, "and his brother's name is Jesus."

Allred tried the stunt twice and still has yet to pull it off.

He finished up with a few mammoth, straight drives, grunting for emphasis a couple of times.

Well over 300 yards.

Another shot his onlookers weren't likely to duplicate.