Like most young players who grow up with a golf club in their hands, Dan Polites dreamed of playing on the PGA Tour while perfecting his golf skills at St. Clair Country Club in Belleville and Clinton Hill Golf Course in Swansea.
But while he was a very good player who would play at the college level, Polites learned at a young age that he didn’t have the skills required to compete with the best golfers in the world.
So Polites did the next best thing: He became a teaching professional. More than 38,000 lessons later, Polites, 53, is celebrating his 25th anniversary with the Professional Golf Association of America. Polites and his DP Golf Center, which is now located at The Practice Tee at 5628 Old Collinsville Road in Fairview Heights, are still going strong.
“I just love what I do and I am truly blessed to have an understanding wife and family who have lived with me working 10 to 12 hours, six days a week for all of these years,” Polites said last week. “Golf is a game for a lifetime, and I take great pride in working with people of all ages and skills levels and helping them with their games in any way I can.”
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Polites, who became a golf professional after graduating from Ferris State University in Michigan, works with students of all ages from throughout the St. Louis area.
Among his more famous pupils over the years are former St. Louis Cardinals manager and New Athens native Whitey Herzog, Belleville native and tennis great Jimmy Connors and East St. Louis native and Olympic Gold medalist Dawn Harper. Polites also recently took in a new pupil — former St. Louis Rams great and NFL Hall of Famer Orlando Pace.
Polites also has worked with several high-ranking military officials through contacts at Scott AFB.
“I’ve done this for as long as I’ve been teaching, but I still grade myself after each lesson I give. People are paying me to help them with their games. That is something I take very seriously,” Polites said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner wanting to learn to play the game for fun, a player who is shooting in the 90s and wants to be able to shot in the 80s or a very good player who wants help with their swings. I take time in getting to know people I teach. I want to know what motivates you and what can I do to help you to reach your goals.”
Polites is also the author of “Golf for Rookies,” an instructional golf book for golfers of all ages. He has released a video, “Improve Your Golf Swing,” and an instructional CD set, “72 Tips to Shoot 72.”
Polites said he may soon begin work on another book, and he is also heavily involved with golf clinics. He is currently working with the Gateway PGA Section, teaching and promoting golf among inner-city youth in the St. Louis area.
But what Polites is also well known for is his time as the Althoff High School boys golf coach. He started in 2002 and has since the Crusaders to back-to-back Class 2A state championships in 2011 and 2012.
“I was also a coach with Jim Karwoski from 1992 to 1994. He was the head coach, and I was the swing coach. That was the Jill Gomric, Tim Riley and Scott Moore era at Althoff, and we had great teams that finished in the top three twice at the state tournament,” Polites said. “I really wanted to coach my son Danny (Polites) in high school, and so when the job came open, I met with coach (Glenn) Schott, who was the athletic director. I told him I wanted the job, but I also wanted a no-cut policy with my program. He agreed, and it’s been a great ride ever since.”
Though he says he has no plans to retire anytime soon, Polites is getting his son more involved in DP Golf with the hope of having him take over one day.
“Hopefully, I’ll be around for another 25 years teaching golf,” Polites said. “Like I said, it’s a game a person can play their entire lives.”