Given the obstacles Javier Silva had to clear just to get to this point, the inconvenience of a global pandemic isn’t about to slow him down. All it did, in fact, was make him more efficient.
A golf instructor by trade and, in his spare time an example of how to overcome adversity, the 43-year-old has taken his love for teaching golf and made it available in the most socially distant way possible: Online tutorials and remote learning classes.
A few times a week, Silva drives from his home in Albuquerque to a film studio in Santa Fe to record lessons that are as detailed and energetic as he is. He offers individual and group instruction and, has seen a clientele list grow from mostly Santa Fe duffers into one that includes students from all over the country.
His website, Golf-Code.com, is tied into that of his business partner and longtime fitness instructor, Daniela Schellenberg. Her site, swissfitgolf.com, has a number of videos in which she and Silva team up to do more than the basics of hitting a tiny white ball as far and as accurately as possible.
“There’s so much stuff online like this. You can go to YouTube and watch videos of golf swings, yoga classes, weightlifting and fitness stuff, but none of it is really catered to what really helps,” Schellenberg said. “There’s a healthy way of moving that you can use in your everyday life, and that’s where we come in. We study your movements, learn what works for your own individual skills and then develop a plan to get the best out of what you have.”
Whereas Silva is the golf expert and the embodiment of positive learning, Schellenberg is the movement specialist who taps into the body’s potential through detailed analysis that starts with questions and answers, and ends with her studying each student’s biomechanics and fluidity of motion.
“Together, it’s a great team that can take a player of any age and make them better,” Silva said.
“We have golfers 70, 75 years old hitting the ball better than they did 30 years ago. It’s all about understanding what you and your body can do and having you then carry that through every swing.”
As Schellenberg said, YouTube has a video for everyone, but what might work for a couple of hundred viewers doesn’t work for everyone.
A bad shoulder or poor rotation in the pelvis stemming from stiff joints or a car accident 15 years ago means that same YouTube video that helped a buddy blast one 300 yards off the tee might actually aggravate a health condition and make things worse.
Silva said he and Schellenberg are more about listening and observing than they are teaching and preaching.
“The instruction comes from teaching you to self-correct without getting hurt,” Schellenberg said.
“A kid learns to walk spontaneously using instinct rather than instruction. They’re driven by their senses. We want you to learn movement the same way, not by trying to hit a ball harder but letting your body use its own ability to accomplish your goals.”
In so many ways, Silva is the perfect instructor.
He counts his home course as Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe, often meeting with clients on an individual basis on the driving range. It was the perfect setup, he said, until the coronavirus changed everything.
Silva is considered a high-risk individual after receiving a kidney transplant a few years back. In his youth he was professional player, often firing the ball off the tee at 111 miles an hour and posting scores that had him on track to make a living as a competitive player.
At age 22 he was diagnosed with kidney disease.
Over the years, his kidney function deteriorated, as did his health. Just a few years back his functionality dipped to 9 percent, pushing him closer to the top of the national organ donation list — and the dreaded prospect of dialysis.
In what can only be described as a Hollywood movie in the making, a noticeably ill Silva went on a blind date during a Christian conference, fell in love almost instantly, and by 2015 was married.
“I told [Erinn] right away what I was dealing with, what my kidney situation was,” Silva said. “She never blinked. She was right there with me even after everything I told her.”
At the time they met, Silva was living in Palm Springs, Calif., and Erinn in Albuquerque.
The couple originally lived out there, then moved back to help with the process of finding a kidney donor. Erinn threw her name into the mix and, by 2017, she was cleared to donate one of her kidneys to her husband.
On Friday, the couple will celebrate three years since the transplant. Silva’s kidney function is now in the 75 percent to 80 percent range. His strength has returned, as of his last assessment he was hitting the ball off the tee at 103 to 105 mph with a goal of getting back to the velocity he enjoyed more than two decades ago.
Every step of the way, there has been Schellenberg. The coach became the student, learning from the techniques his partner has passed along so many times. Along with the lessons have come a renewed sense of purpose, of love for the game and life, of savoring every second in a way few people ever experience.
“I love working with people individually, but in the COVID world we live in now, it’s best for me to exercise as many precautions as I can,” Silva said.
“I can’t let that slow me down from doing what I love. It’s virus restrictions that kind of started the online thing, which is great. It gives me a chance to see the people I work with and gives us a chance to keep talking. Until we get this thing figured out, this is the best way to do it.”
Silva will head back to California later this year to help out at The Grant Fuhr Celebrity Invitational, a December event packed with a number of celebrities ranging from Jax Taylor and Tom Schwartz of Vanderpump Rules to baseball stars like Ken Griffey Jr. and Vince Coleman, football legends like Marshall Faulk, Jim McMahon and Seth Joyner, to hockey stars such as Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull and Fuhr.
With luck, there might be a day when a Zoom class might have one of those indented squares filled by a face you recognize from the past.
Until then, Silva and Schellenberg are awaiting your call.