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8 PGA Tour pros share their best advice for future college golfers

Advice from 8 PGA tour pros on navigating these pivotal years
October 18, 2023

Editor's Note: Golf Digest is breaking down everything you need to know about college golf from the recruitment process to advice from pros who’ve been through it to the best collegiate courses. Check out the complete syllabus below.

Without a college draft in golf, players who harbor professional aspirations have no obligation to attend college. For years, pundits have speculated about when top junior golfers might begin to forgo the college experience as they do in some other sports.

Yet golf remains unique. It rewards the kind of rounded skill set college provides. There are exceptions, of course, but often the game’s best players are those who spent their college years refining their games, forming competitive bonds with teammates and earning degrees. It’s a way of maturing the mind and having a backup plan if professional dreams aren’t realized.

With that in mind, Golf Digest asked a variety of PGA Tour players who each earned their degree a question: How can future college golfers savor and maximize the college experience?

Embrace morning classes

“Figure out your schedule early and stay on top of it. I’d book an 8 a.m. class every morning and then go work out. I’d also try to leave Fridays open. You may not like it, but if you can schedule a few morning classes, you’ll feel like you have all the time in the world. Enjoy the experience as much as you can. When you turn around after those four years, you have no time. Don’t waste it.”
Jon Rahm, Arizona State University (2016, Communications)

Get out of your comfort zone

“Try to get comfortable being uncomfortable because you’re going to be uncomfortable. Everything changes. You’re away from home, you’re trying to qualify for tournaments and you may not be qualifying as much as you want. Every team is different, but my team had one team practice a week, and the rest was on our own. That was different for me; I had to learn how to structure my practice. It took me a little bit to get used to. Whether you’re playing on the team or not, keep trying to get better even when it feels uncomfortable.”
Sepp Straka, University of Georgia (2016, Business Management)

Keep golf and academics in balance

“I went to a tough academic school, but I learned that there was a limit to what you can do between school, golf and having a social life. Sometimes you might have to sacrifice school for golf. Sometimes you might sacrifice golf for school. Trying to push yourself to do everything at once can be detrimental. Pick your spots, and be smart about it.”
Cameron Young, Wake Forest University (2019, Economics)

THE BEST PROS TEND TO BE ONES WHO SPENT COLLEGE REFINING THEIR GAMES.

Don’t try to reinvent your game

“College golfers these days have so much more at their disposal: time, coaches, facilities, things like Track-Man. Everybody likes having some fun in college, too, right? College golfers have every tool they need to get good. If you’re serious about being successful, learn how to use those things and not get overwhelmed. You don’t need to reinvent your swing or your game to make your team. Learning how to use those tools to refine what you do well is much more important than trying to become somebody else.”
J.T. Poston, Western Carolina University (2015, Finance)

Be disciplined with your time

“Be careful with your time management. Playing college golf is almost like having two full-time jobs. Traveling can make things stressful. There’ll be times when you miss almost a week of school and return feeling really behind and stressed. It may take you two weeks to catch up. Being efficient with your time when that happens will define your ability to be successful.”
Brian Harman, University of Georgia (2009, Finance)

Sacrifice (some) fun for work

“I was a walk-on. I knew I needed to graduate so that I could get a job. I didn’t think about turning pro until my senior year. I wasn’t as naturally talented as my teammates, but I took the attitude that I’m going to outwork them at practice and in class. That healthy competition pushes you to be better. Sometimes it means missing out on some fun things, but I got my reward in the end.”
Hayden Buckley, University of Missouri (2018, Health Science)

Learn from your teammates

“I don’t care how good or bad your teammates are or whether they’re on the traveling team or not, you can learn from each one. College gives you that ability to get to know a bunch of guys who love golf and be surrounded by them every single day. Learn what they do best in their games, ask them about it and figure out how to do it yourself.”
Collin Morikawa, University of California, Berkeley (2019, Business Administration)

Take care of your body

“If I could do it over, I’d pay much closer attention to fitness: mobility, flexibility, core strength, glute strength. When you’re young, you think you’re invincible. I didn’t do much before rounds, and in no way did I take care of my body after rounds. That stuff starts to catch up to you as you age. The more of a priority you make it when you’re younger, the better you’ll be later on.”
Denny McCarthy, University of Virginia (2015, Anthropology)

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