Max Homa’s story—one of success, struggle and humility—is far from singular. But how Homa, 28, has articulated those experiences makes him sui generis in his profession. Using the prism of social media, the former NCAA champion who won his first PGA Tour title last May at the Wells Fargo Championship has given fans a humanized—and humorous—look into a life that often feels untouchable. In his words—and tweets—here is Homa on hardship, joy, fame and betting on himself. —Joel Beall
I grew up on a public track in Valencia, Calif. Thank God I did, or I wouldn’t be a professional. Can’t stand the sanctimony of country clubs; it goes against what the sport should be. That stuffy vibe would have deterred me quickly. My dad did sign me up for a club in high school, only so I could hit off grass instead of mats. But being able to wear what I wanted, to meet interesting people with different backgrounds, to play all day for $3, to just be a kid and have fun, man, I loved it.
My dad got me into golf. He’s a good stick, a 5-handicap. But my mom, who has hit maybe five balls in her life, loves it more than any of us now. Her passion is contagious. It keeps me going when the grind starts becoming too much.
The University of California was tough. How someone like Collin Morikawa can conquer the classroom while kicking ass on the golf course is beyond impressive. Me? I got by. The best thing college taught me is time management and independence. If you haven’t grasped those tenets in golf, you’re not going to be out here very long.
On being a cerebral guy, well, I like to think. But sometimes the things I think about are things I shouldn’t be thinking about.
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I’ve always been determined, but I’ve never been super positive. I’d look cool and calm, but deep down I was stewing, and it would beget fast swings or poorly thought-out shots. The negativity was corrosive.
My caddie, Joe Greiner, recently told me I had to stop saying “I suck.” All golfers say it: “That sucks, this sucks, you suck.” But I decided to not do it anymore. If you tell yourself you suck all the time, eventually you’re going to think you really do suck. For a while, I thought I did.
I had to learn to slow down and take a breath. I don’t get mad anymore because I realized it’s a waste of energy. Anger will wear you out. That’s what changed the most this past year. I’m much more positive. Things don’t bother me in such a destructive manner.
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I was in the Los Angeles Lakers’ locker room and saw this mantra in Kobe Bryant’s locker, and I knew it was going to be my jam. Basically, it said you could fail a lot of times in small ways as long as you never packed it in and took it as one big failure.
Here’s how I make sense of it: If I’m hitting a stone, and I don’t break it, I can look at that as, I failed to break it, or, I’m closer to breaking it.
I looked at it as, I’m closer to breaking this stone every time I hit it. I’m not failing with a bad round. I’m not failing by missing a cut. I’m not failing because I’m working toward something bigger.
Now, if I play bad on Thursday, and instead of practicing and working out, I go to the bar, then that swing at the rock means nothing. But the swing at the rock wasn’t the rounds or the tournament. I’d shoot a million on Thursday and practice all afternoon. I’d miss the cut Friday and practice all afternoon. I knew what I was working on would eventually click. Nobody wants to practice Friday afternoon after they’ve just missed a cut by 10, week after week, 20 times in a year. I did—every single time. Why? Because I’m hitting this rock, and it’s going to f------ break.
• • •
When I first lost my PGA Tour card, it was because I was a slow learner. I made the Web.com Tour look easy, so I thought I could do the same at the next level. But I didn’t play well—at all. The second time I lost my card was the low point. It culminated at the Wyndham Championship. I finished last by five shots. I didn’t lose my confidence. I knew, mentally, I could get it back. It was more a crisis of my golf game. It was physically terrible. I questioned if I should keep doing this.
Charley Hoffman asked me, “What’s your deal? When you’re the big fish in a small pond, you seem to do great. But when you’re a small fish in a big pond, you seem to go away.” I thought about it and realized he’s right. I needed to stop questioning my place, my stature every time I got to the tour.
You can never go out and think, I’m going to win this week. I don’t care what anybody says. Your mind-set is on winning, obviously, but you need to take it shot by shot, day by day, and assess where you are.
• • •
Out here, fame isn’t real. There are four guys who people recognize. That’s it.
I had dinner the other night, and Rory McIlroy was sitting in the front of the restaurant, and I had to laugh. I’m sure people came up to him, but if he feels comfortable to sit there, he isn’t that famous. Because if Tiger sat there, it would be a mob.
My friends tell me I’m lucky to play golf for a living. Trust me, I know I am. But fans have golf to take their minds off work, or whatever. I have nothing. My work is golf. If I have a bad day at the office, I sit in my hotel room and agonize on what went wrong. I’ve taken something fun and made it miserable.
I made some money this year. But you’ve got to make a lot to be comfortable on tour because you spend so much in a given week. I just paid off my credit card, and it was cathartic. I had a good three weeks, and thank God I did, or else I’d be screwed.
• • •
Jordan Spieth has become my favorite golfer. His mental game is above everyone else. He isn’t gifted with speed skills like Dustin Johnson, but he has zero fear playing against him. He’s like Steph Curry; he has the build of a common fan and is able to beat these athletic freaks. The ways he does that interests me to no end.
It’s difficult for Jordan and Rory and Justin Thomas because successes in their youth are difficult to maintain. People will never understand how hard it is to win one tournament in a year, in a career. Jordan won two majors in 2015 and the FedEx Cup title, and every year he doesn’t is an “off” year. They’re prisoners of the past.
Rory, especially, is torched at majors. I understand people have to ask questions. But the “What happened? What went wrong?” Give me a break. What went wrong? He finished fifth and beat 150 of the best golfers in the world. I think that’s pretty good.
I had an interest in going into broadcasting. Not anymore. It takes so much knowledge of how things work behind the scenes to be decent at that job. I’ve tried to slow my roll on ragging on commentators because it’s harder than any of us imagine.
• • •
Like every 20-something, I’ve grown up in the age of social media. It’s amusing that I’m the social guy on tour because I don’t have Facebook, I don’t have Instagram.
I learned I needed to stop a bit with Twitter. My tweets were funny, but too negative. Self-deprecating humor is great, but I don’t always think it’s healthy. You’re repressing something a bit.
At the same time, it’s lonely on the road. I need to talk to somebody, so I use Twitter. At least get it out of my head. I don’t get political. I understand why people do, but if you’re someone like me who thinks of dumb one-sentence thoughts about golf or life that are completely harmless, you can create a following.
I made a joke about the uproar about backstopping. I get it, but of all the stuff going on in the world, you’re going to get upset about this?
• • •
Watching video of my Quail Hollow win, I could see all those struggles I’ve talked about fall away, leaving this kid walking down the fairway, and I’m calm as hell. I shouldn’t be. No way should I have been calm in that situation. But everything I had been working on came together in that moment.
The only thing that makes me emotional is, I’ll be sitting somewhere and think, Whose life are you living? I relate to anybody who’s struggling in anything. Every day I think about a week, or a shot, or something I did that I felt really bad about. And I remember sitting in hotel rooms thinking, Man, how are we going to fix this?
That hit me Saturday at Quail Hollow when I was paired with Rory. I had to snap myself out of it and be like, Dude, you’re still far from winning a golf tournament. But I’m in contention on the weekend against one of the greatest golfers of all time. I appreciated it because I know what it took. That persistence, that resiliency, you can’t let it go.
The most difficult thing is when you finally reach a goal. I’m not content, but I’m happy. I want more of this. It was so fun winning. I don’t feel like I’ve made it by any means, but I’m smelling the roses because that’s what I remind myself to do.
There was a three-year span where I felt like I let my younger self down. You take this dream opportunity of being on the PGA Tour and do nothing with it? All those days of being mad, I figured I need to counter that with an abundance of happiness.
So let’s just be happy. I mean, Tiger Woods told me congrats at the Memorial. I got to throw out the first pitch at a Dodgers game. I’m going to play in the freakin’ Masters. Still motivated as hell, but if you can’t enjoy it, what’s the point?