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Opinion & Analysis

What I learned losing $63,700 playing professional golf



Josh Thompson

It was the spring of 2007. After two years of college, I said goodbye to my golf scholarship and my great group of teammates. I was ready to chase my dream of playing golf on the PGA Tour.

I didn’t know what my future held, but I knew that in order to succeed I’d have to fully commit myself to golf with 100 percent focus.

I moved to Tampa from Indianapolis to start preparing for the upcoming 2008 season. During the day, I worked on my golf game and at night I worked at a restaurant bussing tables to save up extra money on the side. I grew up cleaning toilets and scrubbing floors in my family’s janitorial business, so working a side job was nothing new to me, but I did have some financial help from family and friends for my first full year on the Hooters Tour. I knew playing golf professionally wasn’t cheap, but little did I know at the time how quickly things add up, even for someone as tight with money as myself.

At the time, a membership on the Hooters Tour cost around $2,000 and the entry fee for each event was around $1,100. That was only to gain entry into the one event and compete against 155 other players for a $200,000 purse, with around $34,000 going to the winner. A typical week would cost me about $1,800. If there was host-housing for the week, it was cheaper — about $1,300. Host-housing is when a family offers its home to a golfer for the week and lets you stay in an extra room. I’ve met a lot of great people through hosting, many of whom I still stay in touch with and call friends to this day.

After shooting 68 and not qualifying for the Nationwide Tour stop in Atlanta — yes, 68’s get you a one-way ticket out of town for Monday qualifiers — I headed up to Greenville, N.C. for the Touchstone Energy Open on the Hooters Tour.

Overall, I felt like my game was going in the right direction in my first year as a professional. I started off the week well with a pair of 68’s in the first two rounds. I had just made my first cut as a pro, and after a one-under par 71 on Saturday I was tied for the lead going into the last day. The forecast didn’t look great for Sunday — cold, rain and some light hail. It seemed Mother Nature didn’t want the final round to be played, and it looked as though it would be canceled numerous times.

Driving to the course, the thought crept into my head that if today’s round was cancelled, I would split the $33,500 first-place check. I immediately stopped myself from thinking about that. You don’t play for second place or hope for a particular outcome. You go out there to win no matter the situation. “Don’t worry about the weather or the outcome, focus on what you can control,” I told myself. “The shot in front of you is all that matters.”

Ten hours and multiple rain delays later, I was standing in the fairway, in the rain, on the 71st hole. I was around 270 yards from the green, faced with a decision to lay up or go for the green — birdie to take the lead going into the last, or make a safe par and likely put myself into a playoff that likely wouldn’t happen because of darkness. I remembered what I said to myself in the car on the way to the golf course, so I pulled out the driver and hit it off the deck. The ball finished up by the green. After hitting the pitch shot to 10 feet, I cleared off the hail on the green that was in my line and rolled in the putt.

I now had a one-shot lead with one hole to play. After hitting the ball in the middle of the green and two-putting on the par-3 last hole, I realized I had won the golf tournament. I couldn’t believe it! Winning at the age of 21 was the jump-start to the season I was gunning for and the ideal start to my professional golfing career. Little did I know at the time that there were going to be many peaks and valleys in the years to come. This win would be the climax.

Coming off the win my confidence was high and my bank account benefited from the $33,500 check I just deposited. The remaining part of the year was a bit of a struggle. Mixed into my schedule were Hooters Tour events, Monday qualifiers, state opens and Q-School at the end of the season.

Come August, four months after my win, I had racked up 10 consecutive missed cuts and other near misses at Monday qualifiers. Not only that, a cyst on my left wrist started to grow throughout the season and wasn’t going away. Instead of playing in Q-School, I decided it would be best to have surgery to remove the cyst to alleviate the pain. I wasn’t worried. I was only 21 and it was just one surgery, so no big deal. The surgery would open the floodgates for many more off seasons spent rehabbing, however, opposed to improving my game and getting better.

After recovering from surgery, I spent the remaining part of the off season in Tampa. Even though I had struggled in the tournaments after my win, I had a positive outlook on the upcoming season. Following the surgery, I made another big decision to switch golf coaches. After spending nine years with the same instructor, it was a difficult decision to make. During this transition I decided that my entire game needed to change to reach the level where I wanted to be as a professional golfer. The goal was to have my golf swing revolve around my short game technique and have that technique be the central part that drove lower scores. I learned that you have to be willing to risk everything in order to reach the top. To me, it’s the same reason Tiger and Hogan always strived for perfection. They wanted more out of their game, even after being on top and considered the absolute best.

I was excited about the next season with the plan I had laid out and was anxious to get things going. The results on the golf course were up and down — not alarming considering some of the changes I was making, but the results needed to get better. There were many properly executed shots and rounds played, but then the exact opposite littered with “what-were-you-thinking” moments.

Once the 2009 season wrapped up, I was looking forward to the three-month offseason where I could continue working on the changes in my game and building a solid foundation for the future. About midway through the offseason that winter, things were moving in the right direction with my game. I felt as though 2010 was going to be the year to regain my form and make some real headway. At the time, I was working at a golf course in Tampa — not the best of gigs, but it had its perks.

One day while working in the bag room, things came crashing down, literally. A golf bag fell from the top stand of the bag rack, which was about head high, and I tried saving the bag from an awkward angle with my right arm. The bag made it out unscaved but my shoulder didn’t: a torn labrum that would require surgery. Another offseason and another surgery — not exactly what I had drawn up. Looking back on the situation, saving that 30-handicapper’s bag with iron headcovers and four dozen golf balls from falling wasn’t the best idea. Sometimes, it’s best to just cut your losses, especially if it means hurting yourself. This wasn’t exactly the best timing either, as funds were getting low.

After going through with the surgery, I had a short amount of time to get my game back into shape before the season. With the unlikely change of events, I decided to change up my schedule for the summer. I was still going to play in the state opens and Monday qualifiers, but this year I was going to take my game northwest to the plains and compete on the Dakotas Tour. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. “Sometimes you have to change things up to get different results,” I told myself. “Maybe the trip out west is what you need.”

I had heard nice things about the Dakotas Tour, and you were able to play a lot of tournament rounds in a short amount of time. The events started in Iowa and then we ventured into the Dakotas. The travel was all by vehicle from one small town to the next, trying to squeeze in as many tournaments as possible. Sometimes you’d finish playing in a tournament one day and drive through the night to tee it up in another tournament the next day. The yardage books that the proshops carried were often times my best friend. I never played the courses before, so I needed all the information I could get. The yardage books helped, no doubt, but my results were more or less the same as the past season; signs of good play devoid by head-shaking shots.

My last stop on the tour was in Rapid City, which is in western South Dakota. After the completion of my round, I decided to start the 16-hour drive back to Indianapolis where my parents live. The plan was to find a hotel about halfway, somewhere around Omaha, Neb. That didn’t happen because of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the Iowa State Fair. All the hotel rooms were booked everywhere I drove. I had been up since 4:30 a.m. CST and it was 1 a.m. CST the next day. I decided to finally pull off in a hotel parking lot and try to catch some sleep in the back of my two-door Honda Civic.

It couldn’t be that bad… it was only the middle of the hottest summer in quite some time.

I finally fell asleep, and about two hours later my car started shaking. I didn’t know what was happening, but in my sea of sweat I thought someone was trying to break into my car. It turned out to be a couple making out on my hood. Out of the hundred vehicles in this parking lot, they choose mine to bump and grind on. The show they were putting on was cheap entertainment, but at this point I was too tired to even reach up to the steering wheel and honk the horn to get them to leave. Instead, I laid back down and tried to fall back to sleep.

That summer concluded with a few more near misses at Monday qualifiers and another trip down to Florida for the winter. My game was really starting to take shape with the changes I had made… until I hurt myself again. Shortly before I was scheduled to leave town, I was hitting balls when my club struck something under the ground. It stopped my club dead in its tracks, which had never happened before. Pain shot up my left wrist, and the result was a torn TFCC (Triangular Fibrocartiliage Complex). I tried playing through it for the next month, but the pain was just too much to stand. A third surgery in three years was in my future.

Another stint of physical therapy and practice would get my form back to a decent level, but the problem is that “decent” doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to play golf for a living. The commercials are telling the truth — these guys are good. After three surgeries, multiple missed cuts and several near misses, I decided I had enough. I put away the clubs and stopped chasing the dream.

I had no regrets and didn’t second guess myself, but what was next? When your identity is built around being a golfer, and it’s all you’ve know and all you’ve done, what do you do?

I started to reflect on what I learned and where to go from there. I took some time to see old friends and share my experiences with others. By talking out loud and telling my story, I started looking at the bigger picture. I started asking more questions about the game of golf and what can be learned from it. After spending time thinking, I decided to go back to school and finish my degree. I realized that there’s more to my life than just golf. I took what I had learned and put it on paper. You’d be surprised what people will say when they see things like, “professional golfer” on a resume. It catches them off guard — in a good way.

Since junior golf, I had a clear picture of how everything was going to pan out on my way to being a PGA Tour player. Some said that leaving college after two years to turn professional was a bad decision.

They’d say, “What if golf doesn’t work out?”

What I ultimately learned was that when some dreams end, it’s only an opportunity for new ones. It wasn’t long after graduating that I started a job at a digital marketing agency in New York City. That was hard even for me to believe.

I still love golf and follow it closely week to week — I like to see how my friends are playing on the various tours. I find myself constantly looking back at my experiences and none of them are negative. I’m at peace with the rewards the game have given me, which are much more valuable than the $63,700 my time on tour cost me. You just can’t put a price on what professional golf taught me.

The thing that keeps popping into my mind these days is to always do what feels right. As long as you’re 100 percent committed, you give yourself the best opportunity to not only succeed, but to be at peace with your decision. You only get one chance a lot of times, so don’t do it like someone else. Go your own way and don’t doubt your path.

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Josh is a retired professional golfer who won the Hooters Tour Touchstone Energy Open at age 21. He has played competitive golf all across the U.S. and holds four courses records. He now has his amateur status back, and works at a digital marketing agency in NYC. Josh is also the Co-Founder of My Golf Tutor, an online golf instructional website.



  1. Dan Diel

    May 29, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    My son is giving pro golf a try for the second time! He has some sponsor money, which will help! Tough out there on the mini tours but life time dreams are within his grasp! Thanks for the great read!

  2. derek

    Jan 1, 2015 at 1:06 am

    Thanks, sorry bout all the injuries.
    What was your take on what the good players were doing that helped them the most make cuts ($)? was it the best putters, longest hitters, ball striking, wedge play, short game, course management? a combo of two?
    Curios as to what sticks out at in your mind at that high level of competition. TIA

  3. azorean

    Dec 31, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    You at least chased your dreams and for this I admire you. I’m sure you are a better person because of this.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Mike

    Dec 31, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    Great story. Do you have a communication degree? I was wondering why you selected digital marketing as a career and considering your invaluable experience as a pro golfer, whether or not you work on online marketing campaigns for golf companies?

  5. moses

    Dec 31, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Nice read. Thanks for sharing. This just goes to show how much talent there is out there and how hard it is to make it to the big show.

  6. warrenpeace

    Dec 31, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    nice article….it really tells it like it is, and not as glamorous as people think.
    When you play amateur events you now give the younger and older hot shots a chance to say they beat a tour winner if they can!! I wonder if the wannabes gun for you now that you are an am again?

  7. Gary

    Dec 31, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Great story. Bummer about the bad breaks but kudos on keeping up a good attitude.

  8. 3rdgroove

    Dec 31, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Great write up! Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sure when you have a corporate golf day you’ll be everybody’s favorite team partner 🙂

  9. LY

    Dec 31, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Great story. I would love to see more articles like this. Maybe some articles from PGA tour caddies on what that experience is like.

  10. Geoffrey Holland

    Dec 31, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    “signs of good play devoid by head-shaking shots.”

    Incorrect use of devoid.

    Aside from that, an interesting look at how tough it really is to be a successful pro golfer.

  11. Kelly

    Dec 31, 2014 at 12:32 am

    Great article! Did you win the Hooters Tour event at Brook Valley CC?

  12. mark d

    Dec 30, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    Terrific article, thank you for letting us all see a bit of what the grind is like. And, congratulations on your career. Best of luck!

  13. J

    Dec 30, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Great and inspiring story. It also underscores how great Tiger and many other pros are who never had the pleasure of coming through the minor ranks.

  14. Jafar

    Dec 30, 2014 at 9:34 am

    If you could do it again, would you have finished college first before trying to go pro?

    Would that have lessened the weekly stress any, knowing you had other opportunities in life, and every golf shot wasnt a make or break for you?

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Josh

      Dec 31, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Hi Jafar — thanks for the question. Looking back on it I would still have left college early. I didn’t look at it that I didn’t have other opportunities in life since I didn’t finish school. I was still very young in age and knew I could always go back to finish school. Thanks again for the question.

  15. Brad Ingarfield

    Dec 30, 2014 at 8:37 am

    great story. Thanks for sharing. – Brad Ingarfield

  16. Cody

    Dec 30, 2014 at 8:31 am

    This article is too negative for me, but it was an interesting read.

  17. bradford

    Dec 30, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Congrats on the WIN! I’d love to check “Win a professional golf tournament” off the life-list. Cool that you did it so early. Nice article.

  18. charles

    Dec 30, 2014 at 2:37 am

    one of the best things ive ever read!

  19. Jesse graham

    Dec 30, 2014 at 1:49 am

    Awesome article, i wish people that were not or did not know all the hard times mini tour players go theough just to chase their dream. Most people just think its all just easy big $$$. My old golf coach who was a damn good golfer used to say he was “the Canadian Tours leading money spender”

  20. Timbleking

    Dec 30, 2014 at 1:28 am

    By far the best article I’ve ever read on there. Thanks for sharing, Josh.

  21. damian s

    Dec 29, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I wholeheartedly agree with the last paragraph. And it is with that attitude I will be commencing a business in the new year full of hope, belief and passion.
    Thanks for sharing your story!

  22. Justin O'Neil

    Dec 29, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I can understand the disappointment that comes from injury having had two knee surgeries while still in high school.

    I am curious about your time on the Dakota Tour and the yardage books you used there. My dad made yardage books for quite a few courses in that area in the early 90’s and I am curious if any of his books may have still been in use when you played? His name is Jack O’Neil and he specifically marked off books for the courses played on that tour as well as the course for the Quad Cities Classic and John Deere tournament.

    • Josh

      Dec 31, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Hi Justin — thanks for the question. Not sure who made the books I used on the Dakotas Tour. They could have been the books your Dad made, but not sure though.

  23. Golfwrxer

    Dec 29, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    I played on the mini tours for a year. I kept hitting my approaches so pure they’d literally get stuck in the flag so I’d have to take drops. Then I realigned my trag and kept landing the ball on top of the pin. More unplayables.

  24. 3putts

    Dec 29, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Good article. I played a year on the mini tour for a season 5 years ago and it was an amazing experience that has been best enjoyed a couple years down the road when the pressure of week to week high stress has passed. I would relate it to a girlfriend that you really loved but it just wasn’t working out. Still think about the what if’s but knowing at your core that I just wasn’t going to last. Haha. There was a lot of guys I ran into that were just burnt out and had drinking habits to accompany the lifestyle. ‘Happy hour’ drunk was a term I heard one guy nearing 40 labeled himself. Too long out there and no real shot at moving to the PGA tour can take its tole. Maybe it’s better we both moved on to something else. You play much anymore and is it the same for you now that’s there’s nothing on the line?

    • Josh

      Dec 31, 2014 at 10:52 am

      Hi 3putts — thanks for the question. I don’t play as much now that I live in NYC, but did play occasionally for fun while finishing school in Indianapolis on the weekends with my friends.

  25. Tom

    Dec 29, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Great read! Where were you in Tampa? This is my hometown.

    • Josh

      Dec 31, 2014 at 10:55 am

      Hi Tom — thanks for your question. When I was in the Tampa Bay area I lived in the Clearwater area, but was in Tampa often working with my coach (Rich Abele). Check him out if you need some help with your game, great person and instructor.

  26. Jeff B

    Dec 29, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    very good story. Pleasure reading

  27. Neige

    Dec 29, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    What a great story. Thanks for sharing. Good luck!

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Opinion & Analysis

The difference between “ugly” and “unorthodox” golf swings



I’d like you pretend for a moment that you were asked to name the five ugliest golf swings by players who had won a major championship. Who would you select, and what criteria would you use to make that judgment? You might say you’re not sure, but you would have no difficulty identifying an ugly swing if you were to see one, right? The question is, what factors would move you toward that decision?

I struggled with this exact question when it was posed to me and others who were members of Golf Magazine’s “Top 100” panel at the time. In making my decision, I was concerned that I did not confuse UNORTHODOX with UGLY. The fact is that some of the greatest golfers throughout history have been considered to have had unorthodox swings.

  • The word “unorthodox” is defined as that which is contrary to what is usual, traditional or generally accepted.
  • The word “ugly” is defined as that which is unpleasant or repulsive in appearance.

In comparing the two definitions, they are clearly quite different. The word “unorthodox” suggests something that is different from the norm, while the word “ugly” relates to the appearance of an object regardless of its status. The problem with labeling any golf swing as unorthodox is that the definition of that condition varies with time. What was once considered to be unorthodox may later be considered perfectly acceptable, and we’ve seen this happen over and over again in golf instruction.

Case No. 1

It was considered unorthodox when Harry Vardon moved his thumbs toward the top of the shaft and placed the little finger of his right hand over his left forefinger knuckle. The standard grip in his era featured both thumbs to the sides of the shaft. The club was held more in the palms of both hands and with all ten fingers, rather than more diagonally through the palm as in Vardon’s Grip. As Vardon began to win, however, his competitors copied his grip. What once was considered unorthodox became orthodox.

Case No. 2

Hogan and Nicklaus were paired together in the final round of the 1957 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. The dichotomy between their backswings couldn’t have been more evident. This was due to the way in which they utilized their right elbows in the backswing. Nicklaus allowed his right elbow to work up and away, pointing more outward at the top. Hogan’s right elbow was closer to his body and pointed more downward.

At the time, Hogan’s backswing was considered orthodox while Nicklaus’ swing was considered unorthodox. As Hogan faded from the winner’s circle and Nicklaus began to emerge, what was once thought to be unorthodox later came to be considered orthodox.

There are some swings that most observers would agree are both unorthodox and ugly. For example, most observers would say that Jim Furyk’s swing is not pretty — they might even go so far as to categorize it as ugly. This is despite the face that Furyk has had an outstanding career and has a U.S. Open victory to his credit. What is it that observers find so offense in his swing? The answer is the differential in planes between the backswing and the downswing, or what might be referred to as a “loop” in his swing.

In Furyk’s case, the club is taken well outside what might be considered the traditional backswing plane. Then it is looped well to the inside and back into position on the downswing. This is is a perfectly acceptable way to play golf, which is evidenced by the size of his bank account and the number of trophies on his mantle. As you might surmise, because of his golf swing, Furyk has not been asked to write any full-swing instruction books.

The problem is that, in the eyes of the observer, the combination of the two distinctly different planes gives a disjoined appearance to the swing. Does it follow then that the variance in the backswing and downswing is the primary factor in determining if a swing qualifies as being ugly? The problem with reaching that conclusion is that it doesn’t hold up to comparison with other players who employ a similar pattern… beginning with Freddy Couples. He begins his swing by lifting his arms well outside the traditional plane line. With a delayed turn of his torso, he then brings the club back into a more traditional plane at the top.

In the case of both Couples and Furyk, their backswings operate well outside the traditional plane line with both players “looping” the club back into position prior to impact. And yet Couples’ swing is universally admired, while Furyk’s swing is in some quarters ridiculed. This begs the question of why Couples’ “looping” swing motion is considered more acceptable than Furyk’s. The answer to that question is two-fold.

  1. Furyk’s loop is created ostensibly by a change in plane with the arms and the hands, giving the swing a frenetic appearance.
  2. Couples’ loop is created with a graceful turn of his body with the arms following in perfect harmony.

And so, when taking the swings of Couples and other “loopers” into consideration, it would seem that the dramatic change in plane between the backswing and the downswing in and of itself does not warrant the classification of ugly.

Author Footnote: A point worth considering as part of this discussion is that there have been other accomplished players throughout the history of the game whose backswings have operated on the same principles as Couples. This would include perennial Champion’s Tour winners Kenny Perry, and earlier Jay Haas, whose swings were generally admired despite their unorthodox approach to the backswing.

What does this all mean? First, while a loop in the golf swing may be unorthodox, is not necessary considered ugly provided that the club is routed into plane with the turn of the body rather than just the arms and the hands. Second, as stated earlier, the definition of unorthodox can and does change depending on the era. And third, an unorthodox swing is not necessarily ugly. The two classifications are very different.

As you evaluate golf swings, remember this adage; an unorthodox swing is not necessarily ugly, but an ugly swing is always unorthodox.

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TG2: Should Tiger Woods play in The Masters without a driver?



Tiger Woods’ No. 1 concern heading into the Masters is the driver, according to Notah Begay. Equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky argue whether Tiger should even use a driver during the Masters. Also, they discuss Rory’s new prototype putter and how it was made, and they talk about a new shaft company called “LA Golf Shafts.”

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

For more info on the topics, check out the links below.

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Opinion & Analysis

Book Review: The Life and Times of Donald Ross



The Life and Times of Donald Ross is a successful golf history, in that it holds one’s attention, regardless of one’s level of enthusiasm or interest for the subject. It can hardly avoid doing so, as it traces the life of a man who lived through both world wars, emigrated from the old country to the new, and championed a sport that grew from infancy to maturity in the USA, during his earthly run. The loss of two wives to uncontrollable circumstances, the raising of a child essentially on his own, and the commitment to the growth of golf as an industry add to the complexity of the life of Donald J. Ross Jr. Within the cover of this tome, through words and images, the life and times of the man are communicated in fine fashion.

The book was published in 2016, by Chris Buie of Southern Pines, North Carolina. Buie is not a professional writer in the traditional sense. He does not solicit contracts for books, but instead, writes from a place of passion and enthusiasm. This is not to say that he is not a writer of professional quality. Instead, it isolates him among those who turn out high-level prose, scholarly research, with attention-holding results.

Before I opened the book, it was the cover that held my attention for much longer than a single, fleeting moment. The solitary figure, staring out across the ocean. Was he gazing toward the Americas, or toward his birthplace, in Scotland? And that blend of blue shades, like something out of Picasso’s 1901-1904 period of monochromatic azures, proved to be equal parts calming and evocative. Those years, by the way, correlate with the 29th to the 32nd years of Ross’ life. During that period, Ross lost a brother (John) to injuries suffered in the Boer War, and married his first wife, Janet. With care like that for the cover art, what marvelous research awaited within the binding?

After a number of readings, I’m uncertain as to the greater value of the words or the pictures. Perhaps it’s the codependency of one on the other that leads to the success of the effort. The book is the culmination of 5 months of exhaustive research, followed by 7 months of intense writing, on Buie’s part. The author made up his mind to match as many images as possible with his descriptors, so as to create both visual and lexical collections to stand time’s test. Maps, paintings, photos, newspaper clippings, postcards, etchings and course routes were collected and reproduced within the covers. Throughout the process, so much of Ross’s life and craft, previously unrecognized in publication, were revealed to Buie. Ross’s ability to make the unnatural look natural when necessary, is hardly equaled in the annals of golf course architecture. According to Buie,

Growing up all I’d heard was natural. Certainly he incorporated as much of the existing terrain and environment as possible. But given how much other work went into the courses, it would be more accurate to say his courses were naturalistic.

Buie also scrapes away at the misplaced notion that Ross was a one-dimensional golf course architect. After all, what else did Shakespeare do besides write plays and sonnets? Well, Ross did so much more, in addition to building some of the world’s great member and tournament golf courses, shaping the Pinehurst Resort experience, and running an in-town hotel in the process. Again, Buie comments,

His greatest contribution was the role he played in the overall establishment of the game in the United States. He was involved in every aspect (caddymaster, greenkeeper, teacher, player, mentor, tournaments, clubmaking, management, etc). The theme that went through his efforts was that he was adamant all be done “the right way”. Given the breadth and enduring nature of his efforts I don’t think anyone else did more to establish the game in America. That makes him the “Grand Old Man of the American Game” – not just a prolific architect.

What was it about Ross, that separated him from the many compatriots who journeyed from Scotland to the USA? They were content to compete and run golf clubs, but Ross sought so much more. His early years involved much successful competition, including top-10 finishes in the US Open. He was also a competent instructor, manifested in the ability of his students to learn both the swing and its competitive execution. And yet, Pinehurst is so different from any other place in the Americas. And so much of what it is, is due to the influence of Donald Ross.

In a nod to the accepted round of golf across the planet, the book contains 18 chapters, including the appendices. At locomotive pace, the mode of transportation utilized by Ross to traverse the lower 48 of the USA and Canada, the reader gathers a proper awareness of the great man’s living arc. Beginning with the hike from the train station in Boston to the Oakley Country Club, the emigration of the Scotsman from the highlands of Caledonia to the next hemisphere was a fairly simple affair, with unexpected, poignant, and far-reaching consequences. Donald J. Ross, jr., would complete the shaping of american golf that was assisted (but never controlled) by architectural peers. Men like Walter Travis, Albert Tillinghast, Charles Blair Macdonald, Alister MacKenzie and Tom Bendelow would build courses of eternal worth, but none would shape in the far-reaching manner of Ross.

It’s tempting to make a larger portion of this story about Buie, but he wouldn’t have it so. A Pinehurst native, Buie’s blend of reverence and understanding of his home region are evident and undeniable. One almost thinks that a similar history might have been written about any number of characters charged with the stewardship of the Sandhills region of North Carolina. Fortunately for aficionados of golf and its course architecture, Buie is a golfer, and so we have this tome.

Donald J. Ross, jr. was a man of principle, a man of faith, a man of belief. When those beliefs came into conflict with each other, which they seldom did, he had an instinct for elevating one over the other. No other place is this more evident that in his routing of the Sagamore course in Lake George, in the Adirondack mountains of New York state. Faced with the conundrum of how to begin the course, his daughter remembers the sage words of the father. Despite contradicting his belief that a course should never begin in the direction of the rising sun, Ross commented I can’t start it anywhere but looking out at that lake and those mountains. Indeed, Sagamore would be a poorer place for an alternate opening, and this review would have less of a way to reach its end.

My recommendation: read the book.

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