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Does being a First Team All-American in the AJGA predict professional success?

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Does being a First Team American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) All-American predict success in professional golf? We decided to crunch the numbers and share our results!

Examining results from 1978 to 2008, we found that 237 different players earned the honor of being named an AJGA First Team All-American, with 42 individuals earning the honor on multiple occasions. Of the 237, a whopping 46 or approximately 20 percent of them, went on to win on the PGA Tour, with 10 of them, or approximately 4 percent, winning major championships.

However, when looking at players who were multiple year AJGA All-Americans, the number skyrockets. Of the 42 individuals who earned this honor, 20 went on to win on the PGA Tour. An incredible 47.6 percent. Fjve of the 42 (or 12 percent) went on to win major championships.

According to research from junior golf expert Henry Brunton, each birth year can expect to have approximately 10 players become career PGA Tour players, with seven of these being born in the United States. Each year approximately 125 million people are born, so in general your odds of being a tour play are one in 12.5 million. When comparing these numbers against the odds for AJGA All-Americans, one cannot help but see how strong a predictor of future success this prestigious honor is.

“Making a Rolex All-American team is a significant distinction in junior golf that requires a tremendous amount of drive and dedication. If your name is on one of those lists you’ve accomplished something very important at this level and it stands to reason you are poised for future success in the game of golf,” says Mark Oskarson, Chief Operating Officer at the AJGA.

A couple of classes of AJGA All-Americans deserve mention, including maybe the best class ever, 1990 which featured future PGA tour winners (in brackets the number of wins); Notah Begay (4), Stewart Cink (6), Chris Couch (1), Harrison Frazar (1) and Tiger Woods (79). It also includes former PGA tour members Trip Kuehne and Todd Demsey. Another outstanding year was the inaugural class in 1978, which featured PGA Tour winners: Mark Brooks (7), Mark Calcavecchia (13), Jim Gallagher (5), Jodie Mudd (4) and Willie Wood (1).

The list also features many individuals who although they did not make it in professional golf, have significantly contributed to golf in other areas. This includes Mark Thaxton of Nike Sports, notable instructors Brian Mogg, Jon Mclean and E. J. Pfister, as well as a lengthy list of college coaches including Doug Martin (Cincinnati), Jessie Mudd (Lamar), Rob Bradley (Purdue), Billy Tuten (St Thomas), and Ryan Hybl who lead the University of Oklahoma to the 2017 NCAA National Team Title. Although they did not win on the PGA Tour, individuals like Billy Tuten had outstanding playing careers which featured a NCAA team championship, US Publix Links Championship, trip to the Masters and U.S. Open (1990/1991/1993), as well as a PGA Tour membership from 1989-1991.

The most impressive part of the players listed is their ability to be so consistent. At the best of times, golf is difficult. Many of the people listed in this article demonstrate the ability to play 20-plus years of elite golf spanning junior golf, college golf and then professional golf with very few bad rounds, let alone bad seasons. In my opinion, this ability demonstrates a level of endurance and grit, which surely separates the players who made it from those who were only to sustain their performance for shorter windows of time.

Since 2008, the list continues to show a correlation with players like Emiliano Grillo, Justin Thomas and Jordan Speith all earning First Team All-American honors. It is likely, then, that we will continue to see many future AJGA First Team All-Americans win on the PGA Tour.

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Brendan is the owner of Golf Placement Services, a boutique business which aims to apply his background in golf and higher education to help educate players, their families and coaches about the process! Website - www.golfplacementservices.com Insta - golf.placement.sevices Twitter @BMRGolf

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. EJ

    Jun 4, 2018 at 7:18 am

    What do these numbers look like for junior girls and the LPGA? Is it a significantly higher correlation?

  2. Dan

    Jun 3, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    I wonder how many ever had a job in HS

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: TrackMan’s Tour Operations Manager Lance Vinson Part 1 of 2

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with TrackMans Lance Vinson on an all things TrackMan and its presence on Tour. It’s such a deep dive that they needed two shows to cover it all.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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An open letter to golf

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Dear golf,

I know it has been some time since we last spoke, but I need you to know I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.

It was just a few months ago I walked crowded isles, stood shoulder to shoulder, and talked endlessly with likeminded individuals about you and your promising future in 2020 at the PGA Show. At that time, the biggest concern in my life was whether I had packed the perfect dress-to-casual pant ratio and enough polos to get through the mayhem of six days in Orlando. Oh, how the times have changed.

On a professional level, what started with the LPGA Tour a few weeks prior progressed quickly at The Players Championship, when you ground to a complete halt within days. As much as it was a tough decision, it was the right decision, and I admire the judgment made by your leaders. Soon after, outside of the professional ranks followed suit and courses everywhere began shutting doors and asked golfers to keep away.

This is the right decision. For now and for the foreseeable future, as much as I don’t like it, I understand how important it is we let experienced health medical professionals make choices and craft policies for the wellbeing of people everywhere. Although, judging by the indoor short game trickery I have witnessed over the last 10 days, handicaps could be dropping when you finally return.

As a game, you are over 200 years old. You have survived pandemics, wars, depression, drought, and everything else that has been thrown at you. Much like the human spirit, you will continue on thanks to the stories and experiences others passed down and enjoyed.

I know you will survive because I also plan on surviving. As long as there are people willing to tend to your grounds and maintain your existence, I will also exist ready to take on your challenge.

When you are able to return in full, I will be here.

Sincerely,

Ryan Barath (on behalf of golfers everywhere)

 

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The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact

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One of my most appreciated aspects of this nearly 40 years in the golf equipment industry is the practically endless stream of “ah ha” moments that I have experienced. One that I want to share with you today will–I hope–give you a similar “ah ha moment” and help you improve your ball striking with your high lofted short irons and wedges.

As I was growing up, we always heard the phrase, “thin to win” anytime we hit an iron shot a little on the skinny side (not a complete skull, mind you). When you caught that short iron or wedge shot a bit thin, it seemed you always got added distance, a lower trajectory and plenty of spin. It was in a testing session back in the early 2000s when this observation met with some prior learning, hence the “ah ha moment” for me.

I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, testing some wedge prototypes with a fitter there who was one of the first to have a TrackMan to measure shot data. I had hit about two dozen full pitching wedges for him to get a base of data for me to work from. The average distance was 114 yards, with my typical higher ball flight than I like, generating an average of about 7,000 rpms of spin. What I noticed, however, was those few shots that I hit thin were launching noticeably lower, flying further and had considerably more spin. Hmmm.

So, I then started to intentionally try to pick the ball off the turf, my swing thought being to actually try to almost “blade” the shot. As I began to somewhat “perfect” this, I saw trajectories come down to where I’d really like them, distance increased to 118-120 and spin rates actually increased to about 8,000 rpms! I was taking no divot, or just brushing the grass after impact, but producing outstanding spin. On my very best couple of swings, distance with my pitching wedge was 120-122 with almost 10,000 rpms of spin! And a great trajectory.

So, I began to put two and two together, drawing on the lessons about gear effect that I had learned back in the 1980s when working with Joe Powell in the marketing of his awesome persimmon drivers. You all know that gear effect is what makes a heel hit curve/fade back toward the centerline, and a heel hit curves/draws back as well. The “ah ha” moment was realizing that this gear effect also worked vertically, so shots hit that low on the face “had no choice” but to fly lower, and take on more spin.

I had always noticed that tour players’ and better amateurs’ face wear pattern was much lower on the face than that of recreational golfers I had observed, so this helped explain the quality of ball flight and spin these elite players get with their wedges and short irons.

I share this with you because I know we all often misinterpret the snippets of advice we get from friends and other instructional content that is out there. To me, one of the most damaging is “hit down on the ball”. That is a relative truth, of course, but in my observation it has too many golfers attacking the ball with their short irons and wedges with a very steep angle of attack and gouging huge divots. The facts are that if the club is moving only slightly downward at impact, you will get the spin you want, and if the clubhead is moving on a rather shallow path, you will get a more direct blow to the back of the ball, better trajectory, more distance and improved spin. Besides, shallow divots are easier on the hands and joints.

If this is interesting to you, I suggest you go to the range and actually try to blade some wedge shots until you somewhat groove this shallower path through impact and a lower impact point on your clubface. As you learn to do this, you will be able to zero in on the proper impact that produces a very shallow divot, and a great looking shot.

[TIP: If you will focus on the front edge of the ball – the side closest to the target – it will help you achieve this kind of impact.]

It will take some time, but I believe this little “experiment” will give the same kind of “ah ha moment” it gave me.

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