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9 things that prevent top amateurs from realizing their pro golf dreams



I’m sure we all know a top young amateur golfer with aspirations of turning pro. It may be the kid at your local club who hits the ball a country mile and has a short game that would make Seve proud. Or it might be a hot shot you’ve seen at a tournament, and followed his or her progress since they were knee high to a grasshopper.

You’ve watched them win local and even regional tournaments from high school into the top amateur ranks, and think they will be the next Rory McIlroy or Jason Day. So why do so few of these talented amateur golfers actually break through on the world stage? What is it about the transition from top amateur to professional golf that can act as a trap door for some, and a trampoline for others?

To find out, I spoke to Johnny Foster, who runs The Johnny Foster Golf Academy, a top Irish coaching academy targeting elite young players.

“Since 2004, my team and I have had the pleasure of coaching dozens of Ireland’s aspiring elite amateurs and professionals at our academy,” he said. “The walls have become decorated with pictures of players’ trophies and signed memorabilia. But for us, it’s the faces who aren’t there that raise our eyebrows. I often ask myself, ‘Do you remember this guy…where did he go? I was certain he’d make it.’

“On the other hand, I’ve scratched my head many more times when guys who were can’t-miss amateurs have been swallowed by the results-driven, unapologetic world of pro golf, seemingly unable to score as they did as amateurs just months before. Why is that? Did they lose their talent? Do pro golfers play to a smaller hole? I don’t think so. What I do know is that players who have made the successful transition have shared certain qualities.

With help from Foster, I created this list of the 9 things that can prevent top amateurs from realizing their pro golf dreams.


This is the biggest motivating factor in being successful in anything. Something has to drive golfers to want to be the best, and it has to be there at every point in their career. Complacency and lack of belief are desire’s biggest enemies, sapping drive and willpower.


We have all heard it said before: someone has a natural talent, or they were born with a club in their hands. Talent has to be grown and supported, however, for a golfer to reach the highest level. How many talented golfers have we heard of who never made it?


More precisely than just ability, professional golfers need the ability to score. All of the talent in the world doesn’t matter if you cannot simply get the golf ball in the hole. Scrambling, clutch putting and performance under pressure become extremely important when a career is on the line.

Johnny says: There’s only one common denominator among the players who are successful: their score. The top-25 on any given week will represent a variety of club manufacturers, listen to a multitude of coaches and probably be from a range of countries. In fact, on many occasions, the only thing they do have in common is that they have finished at the same score at the week’s end. So as much as myself or any other adviser tells you to “forget about the score and stick to the process,” you better have the potential to score at a tour standard or there’s not much point reading on. Your diet can be pure and you can surround yourself with the latest technology, which will make you feel better, but in my experience the most important number a player can produce is their stroke average in relation to par. If you have the rare ability to manipulate numbers, I’d stick to lowering that if you can, rather than fixating on your angle of attack. If you are an aspiring player, ask yourself, “Is everything I’m currently doing geared to helping me reduce my scoring average?” This is a constant pillar of our philosophy; we tirelessly work with our students to reduce their scoring average in relation to par.

Work Ethic

Along with having natural talent, there is no substitute for hard work and building a good routine. Fitness, practice, media/sponsor commitments, and travel all require hard work and good time management that needs to be engrained. Look at how seriously the modern-day players take their games these days: they train with fitness experts, work on technique with world-class coaches, and engrain their good habits with hundreds of balls almost every day. They say it takes 10,000 hours of focused practice to be world class. You don’t do that without hard work and a solid routine.

Johnny says: Learning a trade or a set of skills is a process that takes time, usually years. So consider this when planning your assault on professional golf; “I’ll give it a go for a year” isn’t really a sound plan. How many surgeons or classic opera singers give it 12 months and eventually become successful? Remember, you’re attempting to reach the 0.01 percent of people in your chosen field. Your apprenticeship will take time, so make the financial and emotional provision for it. You’re attempting to hone a very specific set of skills. From reading grain on greens to working with a professional caddy, allow yourself time to adjust. And be realistic with your deadlines. Look at your rate of progression over the past few years. Fair chance this trend is going to continue. As the saying goes, “An overnight sensation usually takes about 10 years.” The fact is that in all of the wins and trophies achieved by our clients, the vast majority were done so by long-term students who really valued and benefited from a strong player-coach bond.


Being able to multitask, prioritize and make key decisions takes a very driven and focused person. While I don’t have any experience playing golf at an elite level, I do travel a lot in my job and spend a lot of time in airports and hotel rooms. There’s stress involved: delays, missed connections, lost luggage, late nights, preparing for meetings, and a lot of lonely nights sitting on the bed of your hotel room flicking the remote. I have to interact with customers all the time in some mundanely boring meetings, but I need to be focused and at the top of my game for every meeting. Staying focused, patient and realizing that it’s part of the process — there is a routine involved.


This is the most often overlooked quality on this list. Some guys are well suited to the professional golfer’s life, and some aren’t. Frustration, boredom, loneliness, patience and anxiety are all hurdles to overcome. Remember, to get to the level of playing on the tour, one can assume that the golfer has talent and a track record. But to live the life week in, week out and put up with all the distractions and stress is a balance to the rewards on offer. Getting to the PGA Tour is one thing; staying there is just as much of a challenge.

Johnny says: A common thread I see among the players who seem to move seamlessly into the world of professional golf is that they continue to treat it as a game, even though it’s their “job.” It’s a bit of a contradiction this one, but the best seem to retain their sense of humour about events on the golf course and crucially don’t beat themselves up over a bad shot they hit every so often. Ideally, I’d suggest you adopt an attitude that all the hard work you do actually entitles you to the odd mistake, rather than raises the expectations that they shouldn’t happen.

Being professional

This is possibly the most wide ranging and important for those that actually do possess the potential. Do you really understand the meaning of the words “being professional?” The answer isn’t on Google. It covers everything from investing heavily in your future, traveling extensively in a very competitive atmosphere and a love of the routine.

Johnny says: To really encourage the best students to think professionally, one of the many exercises we ask them to do is take 10 minutes to either write down or imagine what being really professional and effective with their time would look like, every day. That includes rest and balance in their life — very important pillars. How close or “congruent” are they in reality with this vision? If there is a gap between their vision and reality, then the size of that gap may just determine if they reach their vision of making it.

A good team

This includes a good manager, coach, fitness instructor, friends and family. Being on the road most weeks is tough on anyone. Emotional support is important, as well as a team that can prepare the player to optimize their performance. It’s also an expensive business playing tournament golf, so having financial backing is important.


In any sport, luck always plays a role: avoidance of injury, being in the right place at the right time, hitting a shot at a key moment, getting a break with a bounce. Many talented players could have gone a lot further with a lucky break. Gary Player’s famous quote, “The more I practice the luckier I get,” has a grain of truth, but Lady Luck certainly helps.

Johnny says: “We have a mantra at our academy: L.U.C.K. stands for Laboring Under Correct Knowledge. In other words, if you work at the right stuff, you’ll be lucky!”

So, you think you have what it takes?

Tour golfers play nearly every week at a different course. They deal with travel, media and sponsor commitments, and compete on courses from the tips with the rough thickened up and the greens shaved. Still, the average weekly winning score is 16-under par. To make the cut is 4-under, which means to get a pay check you cannot afford big mistakes or you are packing up in the parking lot on a Friday night. A lot of poor shots and rounds are induced by fatigue, lack of preparation, low confidence and stress.

And it’s an expensive business. The running costs of playing tournament golf is high. Travel and accommodation, entry fees, and caddie fees will run into tens of thousands of dollars each year. Even as an amateur, competing relies on funding from scholarships, grants and benefactors. Most of these guys will have managers who treat their players like brands, securing sponsorships, managing their time, and deciding where and when to play. But the players need to be returning on the investment, or they find themselves quickly dropped.

The reality is that very few make it to the top tier. A lot drop out along the way to take jobs in the golf industry, or even get so disillusioned they turn their backs on golf, their dreams shattered or reconfigured to reality.

Johnny says: I’ve known several very talented amateur golfers who were unable to make a successful and sustainable transition into the professional ranks. Lack of motivation, money, personality or injury had gotten in the way of their obvious talent. And by the way, it’s tough to make it, but even tougher to stay there. As coaches, we do our very upmost to educate ourselves and really try our best to support and nurture these boys and girls, but ultimately it comes down to them.

Author’s Note: Johnny Foster is an engaging guy, full of enthusiasm and ideas for players attempting to transition into the game. He can be contacted here.

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Mark Donaghy is a writer and author from Northern Ireland, living in the picturesque seaside town of Portstewart. He is married to Christine and they have three boys. Mark is a "golf nut," and is lucky to be a member of a classic links, Portstewart Golf Club. At college he played for the Irish Universities golf team, and today he still deludes himself that he can play to that standard. He recently released Caddy Attitudes: 'Looping' for the Rich and Famous in New York. It recounts the life experiences of two young Irish lads working as caddies at the prestigious Shinnecock Hills course in the Hamptons. Mark has a unique writing style, with humorous observations of golfers and their caddies, navigating both the golf course and their respective attitudes. Toss in the personal experiences of a virtually broke couple of young men trying to make a few bucks and their adventures in a culture and society somewhat unknown to them... and you have Caddy Attitudes. From scintillating sex in a sand trap to the comparison of societal status with caddy shack status, the book will grab the attention of anyone who plays the game. Caddy Attitudes is available on Amazon/Kindle and to date it has had excellent reviews.



  1. James

    Jul 30, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Money has got to be number one… need money just to practice, Kids that grow up in a County Club family already have 9 out 10 better chance of making it to the Pros. You find the best local muni player in the 14 to 16 year old range, where does he get to hit 200 Pro V1’s for 2 hours to a green from 120 yards on in almost ZERO…the only non-Country club kids who can make it are the ones who get sponsored by someone or group that gets him/her into a club to play and practice. Can a kid make it practicing on Muni greens and playing a 6,400 yard course 4 times a week, with fairways that give you a country club lie about twice in 18 holes???? all 9 things the writer talks about can be present in spades but if there is no money you have ZERO chance…

    • Eric Sidewater

      Mar 20, 2019 at 8:35 pm

      This is fake news. You can make golf as hard or as easy as you want when you’re practicing, which I recommend takes place on the course. If you’re so compelled, work at a place with a range/course part-time so you have free access. Play by yourself with a cart with 3 balls, pick the worst shot of the bunch each time and hit the 3 balls from that spot, essentially
      worst ball.” Then force yourself to play with clubs that are your weakness, take time to print out course maps and diagram exactly where you’re going to aim your shots/misses on tee shots *(noting the distance between hazards (at least 65 yards), the fat part of the greens, and putt from the three toughest spots on each green from varying distances.

  2. michael johnson

    Jul 30, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    i was a very promising amateur once. nothing held me back, i made it on tour on my first attempt by winning on a sponsors excemption and i have won a record number of majors.

  3. ILoveHateGolf

    Jul 29, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    Some of these are pretty appropriate to any field. ‘Write down what it means to be a professional.” I’m adopting that one myself.

    Nice column, Mark.

  4. Square

    Jul 29, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    My freshman year of college, I could shoot 72 on any course and 68 routinely at my home course. One day I played with a mini tour player and played really well on my home course. Shot 68 but it could have been a 66. He shot 61 and couldn’t do anything on the PGA tour or mini tours. Needless to say, 25 years later, I never looked back. He was so talented and I just couldn’t keep up. Best decision I ever made.

  5. Harry

    Jul 29, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    I can name 14 things that kept most of us out of the ranks- driver, 3w, 2i, …….

  6. talljohn777

    Jul 29, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Damn, I was so close on all of those.

  7. LA Billyboy

    Jul 29, 2016 at 11:07 am

    I could never take the travel. Not a life I have ever aspired to or envied. The PGA Tour is essentially a travelling Circus, the players are the performers and animals. I love playing golf too much to ruin it and turn it into a job.

  8. golfraven

    Jul 29, 2016 at 10:59 am

    I agree with all above. Dedication and drive would be biggest factors. The earlier you show the player what the odds are and what they have to face and are against the better. Persistance and discipline will determin if they will be able to fight back from disappointments. A shitty low tour player can still become great PGA player if he does not drop the ball too early.

  9. M SmizWit

    Jul 29, 2016 at 5:52 am

    As if anything useful ever came out of Ireland.

    • Mark Donaghy

      Jul 29, 2016 at 11:09 am

      Outside Guinness, Whiskey, St. Patrick, Oscar Wilde, C.S Lewis, Samuel Beckett, George Best, Liam Neeson, U2, Potato Crisps, the submarine, pneumatic tyres, the portable defilrillator and a bunch of other stuff, you are probably right!

  10. Mat

    Jul 28, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    None of this talks about who can support a guy with hotel money for 6-36 months on the regional tours. There’s little money when you compare it to the travel costs involved. If you have a backer, you have a much, much better chance. If you never have the time or resources to learn to be a touring professional, you’ll end up needing a paycheck. Jobs look very good, and that focus you needed to turn that 70 into a 68 isn’t there. Those “sure fire” guys have to eat.

  11. Rory

    Jul 28, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Money is a big one….

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Opinion & Analysis

Vincenzi’s Butterfield Bermuda Championship betting preview: Course specialists ready for title charge in Bermuda



The PGA TOUR heads to Southampton, Bermuda this week to play the Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course.

Port Royal Golf Club is a 6,828-yard, par-71 layout featuring Bermudagrass greens designed by Robert Trent Jones. This is the fifth edition of the tournament and marks the fourth time it will be the primary TOUR stop for the week (after being an alternate event). 

The Bermuda Championship field is relatively weak but will feature a better field than last year with players such as Adam Scott, Lucas Glover, Akshay Bhatia, Cameron Champ, Alex Noren, Sam Bennett and Nick Dunlap making the trip. Fifteen-year-old Oliver Betschart will play this week, making him the youngest golfer to tee it up on the PGA Tour since 2014.

Past Winners at The Bermuda Championship

  • 2022: Seamus Power (-19)
  • 2021: Lucas Herbert (-15)
  • 2020: Brian Gay (-15)
  • 2019: Brendon Todd (-24)

Let’s take a look at several metrics for Port Royal Golf Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

Strokes Gained: Approach

The weaker the field, the more I tend to rely on statistics. Strokes Gained: Approach is a great way to measure current form and shows who is the most dialed in with their irons.

Total Strokes Gained: Approach in past 24 rounds:

  1. Lucas Glover (+29.5)
  2. Russell Knox (+22.2)
  3. Alex Smalley (+18.5)
  4. Ryan Moore (+17.9) 
  5. Justin Lower (+17.0)

Fairways Gained

The rough at Port Royal Golf Club can actually be quite unforgiving, so it will be important to target accurate golfers. As evidenced by both Brendon Todd and Brian Gay winning here, distance off the tee won’t be much of a factor.

Total Fairways Gained in past 24 rounds:

  1. Ryan Armour (+39.6)
  2. Satoshi Kodaira (+38.5)
  3. Brendon Todd (+37.6
  4. Troy Merritt (+33.3)
  5. Martin Laird (+32.9)

Strokes Gained Putting: Bermudagrass

This is an event that could turn into a putting contest. If the majority of the field is hitting greens in regulation, it might come down to whoever can heat up with the putter. Bermudagrass specialists will have the best chance to do just that at Port Royal.

Total Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermudagrass) in past 24 rounds:

  1. Chad Ramey (+25.3)
  2. Chesson Hadley (+23.0)
  3. Martin Trainer (+19.2)
  4. Brian Gay (+18.2)
  5. Alex Noren (+17.6)

Birdies or Better Gained

In 2019, we saw the winner of this event at 24-under par. In two of the past three years, extreme winds made scoring difficult. Regardless of the weather this time around, the winner will likely have plenty of birdies.

Total Birdie or Better Gained in past 24 rounds: 

  1. Luke List (+22.7)
  2. Adam Scott (+18.3)
  3. M.J. Daffue (+16.1)
  4. Lucas Glover (+15.9)
  5. Carl Yuan (+11.9)

Strokes Gained: Short Game

The first three editions of the tournament have been dominated by the players who have the best short games on TOUR. An added emphasis on who’s the best around the green and putting should help narrow down the player pool.

Total Strokes Gained: Short Game in past 24 rounds:

  1. Aaron Baddeley (+27.4)
  2. Brendon Todd (+27.3)
  3. Ricky Barnes (+24.7)
  4. Scott Piercy (+22.8) 
  5. Stephan Jaeger (+19.8)

Statistical Model

Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed.

These rankings are comprised of SG: App (25%); Fairways Gained (21%); SG: Putting bermudagrass (21%); Birdies or better gained (21%) and SG: Short Game (12%)

  1. Brendon Todd (+1800)
  2. Kelly Kraft (+13000)
  3. Mark Hubbard (+3000)
  4. Lucas Glover (+2500)
  5. Ben Griffin (+2500)
  6. Peter Kuest (+5000)
  7. Alex Noren (+2800)
  8. Adam Scott (+1800)
  9. Dylan Wu (+5000)
  10. Satoshi Kodaira (+22000)

Butterfield Bermuda Championship Best Bets

Ben Griffin +2500 (FanDuel)

Last year, Ben Griffin slept on the 54-hole lead at Port Royal but struggled in the final round, shooting 72 and slipping to a tie for third place. The 27-year-old came agonizingly close once again a few weeks ago at the Sanderson Farms Championship but missed an eight-foot putt to win the event and eventually lost on the first playoff hole.

Griffin played well once again last week at the World Wide Technology Championship, finishing 13th. The strong performance should increase his confidence as he heads back to a course he absolutely loves. In the field, Griffin ranks 8th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 11th in Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermudagrass and 21st in Strokes Gained: Short Game. His ability to score on shorter courses make him an ideal fit for Port Royal.

With a few frustrating Sunday’s early in his career, I believe Griffin has developed the necessary scar tissue to win the next time he finds himself deep in contention.

Taylor Pendrith +2500 (DraftKings)

Taylor Pendrith came close to winning this event back in 2021 when he had the 54-hole lead before shooting a 76 on Sunday. The Canadian is in excellent from coming into the 2023 version of the event. He’s finished 3rd and 15th in his last two starts at the Shriners and World Wide Technology Championship.

Despite being a long hitter, Pendrith has thrived on shorter courses throughout his career. He has top-20 finishes at Pebble Beach, Sedgefield CC, Port Royal and Sea Island. In addition to being short, those courses are all coastal tracks, which the 32-year-old clearly is fond of.

Pendrith is extremely talented but still winless as a PGA Tour player. a weak field on a course where he’s had success is an ideal spot for his breakthrough victory.

Marty Dou +7500 (DraftKings)

Marty Dou is another player who has thrived on the coast throughout the course of his career. He has top-5 finishes at TPC Kuala Lumpur and the Panama Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour and finished 17th at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship last season.

Dou missed the cut in his most recent start at the Shriners, but that was largely due to his losing 4.8 strokes around the green in his first two rounds, which is an aberration as he’s typically a strong player in that category. In his prior start at the Sanderson Farms Championship, the 26-year-old finished 12th and gained 6.6 strokes from tee to green.

Last year at Port Royal, Dou would have had a great chance to contend if it wasn’t for one bad round on Saturday (75). In his other three rounds, he shot 68, 63 and 68.

Dou has played all over the world and should feel comfortable playing in Bermuda this week.

Adam Long +9000 (DraftKings):

At last week’s World Wide Technology Championship, Adam Long hit 56 of 56 fairways for the week, becoming the first player to hit 100% of his fairways since Brian Claar at the 1992 Memorial Tournament. The driving accuracy propelled Long to a 23rd place finish, but El Cardonal wasn’t a course that necessarily required such precision off the tee. However, Port Royal Golf Club is a bit different. The course isn’t extremely difficult, but it can certainly be punitive to those who miss the fairway.

Even prior to last week (which had no shot tracer statistics), Long ranked 6th in this field in Fairways Gained in his past 24 rounds and 8th in Strokes Gained: Short Game, which are two of the areas I’m focused on when considering course fits this week.

Long has been a fantastic coastal golfer throughout his career, with top-5 finishes at Mayakoba and Corales. Port Royal is a short golf course so Long should have no problem keeping up with the bigger hitters in the field this week.

Austin Smotherman +10000 (BetRivers)

Austin Smotherman was a player who seemed poised to have a big season in 2022-2023 but struggled with consistency. Thus far in the fall, the SMU product has quietly strung together some solid performances. He finished 35th at the Shriners but gained an impressive 4.9 strokes on approach. In his next start, he finished in a tie for 23rd and went low on Sunday shooting -8.

Smotherman played well at Port Royal last year, finishing 22nd fueled by a scorching first round 62. He’s an accurate driver of the ball who prefers putting on Bermudagrass. He’s also had some strong finishes on the coast including a 5th place finish at the 2023 Mexico Open in addition to a handful of similar finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour.

This weak field may be exactly what Smotherman needs to kick start his career.

Carl Yuan +10000 (BetRivers)

Carl Yuan is the type of player who can contend seemingly out of nowhere due to his ability to go low. The volatility can hurt him at times, but it also gives him a higher chance of being in the mix on Sunday if he has it going on that particular week.

Yuan spiked at the Sanderson Farms Championship last month where he finished 6th and gained 8.8 strokes from tee to green. He is typically a poor putter but tends to roll it best on Bermudagrass greens where he is putts close to field average. In the field, Yuan ranks 5th in Birdie or Better Gained.

In his outstanding 2022 season on the Korn Ferry Tour, Yuan had some excellent results while playing on the coast. He finished 2nd at the Panama Championship and 3rd at the Great Exuma in the Bahamas. Ben Griffin and Akshay Bhatia both love that event, with Bhatia winning it in 2022, and both play Port Royal very well also. With some potential leaderboard correlation and Yuan’s ability to go low, he’s worth chancing at the Butterfield Bermuda this week.

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Opinion & Analysis

For whose eyes only? A review of Alan Shipnuck’s LIV and Let Die



I’m not encouraging you to skip the first 323 pages of Alan Shipnuck’s coverage of the rise and continued rise of the LIV golf experiment. The ship has sailed from port and the facts are etched in the Earth’s rotations. I’m suggesting that you begin at the end, with the paragraph at the bottom of page 324. It begins Amid all the speculating and pontificating… and ends with three words: changed golf forever. My reasoning is mildly complicated: I want you to understand what you’re taking on, for however long it takes to finish the tome. This story is worthwhile, but it is not a dalliance. It will take you back two, three, four years, to emotions that you had forgotten to lock away.

There were many prescient followers of the professional game, who considered LIV to be the second coming of Covid-19, albeit with a victim pool interested only in golf. There was a multitude of the lesser-informed, who latched onto words like betrayalisolation, and sportswashing, in an effort to understand what was happening in the game of professional golf. Social media apps were awash in uncountable numbers of questions, opinions, accusations, and outright truths and lies, about what was going on with a league that snatched some of the best male touring professionals away from the PGA Tour.

It seemed that, with each passing moment, the massive We was more confused and more uncertain of the road map. Fortunately, we in golf have Alan Shipnuck in our midst. As with all the great writers on the four-lettered game that preceded him, Shipnuck mercilessly pursues a story that doesn’t matter for a moment. He pursues a story that defines an era, reveals character, and translates language not accessible to the masses. If Esperanto was the hope of the late 1800s, consider the language of the world’s wealthiest insiders to be Otnarepse. Very few spoke (or had interest in speaking) Esperanto, and even fewer have access to Otnarepsa. Shipnuck does.

LIV and Let Die is the factual recounting of how the kingdom of Saudi Arabia took an interest in golf, spurred on by an unforgiving, onetime lover of the PGA Tour. It is the story of how an English lawyer’s idea for collaborative golf at the highest level, was at best, emulated; at worst, stolen in the night, and massaged into something impactful. The tale collects a character roll-call that excludes hardly any names that you know, including some long dead.

I picked up my advance copy of LIV and Let Die on a Wednesday, and finished it by Sunday morning. It would have been sooner, so transfixed was I by reveal after reveal, but a prearranged drive through 9.5 hours of the USA, followed by a homecoming, delayed its completion. Along the path of pages, I recalled what it is that most agitates me about Shipnuck’s writing: he seems to take sides, then doesn’t, then switches, then switches back. His research and writing are measured and do their level best to present as many elements of the story, as can fit inside the cover.

There are moments when I wonder how Shipnuck is able to gain the access that he does, to the important persons that continue to shape this story. For some, their massive egos demand coverage and inclusion. For others, they admit that if their story must be told, it should be told by a writer who continues to produce volumes highlighted by thorough, accurate research.

Alan Shipnuck is direct and pointed in his commentary. He does not shy away from controversy, and at times, I wonder how he avoids bodily harm. His words can bruise, cut, and snap, but they are never fraudulent nor off the mark. His work is a welcome addition to the two centuries of golf writing that we may access.

LIV and Let Die traces the arc that began with the return of Greg Norman to the world golf stage, through the defection of the initial 48 golfers, away from the behemoth PGA Tour, to the ultimate announcement that the Saudi PIF would work with the US PGA Tour and the European PGA Tour (the DP World Tour) to continue the “evolution” of professional men’s golf.

Live and Let Die is unique reading -the rear of the dust jacket presents “A small sample of the bitching, bombast, and backstabbing found within,” instead of the amalgamation of quotes from fawning admirers and supporters. Shipnuck utilizes public and anonymous sources fluidly, in order to straighten as many of the story’s tentacles as possible. I suspect that you will find yourself backing up and rereading segments, and I encourage you to keep a highlighter handy for the taking of notes. This isn’t a college course, but hours spent reading are worth our time, to validate the author’s effort.

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Opinion & Analysis

Ryan: The lessons and legacy of Rose Zhang



During her dominant college career, Zhang won 12 out of 20 starts, leading her team to the 2022 NCAA title. On May 30, Rose Zhang turned pro after spending 141 weeks as the number one amateur in the world. Then, on June 4, she won her first LPGA event in her debut appearance.

There is no doubt that Rose is a star. The question is, what does Rose tell us about our system?

The question of whether Rose Zhang will be the last great American player to emerge from college is a compelling one. Her outstanding performance in college and successful transition to the professional circuit indicate that she possesses immense talent and potential. However, the landscape of women’s golf in the U.S. presents some challenges that could impact the development of future stars like her.

Rose Zhang represents the face of the junior girls’ and women’s college golf meritocracy. She has achieved success at every level, including winning on the LPGA tour. However, the system in the U.S. for women’s golf tends to breed overconfidence and lacks the necessary guidance to produce world-class players. While outliers like Rose Zhang may emerge, the future of women’s golf is likely to remain international, unless changes are made.

Photo via Adidas Golf

As a best guess, there are about 400 junior girls in the U.S. who are plus handicaps or have the chance to break par in tournament golf. In Korea, by the same estimations, the number is close to 1,500 (4x). This means that women’s junior golf is not a meritocracy: Even the very best junior events in America have, at best, 20 percent of the best players. Adding players from Europe and Australia, it’s more likely 15 percent.

The overconfidence in the system of junior and women’s college golf is on display weekly. The vast majority of even the best junior girls and college players have limited control and diversity of shots.

On average, most elite college or junior women would have about five different stock shots, while elite men’s college players would have an arsenal of 15-plus different shots with the biggest gap in short game shots and approach.

Each week, potentially dozens of college coaches (many of whom know nothing about golf) spend tens of thousands of dollars recruiting these players. This wrongfully reaffirms to kids that their development is on track and they are special. Once in college, even the most mediocre women’s college players will be treated to four-star accommodations, steak dinners, and trips across the country. However, this pampering doesn’t necessarily lead to excellence or skill development. Instead, at best it fosters comfort and overconfidence, setting up players for failure in both the short and long term.

The emphasis in junior girls golf needs to shift towards fostering a true meritocracy where more players have the opportunity to compete against the best, including internationally allowing them to gauge their skills accurately. Coaches and instructors must focus on enhancing players’ skill sets, ensuring they possess the diversity and control of shots required to excel at the highest level.

Furthermore, the system needs to put values back at the core of junior sports. The focus on playing golf should be fostering a kid’s passion and joy, whereby using the player’s internal drive to build skill. Instead, it’s likely that the current system’s reliance on external rewards may not provide the necessary motivation for players to continuously improve, challenge themselves, and find the process ultimately rewarding.

Rose Zhang represents the very best that our system has to offer. The question is how good is our best talent? My guess is not as good as we think. I think that should give us pause and have us re-evaluate the system to make sure that not only are girls prepared for professional golf but we are teaching them the values and giving them the experience they deserve along the way.

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