The Golf Coaches Association of America, in cooperation with its long-time corporate partner, the NGA Pro Golf TOUR, will feature a monthly Q&A with former collegians who are currently playing the NGA TOUR. Long considered the premier developmental tour in the United States, thousands of former college players have started their professional careers there. More than 250 NGA TOUR alumni have or continue to play on the PGA TOUR.
This month we speak with Clayton Rask. Rask played collegiately at the University of Minnesota. He had a victory earlier this year at the Killearn Country Club Classic, as well as 4 other top-15 finishes on the season.
Q: Clayton, you had your first victory on the NGA Professional Tour earlier this year. What was the feeling after securing that first win?
It was just a great feeling knowing the hard work I’d been putting in was starting to show its face. I would have liked the event to have gone the entire distance and finished it with a birdie one the final hole, but it still felt great.
Q: You played collegiately at the University of Minnesota. What about playing in the north do you think helped your golf game?
I think the desire to get out and play, despite the weather. Also, people think it’s bad in the winter, but it’s a great time to work on technical stuff. You’re hitting into a net or in a dome and you’re not worried about where the ball is going. When spring comes around, you’re ready to get out and play. In warmer places, guys play all year round and get burnt out.
Q: What is the coldest weather you have ever played in?
I played on January 1 two years ago back home and the greens were frozen. Other than that, I would say high school golf in the spring.
Q: What were some of your best experiences playing college golf?
College was a reality check to see if I really wanted to do it. You get to play against some of the best players in the world and see where you stack up. You get to figure out how good you are and what you need to do to get better. Besides that, I really enjoyed the friends and connections I made and the bonding with your teammates. You never lose that.
Q: What, if anything, would you say has changed about your game since you left college and have been playing as a professional?
I think I was a little immature in college and let things get to me on the course. As a pro, I’ve worked on my mental game and learned how to conduct myself the same after a great shot or a bad shot. I’d say the mental aspect of my game has changed the most.
Q: What are the differences in the way you approach a tournament as a professional and the way you did so when playing college or junior golf?
I try not to do anything different. The moment it stops being fun is when it becomes work. I’ve taken some weeks off because I wasn’t having fun. I’ve always played because I love it and have fun doing it.
Q: Were there some parts of the business side of professional golf that you think you were well prepared for when leaving school? What are some parts that may have been unexpected to you?
In college you practice a lot, but you have somebody telling you when to practice. As a professional, you don’t have anybody telling you to practice, so you need more dedication. It wasn’t unexpected, but you have to make yourself do it. If you say you’re going to practice for three hour, practice for three hours. Don’t go for an hour and quit because you’re tired.
I think I was prepared well for being personable with the people we meet on Tour. I like having fun with the Pro-Am teams, getting along with the players and having fun with everyone out there.
Q: What is your favorite course to play?
On the NGA TOUR, the back-to-back events at Scotch Hall Preserve and Cutter Creek were great. The courses were in great shape, but that wasn’t the only reason. They were laid out great and great tests of golf whether the wind was blowing or it was calm. I haven’t played Woodcreek yet, but it looks like it’s a great course, too, so I’m not ruling it out either.
Back home, I like to play the Minneapolis Golf Club. It’s an old-school course that can play from 6,800 yards to 7,400 yards, depending on how they set it up.
Q: Several alumni of the NGA Professional Tour have gone on the great success on both the PGA and European Tours. What about the NGA Tour prepares golfers for continued success as they progress through their careers?
The preparation for a week-long event and the travel are great ways to get ready for the next level. You have to be mentally prepared. I also think the different types of courses we play out here. We go from long courses to short courses to wide open courses to tight courses. The variety is fantastic on the NGA TOUR. We play on bent, blue and Bermuda greens; we get them all.
Also, the competition and players are here. There are so many good players out here and you want to play against the best. The NGA TOUR also does a great job with everything they do to make these events run smoothly.
Q: Finally, what advice would you impart to college and junior golfers dreaming of a career in professional golf?
Be dedicated and do it because you love it. That’s what this sport is about. Don’t change anything because you’re playing for money, play because it’s what you want to do. If it’s what you want to do, go chase it. We’re out here to chase dreams and make them come true.