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 Pro Golf 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 Pro Golf Tour alumni have or continue to play on the PGA Tour.
This month we speak with David Skinns. The Lincoln, England native joined the NGA Pro Golf Tour after excelling on the links for the University of Tennessee. As a Volunteer, Skinns earned All-America honors three times and earned the 2005 SEC Individual title.
In his second full season on the NGA TOUR, Skinns won a tour-high three times in 2008 en route to earning Player of the Year honors. Since 2010, Skinns has won four times on the NGA TOUR, including three times in 2012.
Q: David, you had a great season on the NGA Pro Golf Tour last year. What are your expectations for this upcoming season?
I just want to keep improving. I’ve made some technical improvements over the last year and I want to keep going in the right direction. I also want to keep putting myself in position to move to the next level. I did that last year, and I want to continue that this season.
Q: You played collegiately at the University of Tennessee after growing up in England. How did you make the decision to come to the United States to play in college?
I’d seen Luke Donald and Paul Casey come over and have success, so it was something in the back of my mind when I was getting close to college. After high school, I played one year as an amateur and got better, but I thought college was the best decision for me. Tennessee recruited me hard, I liked what they were doing and I made my mind up that I was going there.
Q: What were the courses you grew up playing and do you still get a chance to play them?
My first course was Canwick Park. My dad was a member there and I joined when I was a kid and enjoyed playing there. Canwick was a straight-forward course with trick green. It taught me how to score. Later, I started playing at Lincoln Golf Club. It’s a tighter course that taught me a lot about my game. I still play Lincoln when I go home, but I like to mix it up and play different courses.
Q: What were some of the adjustments you had to make to life in the United States and playing golf in the US?
The culture was the biggest difference. I was homesick and after two weeks I wanted to go home. Coach [Jim] Kelson assured me it would get better and told me to stay a semester. After that, I loved it. With anything in life, things get better when you plug along. As far as golf, it really wasn’t that different, maybe a little thicker rough. You still have to hit it straight and putt well.
Q: What are some of the things you learned during your collegiate career at Tennessee that you think have helped you as a professional?
Coach Kelson was big on organization and taking care of your own stuff. He had a good saying, “If you leave it to someone else, they’ll screw it up 100 percent of the time.” In college, you kind of nod your head and agree, but after college you realize all the stuff he said was true. You have to take care of yourself as a professional golfer.
Q: What would you consider the highlights of your time as a college golfer?
Winning the SEC Championship was great and my first win at Augusta State. My parents were there for my win and got to see it. There were a lot of great highlights, especially the team atmosphere, but those wins were the biggest.
Q: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make in your time as a touring professional compared to collegiate and junior golf?
You have to start relying on yourself more. No one is out there to help you; it’s a solo game. You have to take care of your own business. Nobody cares about your sob stories if you’re playing bad. If you’re playing good, they still don’t care. Everybody is playing for money, and you need to rely on yourself. You need to learn what’s right for you and not listen to anyone else.
Q: Several alumni of the NGA Pro Golf Tour have gone on to 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?
It’s the structure that makes the NGA TOUR what it is. You play four rounds against good competition and you’re coming down the stretch on Sunday afternoon trying to win. It teaches you a lot. You also travel like you do on the Web.com and PGA Tours. Golf is a natural progression that starts with the NGA TOUR. The circus gets wilder as you move up, but the structure is the same. That’s why the NGA TOUR does so well. If you can learn to win on the NGA TOUR, you can win anywhere. And we’ve seen that in the last few years.
Q: Have you ever had first-year players on the NGA Pro Golf Tour ask you for advice about professional golf? If so what advice have you given them?
It’s not like guys come up to me on the range and ask for help, but I’ve had a couple of guys that I’ve become friends with pick my brain a little bit. I told them what I learned during my first few years as a professional and what I didn’t do well. Some of the new guys are so good, I can’t tell them anything. If they did ask, I’d just tell them what I’ve learned.