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 Nick Rousey. The Pensacola, Fla., golfer joined the NGA Pro Golf TOUR after excelling on the links for the University of Alabama.
Since joining the NGA TOUR, Rousey has been a mainstay at the top of leaderboards and money lists, making nearly $400,000 in career earnings. In the last three years, he’s only missed six cuts in 50 starts on the NGA TOUR. Rousey begins the year with conditional status on the Web.com Tour.
Q: Nick, what are your expectations at the start of the NGA TOUR season?
For me, I’m hoping not to be out here very long this year, since I have status on the Web.com Tour.
Q: What have been some of your best experiences on the NGA TOUR?
The travel has been the best thing for me. I think I’ve played about every course east of the Pacific Ocean. Getting in the car and playing different places across the country has been great. Learning new courses and seeing how your game shapes up on a new course is one of the benefits of playing the NGA TOUR. It also teaches you the business side of golf, booking hotels and getting to and from golf courses. You’re going to have to do that kind of stuff on the PGA TOUR and Web.com Tour.
Q: What were the courses you grew up playing and do you still get a chance to play any of them?
I learned to play at Cane Creek in Fort McClellan, Ala. My dad was the head pro there and I grew up around that course. From there, I played a lot at Pine Tree Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., and at the Navy base in Pensacola, Fla.
I had a chance to play an event at Cane Creek last year and it was neat to be in my hometown again. It was a cool experience to drive around and see everything I remembered as a kid. It was fun playing Cane Creek, too. I learned there, and I was 12 years old when I played there. I remember hitting woods into par 4s back then, where I was hitting sand wedges now. There was a par 3 that I hit driver into as a kid, and I hit 6 iron now. It was fun.
Q: At what point did you know you wanted to play golf at the collegiate level?
I think, for me, when I was young. My dad was in the game, and I wanted to be a professional golfer. To play as a professional, I knew I needed to go to college. My dad helped out Jacksonville (Ala.) State and there were always a few college golfers at Fort McClellan to hang around. Mike Dunphy was coaching at UAB at that time, and he let me tag along with the team a lot. From 10 years old and up, I wanted to play golf and take it to the pros. I knew I had to play college to do that.
Q: You won two individual national championships while playing at Central Alabama Community College. How did that success help lay the foundation for a professional career?
Being at Central Alabama were the best two years for my golf I could’ve had. I didn’t realize it at the time. [PGA Tour winner] Carl Petterson played there before me and he was getting offers to play everywhere. I knew that I could go to Central, play well and get financial help to play at a bigger school. Our coach at Central was John Sadie and he taught me how to play golf. We worked on game management and how to use scoring clubs. We learned that you don’t have to hit driver everywhere. He transformed me. When I got there, I could shoot a couple of rounds under par. But with his help, I became a really good golfer.
Q: You finished your collegiate career at the University of Alabama. What were the differences in your time at Alabama compared with Central Alabama?
There were a lot of differences. The University of Alabama is the state university, and it was much bigger. The golf budgets were way different. We didn’t get per diem at Central; we ate were the coach wanted us to go. We rarely ate steak dinners at Central, where at Alabama we at Outback all the time. The budget was bigger at Alabama. We flew at Alabama and drove at Central.
As far as coaches, Sadie was much more into developing me as a golfer. [Former Alabama coach] Dick Spybey was a player’s coach and wanted to make us men. He wanted us to be better when we left college. He taught us time management and how to take care of business off the golf course.
Q: What are some of the things you learned during your collegiate career that you think have helped you as a professional?
Competing. One of the benefits to being at Central Alabama was that I got to play in every single tournament. I wasn’t on the team the first event, but I finished fifth in the qualifier and went on to win the event. I was off and running after that. Just being around good players and learning how to compete was a benefit at Alabama. You want to be better than your teammates. That gets your competitive juices flowing.
I was fortunate and blessed enough to win 16 times at Central, and that taught me how to win. Each time was different, and I stored those wins in my memory bank. That has helped me in pro golf.
Q: How do you think your game has changed in your time as a touring professional compared to collegiate and junior golf?
My swing has changed. I hit a major low in my career because I tried to change my swing unsupervised. For me, I’ve had slow progress with it, but I’ve progressed as a golfer because of it. I was much better at Central than I was in high school. I was much better at Alabama than I was at Central. Now, I’m a much better golfer now than I was in college.
I have more learning experiences to draw from, and that makes you a better player.
Q: What courses do you play in your downtime from the NGA TOUR?
I’d like to go play the top 50 golf courses in the world, but I like to go to Perdido Bay and play with my friends and have some fun.
Q: What about the NGA TOUR prepares golfers for continued success as they progress through their careers?
There are a lot of things about the NGA TOUR that help you. The tour structure is similar to the Web.com and PGA Tours, going from town to town. The events on the NGA TOUR are a whole week with pro-ams and practice rounds. It makes you manage your time. The events are four rounds; you start on Thursday and finish on Sunday. It has the same feel as the PGA and Web.com Tours.
We also get to play courses on the NGA TOUR that are PGA TOUR-quality courses. I remember playing 36 holes on a Saturday a few years ago on the NGA TOUR. They rolled the greens between rounds and they were hard and rolling about 13 on the stimp. The next week was my first Web.com Tour event and it was the same setup. Having that experience helped me during the Web.com Tour event.