The Golf Coaches Association of America, in cooperation with its long-time corporate partner, the SwingThought.com Tour, will feature a monthly Q&A with former collegians who are currently playing or have played on the SwingThought.com 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 SwingThought.com Tour alumni have or continue to play on the PGA TOUR.
This month we spoke with former Rochester golfer Nick Palladino. Palladino was a four-time GCAA All-American, three-time Liberty League Player of the Year and was named to the All-Nicklaus Team after his senior season.
Q: At what point did you know you wanted to play golf in college?
I knew that I wanted to play collegiate golf very early on in my high school career. I gave up playing baseball when I was 11 or 12 years old to focus on golf. After I had some success freshman year of high school, I couldn’t wait to get to college to compete at the next level.
Q: How did you determine where you were going to play?
I went on many recruiting visits while I was still in high school. I generally met with the coach and took a school tour, and if I liked the school, I would try to set up an overnight visit. I did not receive any offers from Division 1 programs, so all of the schools I ended up looking at and visiting were smaller, Division 3 schools.
Q: You had a very successful collegiate career at the University of Rochester. What were some of your best collegiate golf experiences?
The best collegiate golf experience I had happened during my senior year. We won the match play event to receive an automatic bid to Nationals as a team, and once there, we made the cut as a team. I was very excited and proud of the team. Another standout golf moment happened while I was in college, but not during a collegiate tournament. I won the Monroe Invitational in June 2013, the summer before my senior year. My Dad was caddying for me, and my Coach came out to watch the final round. I shot 66, and won the Invitational in a 1-hole playoff. It was an amazing experience because both my Coach and Dad were there to experience it with me.
Q: Did you enjoy playing golf as a team sport?
I loved playing golf as a team sport. Match play is the most fun tournament style to play as a team, but even during stroke play I felt as if I was playing for the other guys. When you play as a team, the 6 foot putts for par matter that much more because you have four other guys counting on your score.
Q: What was the toughest adjustment going from collegiate golf to professional golf?
In collegiate golf, I felt like I played to protect par. There are quite a few Division 3 tournaments won at even par, so there were times where I was not as aggressive as I now have to be. The average winning score in a Swingthought.com Tour event is generally pretty low, so the biggest change I have made is how aggressive I am on the course - I’m firing for a lot more pins and taking more aggressive lines on putts and tee shots.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you offer current collegiate golfers hoping to have professional careers?
Don’t stop practicing and chasing your dream. I have only been a professional for 6 months and there have been many ups and downs. The best advice I can offer is to just stick with it, practice hard, keep your head down, and chug along.
Q: What are some of your fondest memories while being on the SwingThought.com Tour?
The friendships I have made on this tour in the short time that I have been out here are invaluable. Everyone is very nice to each other and it’s easy to walk up to someone on the putting green and start a conversation.
Q: What is your favorite part of life as a professional golfer?
Getting to do the thing I love every day. Every day I get to practice, play, and work to get better at my favorite thing to do.
Q: What is the best piece of golf advice you have been given?
Play because you love it and it’s fun. You will start to resent the game very quickly if you stray away from playing because you love it. Every once in a while, something will happen that will remind me that it’s just a game.
Q: What is your favorite golf course to play?
That’s tough! The East Course at Oak Hill Country Club, my home course while at the University of Rochester, is one of my favorite courses. It’s brutally tough and makes you hit all the shots, but it’s always perfectly kept and makes accepting a 74 a little easier! My other favorite course is Delaware Country Club in Muncie, Indiana. My Grandparents were members at Delaware for years. This course is shorter and always in great shape, so it’s easy to take it low. Delaware is a great course to play and I have fond memories playing with family there.