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 or have played on 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 spoke with Brian Richey, a current NGA Pro Golf TOUR member who has three top-5 finishes on the Pro Series so far this year. Brian played collegiately at Florida Southern University.
Q: At what point did you know you wanted to play golf in college?
I caught the golf bug the summer going into high school. I started playing everyday and the first goal was to make the high school team. It probably wasn’t until my junior or senior year that playing college golf was a possibility for me.
Q: How did you determine where you were going to play?
My dad graduated from Florida Southern, which is in my hometown of Lakeland, FL. It was spring of my senior year at LHS and I didn’t have any scholarship offers. I wasn’t even sure where I was going to go to college let alone play golf. I got a visit with Doug Gordin and he offered me a spot on the team for the next season. Florida Southern is a highly decorated Division 2 program; I was excited just to have an opportunity to continue my career in golf. It was a no brainer.
Q: What is your most memorable golf moment from your time at Florida Southern?
My most memorable moment from Florida Southern was during my senior year in 2009. At the South/Southeast Super Regional I qualified for the NCAA Championship as an individual. We were a top-ranked team with 3 juniors and I was the only senior. We failed to advance to NCAAs as a team, which was a huge disappointment, but I finished T-4th and moved on to Blaine, Washington. On my 17th hole in the last round I decided to go for a par 5 on my second shot with water short and left. I pulled a 3-wood from 272 and hit it to about 6 feet and made eagle. That 1 shot proved to be the difference and I’ll never forget my dad turning his head the other direction before I hit the shot. I’m glad it turned out the way it did.
Q: What was the toughest adjustment going from collegiate golf to professional golf?
In college, Coach tells you when we are leaving, what clothes we are wearing, when we are practicing, how we are going to play certain holes in the tournaments, etc. When you turn professional you are now your own team. You are the coach and the player. You now have to arrange most of your travel plans and also schedule your practice and game plan for that week’s tournament and golf course. You are in charge of setting financial, statistical and mental goals for the year.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you offer current collegiate golfers hoping to have professional careers?
My advice to upcoming professionals is to set out a clear plan each year and work diligently to achieve that plan. For some of you success won’t happen right away in the professional ranks. But if that does happen do not get discouraged. It took a few years of missing cuts and watching money go quick before I got over the hump. I can promise those who do persevere through the struggle will be stronger down the road. I try to improve by a half of a stroke each year from the previous year’s stroke average. I also suggest playing in as many tournaments as possible. That can be tough sometimes financially but the more you can go and compete the more experience you have for the next one.
Q: What are some of your fondest memories while playing on the NGA Tour?
In 4 years playing the NGA Tour I have made many life long friends and have enjoyed the competition and social events. We have played in all kinds of weather and all kinds of towns all over the southeast United States. The most fun that I’ve had is being in contention late on Sundays. That feeling is hard to simulate or describe. It has also been encouraging to see so many of my peers move up to the Web.Com and PGA Tours in the last few years and that gives me so much confidence moving forward. The NGA Tour has been huge in developing future Tour stars and I hope to be one of those soon.
Q: What is your favorite part of life as a professional golfer?
My favorite part of being a professional golfer is doing something I love every day. A bad day on the course sure beats a lot of other things I could be doing. I am truly blessed with this opportunity and I hope I can continue to do what I love for a very long time.
Q: You were a member of the Player’s Board on the NGA Tour last year. What did that experience teach you?
It was a good experience being in those meetings. It was interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes and get a feel for the business side of the NGA Tour as well as be involved in some of the decisions that were made.
Q: What is the best piece of golf advice you have been given?
The tournament doesn’t start until the back nine of the final round. That’s where you find out what who has it and who doesn’t.
Q: What is your favorite golf course to play?
This is a tough question because I’ve had the privilege to play so many great courses. Southern Dunes in Haines City, FL will always have a special place in my heart. It’s only about 25 miles from my house and I won my first big Professional tournament in January of 2012. It was an NGA Winter Series event I shot -20 for 3 rounds and won by 7. My dad left work to come over and watch the last round! It is still the biggest check of my career at $13,500.