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's feature is Jonathan Randolph. Randolph played collegiately at the University of Mississippi and was a member of the 2010 United States Palmer Cup team. While at Ole Miss he was a three-time PING All Southeast Region selection and was named a First-Team All American after his junior year.
Randolph, in his first professional season, had back-to-back wins on the NGA Pro Golf Tour at the Terry Moore Ford Classic and Woodcreek Classic sponsored by Cigna.
Q: Jonathan, what was it like getting two wins on the NGA Professional Tour so close to each other earlier this year?
It was really special. I was working hard on my game and seeing some results. But to have it all come together at that level of play was a lot of fun. It was also a relief to know that all the hard work I had been doing was paying off.
Q: What are some of the things you learned during your collegiate career at the University of Mississippi that you think have helped you as a professional?
I learned a lot about time management. You need to be able to move from one activity to the next and get the most out of your practice. I also learned the value of a shot. In my freshman year, we lost a few tournaments by a shot. I started to realize how important each shot was. It’s really important at the professional level because there’s a dollar value to each shot.
Q: What would you consider the highlights of your time as a college golfer?
I won three times in my junior year. I won in a playoff at Vanderbilt, the Schenkel Invitational at Georgia Southern and the Gator Invitational at the University of Florida. That was great, but I also made the Palmer Cup team and we beat Europe that year and it was an amazing experience. I also had great experiences just playing at Mississippi. We won four tournaments my freshman year. It wasn’t like a normal freshman year where you get used to everything; I was thrown right in the mix and they wanted us to go out and win the SEC title. It really helped me grow a lot.
Q: When you started out as a professional golfer, did you receive a much advice from other golfers you knew in college that had made the same transition?
I was really fortunate to have won some tournaments in college that got me some sponsor’s exemptions into Web.com and PGA TOUR events. I met Jim Gallagher Jr. playing in one of those events. Since he’d been there and done that, he was able to give me some advice. I also talked with [NGA TOUR winner] Kyle Ellis a lot. Being able to talk to those people that had made the jump helped me out.
Q: How much time do you have for practice as a touring professional and how does this differ from the time you had as a collegiate player?
I’d say I practice a lot less. In college, you get done with class and practice from 12 to 4 each day and do a bunch of drills. I practice on the course more now. When you travel a lot, you’re tired, so I’ve learned to practice more efficiently. I don’t practice as much mechanically. I find myself working on my game in the practice rounds or the Pro-Am. Towards the end of the year, I found a good mix that works for me.
Q: Have you noticed any differences in the way you approached playing in a college tournament and that approach now on a professional tour?
For me the approach was close the same, except for the scoring. In college 10-under par is going to win. Out here, it won’t. The biggest adjustment for me was how many guys wedge it and putt it solid on the NGA TOUR. If you don’t make birdie from 120 yards out, it’s like making a bogey.
Q: What has been the biggest adjustment you have had to make in your time as a touring professional?
The biggest thing is that I’ve had to become a much better wedge player. I also had to get used to booking hotel rooms and making travel plans. It took me some time to get used to the scoring. You need to be able to score in college, but you have to out here. There’s a lot riding on these shots and you need to be able to go for the kill shot.
Q: Several alumni of the NGA Professional Tour have gone on the greatsuccess on both the PGA and European Tours. What about the NGA Tourprepares golfers for continued success as they progress through theircareers?
For me it’s the all-around week process. I’ve played on the PGA TOUR and Web.com Tour and the week-in, week-out process is the same on the NGA TOUR. Three months ago my lowest score was a 64, and then I shot two 64s in a week. I’ve learned scoring and discipline out here, and now I feel like I can play at any level.
Q: What is one golf course you would like to play but have not had the chance to yet?
I’ve always wanted to play St. Andrews, with all the history behind it.
Q: Finally, what advice would you impart to college and junior golfers dreaming of a career in professional golf?
I’d tell them if a Mississippi kid that grew up playing public courses can do it, they can too. You need to stay positive and learn how to chip and putt better than anybody else. If they do that, they can make it.