The Golf Coaches Association of America, in cooperation with its long-time corporate partner, the SwingThought TOUR, will feature a monthly Q&A with former collegians who are currently playing or have played on the SwingThought 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 TOUR alumni have or continue to play on the PGA TOUR.
This month we spoke with Bruce Woodall, a four-time letter winner at the University of Virginia.
Q: What have been some of your best experiences on the SwingThought TOUR?
The competition, by far. There are so many good players out there, and to be able to travel and compete against them as we attempt to navigate our way to the next level, makes each week an enjoyable learning experience.
Q: What were the courses you grew up playing and do you still get a chance to play any of them?
I grew up in a small, rural town (Yanceyville, NC), and played a few courses in the area, but mostly played out of Caswell Pines. I do not get back there very often, but I have played a few of my childhood courses from time to time over the past couple of years.
Q: At what point did you know you wanted to play golf at the collegiate level?
In high school, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to choose whether to go to college for golf or basketball or a mix of the two. During my Junior year, I began receiving strong interest from ACC schools and other high level programs, and having grown up in “ACC country” I could not pass that up. I also figured I could possibly play golf for a longer period of time, and could have the opportunity to make some money in the future if I worked at it hard enough.
Q: You played collegiately at the University of Virginia. How was that experience of team golf different than the professional game?
Team golf is an interesting concept. Golf is an individual sport, so when you toss in the team element, your mindset changes whether you want it to or not. You have to remember that each decision that you make on the course not only reflects you at the end of the day, but it reflects your team. You also have the opportunity to “drop” a high score in a team event, and still help the team the other two rounds, while in any other individual event you obviously cannot do that. The most important difference that I have experienced is that while on a team you have camaraderie, you do everything together, and you are constantly growing together. Once you make the transition to professional golf, no matter how many friends you have out here, you are still on your own. There is a lot more alone time and you have to mature quickly.
Q: What are some of the things you learned during your collegiate career that you think have helped you as a professional?
I was blessed to have such a good coach at UVA, Bowen Sargent. He instilled in all of us the necessity to manage our games appropriately. This means a lot of things. It encompassed improving our course management skills, our practice efficiency, and strengthening our mentality. Coach Sargent obviously cared a lot about how we did in our collegiate careers, but he wanted us to be prepared for the next level as well, and he made sure to do so.
Q: How do you think your game has changed in your time as a touring professional compared to collegiate and junior golf?
It’s a simple, but complicated answer, my game has matured, but still has a long ways to go. We truly don’t mature like we should until we are 24 or 25 years old, so it’s nearly impossible for us to fully grasp what we should at a younger age. It is the exact same in golf. There are so many things that I was taught at a younger age, that I never truly grasped until I turned pro and began playing for my “living”. Specifically, my short game has improved tenfold. It is the most important aspect of the game, period; the amount of time that I spend focusing on that continues to grow.
Q: Do you have a strict practice routine before a tournament round or do work on different things depending on the situation?
Most of the time I have a routine. There are certainly circumstances where I have to spend more time doing one thing over another, or I have to change up my schedule based on travel, etc. At this level you are traveling from tournament to Monday qualifier to tournament to Monday qualifier, and so on, and we cannot necessarily settle into a comfortable schedule. It’s going to be great once I make it to the next level and the ultimate NEXT level, to be able to have a set schedule and knowing exactly where I will be every single day.
Q: When playing a new course for the first time, what are the things you look for when evaluating the holes?
The best answer is that I study the greens, and find out as many things about them as I can. The next thing I want to know about a hole is what club to use off the tee, and what type of shot is needed to set myself up from the tee. Does this hole set up for me, or is it a little weird to my eye? Can I freely attack it with my favorite shot, or do I need to take a step back and make sure that I select the right shot first? I also enjoy either visualizing, or actually walking the course backwards in order to see things I may not notice when playing it normally.
Q: What do you like to do in your downtime off of the golf course?
Relax, recover, and prepare. There are plenty of things that go into that, but that’s as simple as I can put it.
Q: What advice would you give to college golfers looking to make the transition to professional golf?
Don’t worry about how far you hit it, how perfectly you hit it, or what your swing looks like. Learn to get it up and down, hit your wedges close, and make as many putts as possible. The rest will take care of itself.