The GCAA, with the assistance of the Nationwide Tour, has created a monthly Q&A series with former collegiate players currently excelling on the Nationwide Tour. The purpose of this series is to give these players the opportunity to provide insight into how their collegiate careers prepared them for life as a professional, and discuss anything they might have done differently. Luke List, a former All-American and Palmer Cup participant from Vanderbilt University, recently sat down with the GCAA to discuss life on the Nationwide and PGA Tours and to reflect on his time as a collegiate golfer.
1. Luke, it has been four years since you finished your career at Vanderbilt, besides pursuing your profession in golf, what other major things have happened in your life?
I have been very lucky not to experience too much drama in my life. I recently made a move down to Jupiter, FL. There are several PGA and Nationwide Tour players living in the area. It really has become a popular spot for young players, especially with the excellent courses, weather, and beaches. I have really enjoyed my off season down in paradise. I love being able to play fun rounds with friends. The ability to have a solid home base is something that I have learned to be crucial to a long career in professional golf. In addition it is important to balance hard work with a well rounded lifestyle. I try to enjoy my off weeks by spending time with family and friends. I love being active and playing other sports, anything that involves some friends and competition. It is so nice being near the water, as I have really enjoyed learning to fish. I also have a few water sports like paddle boarding that I want to try.
2. Looking back on your collegiate career as your foundation for playing professionally, what if anything would you do differently?
I was fortunate to have a solid career, but looking back on my time, I would have liked to set my goals a little higher. I would recommend any level golfer to set their goals as high as possible, even if you don’t reach all of them, you will go much further than without setting goals.
3. Obviously, young players are constantly looking for ways to improve their games. Can you share with our junior and collegiate readers some of those things which you have incorporated into your swing, short game, mental game, etc. since turning pro?
Young player’s swings and games have seriously improved even since I have finished school. There is so much access now to the best trainers, swing coaches, and sports psychologists. I do believe it is a very important aspect to have a support team around to keep on the right track. Even though professional golf is such an individual sport, I am continually reminding myself to keep the people close to me that have helped get me to where I am.
The young players today hit the ball so far now. So many young players swing the club so efficiently. My swing has changed substantially since turning pro. I have tried to work hard with my coach Danny Elkins on being more consistent off the tee and developing my short game. The short game is always something that I can work on. The recent addition of a belly putter has added some major confidence to my putting. I would encourage even the best of short gamers to continue developing and improving. I try to devote at least 70 percent of my practice to short game.
4. Today’s professional golfers seem more athletic than in past generations. Can you give us your thoughts on things like conditioning, strength training, stretching and nutrition? Did your collegiate experience with these fitness techniques prepare you for playing professionally?
I was very fortunate to start my conditioning career while in college. My college fitness program gave me a very solid foundation for my training as a professional. Fitness is something that has become a very integral part of my lifestyle. I feel that working on my body now will allow me to have a long and successful career. My fitness has gone through several different phases. I have discovered the best advice is to always listen to your body. Although hard work in the gym is important, it is vital to respect your body and not always overdo it. I think stretching and strength training is something that is totally necessary to keep up with the competition. The hardest thing for me is nutrition, especially since I love food! But I have recently been working with a specialist. The best advice is to figure out what your body and mind need on the course to function properly. I was not eating enough and found myself tired and lethargic. The body tends to burn a lot more calories when in competition, so it is important to eat the proper fuel to keep the body energized.
5. Today’s collegiate and junior amateurs are playing and practicing almost year-round. Many youngsters are focusing on just one sport at such a young age. What are your thoughts for young players and their parents on this subject? Did you play multiple sports growing up?
I would advise kids, especially at a young age, to play as many sports as possible. I grew up playing basketball, baseball, soccer, and swimming. Once I got to high school, I knew golf was what I wanted to do in college and beyond, so I decided to completely focus my time and energy towards my goals. Even after I stopped playing the other sports competitively, I continued to play the other sports in the off season. I grew up with a lot of kids that only played golf and their parents were the influence driving that decision. I just believe a well balanced lifestyle leads to more focus and excitement. I would encourage parents when introducing golf to their children, to keep in fun and relaxed. If a child does want to devote themselves to the game full time, let that decision come from them.
6. How were you able to balance the various aspects of school, sports, family and friends when you were a growing up?
I feel very fortunate to be pursuing my dream as a professional golfer on the PGA Tour, but as I have learned over the last four years, there are so many other variables in life that are important. Growing up I was about as close to my family as the next guy, but I have truly evolved into someone that values family and friends just as much if not more than my career in golf. I am very lucky to have two wonderful parents that have supported me on and off the golf course my entire life. I am also blessed to have two very unique and talented siblings. Keeping a balance off the course is so important. If golf is your future career or even at the college level, there are going to be so many ups and downs. It is vital to keep a level head I realize that golf is what we do and not who we are.
7. Referencing academics and athletics and a balance between the two; many young athletes in college sports are leaving school early to pursue their dreams of playing professionally. What are your thoughts in regard to this, specifically in golf, given the documented stories of success and failure in recent memory? What advice would you give the majority of today’s college golfers in this regard?
Attending Vanderbilt University and receiving my degree in four years will always be something I value. My parents were very supportive in my decision in staying all four years. I would encourage everyone to experience the full college life and realize the PGA Tour is not going anywhere. Once you finish school, you will be playing on your own. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to play on a team. There are so many experiences that I will always cherish in my four years. Most importantly I don’t believe all kids are ready for the lifestyle of professional golf. Obviously, there are certain exceptions, but overall college is meant for growing up and developing the game. The talent at the college level is so competitive now that I believe that even the best players are benefited by staying in school.
8. Finally, as a Nationwide player this year, what are your thoughts regarding the proposed changes to how PGA Tour Cards are secured? Do you think these changes will be good for the PGA Tour? Do you think they will better prepare today’s young players for life as a professional?
The future changes will be a great addition to the Nationwide Tour. The proposed 50 cards from the Nationwide Tour to the PGA Tour is a big teller that the Nationwide Tour has come a long way. Guys are coming from this tour and winning on the PGA Tour the next year because the level of competition has dramatically increased. The Nationwide Tour has become such a talented tour and it truly replicates the lifestyle on and off the course that players will face on the PGA Tour. I think that if you believe in your game, then obviously having more cards is a huge bonus. The changes that will affect young players will make it harder to go straight from college to the PGA Tour, but I honestly feel that most all young players need to spend a year on the Nationwide Tour.
For more on Luke List - http://www.pgatour.com/players/02/71/29/