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 Philip Pettitt, Jr., an NGA Pro Golf Tour alumnus who is currently paying on the Web.com Tour. Philip played collegiately at the University of Tennessee and was the 2009 NGA TOUR Rookie of the Year.
Q: What factors drew you to playing for the University of Tennessee?
I was fortunate to get recruited by a few great golf programs. I went on my visits and felt that any of those programs could get me to the next level. So I decided to pick the school I felt like I got along with the team and coach the best. It was a great fit. I really liked the other two freshman they signed in my class and I knew we would have four years together.
Q: What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you were a collegiate golfer?
No doubt, patience on the course. I am so much more at ease and peace on the course now. I have way more confidence now that regardless how a tournament starts, I can still get the job done. In college I tried to force the issue too much and got frustrated with my play too often.
Q: How would you describe your adjustment from playing collegiately to playing professionally?
I think in general college golf plays way tougher courses than pro golf, especially due to the weather you play in. Pro golf, and especially mini tour golf, is played on easier courses. You have to learn to make way more birdies and learn to be comfortable in that atmosphere. The difference in travel is huge. In college you play 6-8 tournaments per semester, so you’re always coming home. In pro golf, from March-October, you basically live on the road. Time and energy management is the key to surviving the whole year.
Q: What experiences on the NGA Tour do you think help you playing on the Web.com Tour?
The NGA Tour was so huge in my development out of college. The travel is obviously a big adjustment to get used to and the NGA Tour does great at transitioning you into that lifestyle. But for me the biggest thing was the pressure. I remember the feeling of teeing off on Friday on the cut line having to get the job done. Having to birdie the last couple holes to make the cut Friday is a big learning curve. I remember failing at it and I can recall all the times I did. The NGA Tour just does a great job because they run a 4 day tournament with a cut just like the Web.com and PGA Tours. I was fortunate enough to win three times on the NGA Tour (then the NGA Hooters Tour) and every time was a huge learning curve for me. I came back to win twice and one time I teed off with the lead on Sunday and pulled it off. Having those experiences to draw from is so big for your future. I go back to those feelings throughout each year all the time.
Q: What are your fondest golf related memories during college, NGA Tour and now Web.com Tour?
College would be winning the 2007 Team SEC Championship. On the NGA Tour it would have to be Columbia, SC in 2009, shooting 61 on Sunday, and winning my first professional golf event.
Web.com Tour would have to be my chip-in this year in Boise, Idaho on Sunday on hole 14. I didn’t end up winning but, after that chip-in, I knew I had a shot at winning and I birdied two more holes to finish the tournament a shot back.
Q: What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a professional golfer? How have you overcome or are dealing with overcoming this challenge?
For me, the golf is amazing. I love my job and life on the golf course. But for me I have and continue to struggle with the traveling. I am a home body and love being in my house and sleeping in my bed. I struggle with the times I leave my house and know I am going to be gone from my family for five or six weeks straight. I have to make an effort to come home more in between events if I can. It costs more money and causes more travel but, if the weeks permit for travel, I can come home Sunday night and leave Tuesday morning. The 36 hours at home is so worth it to recharge.
Q: Growing up, what professional athletes/golfers did you idolize or try to emulate?
I didn’t really have any big childhood idols growing up but, where I am in my career now, I try to emulate athletes who I know have it all together. I want to be influential in my sport. I want to model myself after players like Kenny Perry and Zach Johnson. They are not afraid to share their love for their faith and family before golf. I love golf but I want to be known as a Christian and family man before I am known as just a golfer.
Q: Was making a career as a professional golfer something that you always aspired to do?
I played many sports growing up and really liked baseball but the summer between 5th and 6th grade I picked up golf seriously and got hooked. I quit all other sports from that summer on, there was nothing more I wanted to do. I knew without a doubt this was going to be my career.
Q: Who has had the greatest impact or influence on you as it pertains to your golf career?
I have been so blessed and fortunate to have so many people that have influenced me in my career from a young boy to where I am today. I was never that kid who has stories of people telling me I couldn’t make it or succeed. I have always surrounded myself around positive people who push me. But my dad, Rob McGill and my collegiate coaches at UT have sacrificed and done so much for me throughout my career. Bryce Wallor has been my full time swing coach since 2005 and I am forever indebted to him.
Q: What advice would you offer current collegiate golfers that would like to turn professional?
Whether you are a First Team All-American or just a starter on your team, if you have the ambitions to play professional golf then do it. But give it 100% for 3 years. Play a full schedule. If you are going to play half way then don’t bother. Be very statistic oriented and just try and get a little bit better every day and every tournament. Trust the process and swing that got you to this point and work harder than you ever have before.