The Golf Coaches Association of America, in cooperation with its long-time corporate partner, the Swing Thought Tour, will feature a monthly Q&A with former collegians who are currently playing or have played on the Swing Thought 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 Swing Thought Tour alumni have or continue to play on the PGA TOUR.
This month we spoke with former LaGrange College golfer Cory Howard, a three-time All American, two-time USA-South Tournament Medalist, and member of the the 2015 All-Nicklaus Team.
Q: You played collegiately at the LaGrange College, where you were a two time conference player of the year – what were some of your best experiences as a college golfer?
Some of my best experiences were traveling and spending time with my teammates. I was fortunate to have a great coach and played golf with some of my best friends. All of the awards and accolades are awesome but I cherish some of my friendships with fellow teammates more. The majority of my great memories involve laughing and sharing stories with one another.
Q: How did you determine where you wanted to play college golf? At what point did you know that you wanted to play collegiately?
I visited several colleges and chatted with numerous coaches but to be honest I talked to Coach Richter one time and just knew that is who I wanted to play for. I drove 6 hours to visit the morning following our conversation and once I met him and saw the campus I knew that’s where I wanted to play. Coach Richter wasn’t like any of the other coaches that I spoke with, he was genuine and treated his players like sons.
Q: What about your experience playing in college do you think helped you as you became a professional golfer?
Playing for LaGrange, a D-3 school, I was able to compete to win from the moment I stepped on campus. Rather than redshirt or not qualify for the tournaments I started playing from day one and I think that helped me a lot in the long term. I learned how to win in college and that has helped me to deal with pressures of winning at the professional level.
Q: Are there some things about professional golf that you find similar to college golf? Are there also some differences that stick out?
The golf hasn’t changed but the intensity level has defiantly amped up. Golf is an expensive sport, especially when you are trying to turn pro, so for all of us players each round has extra meaning because we are fighting for our livelihood. Traveling is different as well because you don’t have the same comfort level as you did in college. We are now traveling on our own without teammates or coaches. It’s not as friendly on the mini tours as it was in college.
Q: Are there some things you learned in college, outside of golf, that you think helped prepare you for a professional career?
College is a maturing process, the students that walk in on the first day of college change dramatically from that point until graduation. I would say that maturing was the biggest tool I received from college. Time management, self-accountability are just a few words that come to mind.
Q: You recently were victorious at the Florida Series event and Fleming Island Golf Club. What did that victory mean to you?
That victory meant a lot to me, it reassured that I was making progress and on track to reach my ultimate goals of making it out to the PGA. But now it is about what I can do with each opportunity I have to tee it up. The win was great but my work is long from over, I still having so much growing and maturing to do before I reach my full potential. I am thankful for tours like the Swing Thought which are great tours to develop the necessary skills.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of playing professional golf?
I love the mental competition in golf not only with your competitors but against the course and yourself. It is a grind from the first tee shot until the last putt and there is such a small gap between guys missing the cut and the guys winning that you really have to be mentally sharp. I am blessed to be playing a game that I love for a career.
Q: What are you looking forward to for the rest of the season?
I am looking forward to see where the journey takes me. I hope that one day I can reflect upon these short responses and be in awe of how much I’ve grown and how far I’ve come. I still have goals I want to achieve before this year ends; in the short term I am looking forward to the Canadian Q-School qualifier.
Q: What are your earliest memories of playing golf?
In 8th grade I remember the high school I would be attending winning a state championship in golf and that summer my only goal was the make that golf team. Age 13 is when I started playing golf and the goal of making the high school team was the inception of my golf career.
Q: What interests do you have outside of golf?
I love all sports and especially football. Golf would be the only reason I would miss a home Jacksonville Jaguar game. I love fishing as well - I was raised on the water and have been fishing since I could walk.
Q: Several alumni of the Swing Thought Tour have gone on the great success on both the PGA and European Tours. What about the tour prepares golfers for continued success as they progress through their careers?
This tour much like college is a stepping stone to the next step, which for many of us players is the Web.com and hopefully the PGA Tour or European Tour. There are so many great players on this tour it would not shock me to see some of these guys out there in the next 2-5 years. The competition level is so high you are forced to get better; if not you will get left behind and lose a bunch of money in the process.