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 Ricky Stimets, a current NGA Pro Golf TOUR member who was a two time All-Conference Player while at North Alabama, including earning Gulf South Conference Player of the Year and All-America Honors in 2013.
Q: What factors drew you to playing for the North Alabama?
I wanted to play college golf down south at a program that I could compete for a national championship. I didn't want to play for a middle of the pack DI school and never make it to regionals. UNA fit the build, we had a very strong team for all 4 years, ranging from 1st in the country to 15th in the country my whole time there.
Q: What is your fondest memory of your time in school?
My fondest memory was winning our Spring Invitational my Junior year by 9 shots at 11 under with my Dad being there to see me do it. It was very important to me because he passed away a week before the Spring Invitational my senior year skiing in Vermont.
Q: What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you were a collegiate golfer?
How to manage myself on the golf course. I was fortunate enough to be the grad assistant last Fall for UNA. I saw all the dumb moves that we do as college golfers, and I realized I did the same dumb moves. I think that semester of being a grad assistant really helped my thought process tremendously.
Q: How would you describe your adjustment from playing collegiately to playing professionally?
I've been learning new things every week. It is totally different from collegiate golf. You aren't guaranteed to play every round like you are in college. You have to grind it out Thursday and Friday to make the weekend.
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?
The number one challenge would have to be attacking pins. On the NGA mostly every pin is 3 or 4 paces from a corner on every green. If you attack them and short side yourself then it will almost be a definite bogey. I've learned that 20 feet away from the flag is always a safe play, and pick your spots to attack certain pins.
Q: Growing up, what professional athletes/golfers did you idolize or try to emulate?
Growing up I idolized Tiger Woods. His golf game was like no other. He took golf to another level, and every professional golfer should thank him for the sizes of the purses today that he helped generate. Although now I don't agree with his actions off the golf course, I still love to watch him play. Golf just isn't the same without him.
Q: Was making a career as a professional golfer something that you always aspired to do?
Yes, it was. I've always wanted to be a professional golfer. I had some doubts my freshman year of college, but I worked harder and harder and progressed more and more every year.
Q: Who has had the greatest impact or influence on you as it pertains to your golf career?
My father and grandfather had the biggest influence on me and my golf career. My only golf lessons up until I was 19 were all from them. They more importantly taught me the rules of the game and how to behave on the golf course. My dad told me when I was 12 years old while we were playing a late night round of golf to throw my club on the 7th hole after I wasn't happy with my shot. I was puzzled with what he said and didn't want to throw my club. He said give it a good throw now and get it out of your system because if I ever hear of you throwing one again then you won't play golf anymore. I can thank my dad for my great attitude on the course no matter how I'm playing.
Q: What advice would you offer current collegiate golfers that would like to turn professional?
I would advise them to play in a mini tour event as an amateur before turning pro. I wish I would've done that a year before turning pro. That gives you an idea of what you need to do and how to prepare for it.
Q: What is the best part about playing on the NGA Tour?
The best part of playing on the NGA Tour is how they run their tournaments. They mirror the Web.com and PGA tours. Every event is 72 holes with a cut, 3 practice rounds, pro-am, walking, no carts and no range finders. That is the best way to gain professional experience. It's hard to gain experience on other tours they let you wear shorts, ride in carts and let you use a range finder.