Joe Inman is the former head coach and current director of golf at Georgia State University. He played collegiately for Wake Forest where he was a three time All-American and a three-time Atlantic Coast Conference champion.
A former professional on both the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour, Inman's career included four victories, nearly 100 top-25 finishes and more than $5 million in career earnings. He played in 329 events on the PGA Tour and 276 events on the senior circuit. However, he has spent the last decade at the helm of Georgia State.
In his nine seasons as head coach, Inman led the Panthers to four straight appearances in the NCAA Regional tournament as well as one appearance in the national championship at Prairie Dunes in 2014. He guided his teams to two Sun Belt Conference Championships in 2014 and 2017, earning Sun Belt Coach of the Year honors each of those years. In January 2017, he was inducted into the GSGA Georgia Golf Hall of Fame.
We talked with Inman this week after his team was named Academic National Champions.
1. Earlier this summer, your title changed from head coach to director of golf. After serving for nine years in your previous role, what will be different in your new position? How will it affect your interactions on a day to day basis with your student athletes?
After nine years of being solely responsible, I wanted to slowly start to disengage. I was tired of driving 19 miles downtown in traffic, then to the course and then home. I love coaching. I love the interactions with the team. I had just had enough of all the responsibility for everything.
2. In a previous life, you played on both the PGA and Champions Tours. How have those experiences affected how you have recruited and coached players while at GSU? What lessons from your time as a player have you tried to teach your guys?
When I first started coaching, I thought I was looking for PGA Tour players. Guess what I found? There aren't many out there, and my chances of getting one are slim, so I've modified my approach.
I want good students who are willing to work hard and tell themselves the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You cannot get better if you lie to yourself and make excuses like most parents do for their children nowadays. If my parents would come back to this world, they'd be totally shocked by what they saw parents telling their children. I mean really shocked!
3. Your team was recently honored by the GCAA as the top Academic Team in all of men's college golf. Your 10-man team had an amazing combined 3.85 grade point average (GPA). Obviously, recruiting outstanding students as well as golfers is a priority for your program. Help us understand what process you use when evaluating potential GSU golfers. How does your academic success affect your overall recruiting?
I have a basic philosophy about coaching. Only 1 percent of Division I golfers have a successful pro career, so most need to know how to support themselves after college.
To play at Georgia State you have to: A) go to class, B) get tutors, that we pay for, in every class that you need one, C) miss any practice or workout that is necessary for class without coach holding it against you. They came in a good student, so if they don't make a 3.0 to keep the Hope Scholarship, they don't play, period!
4. All Division I schools provide academic support for their student athletes. Given the time demands that college golfers face, including significant days away from campus, what do you do to help them above and beyond what the athletic department provides/requires?
Our world today calls them student-athletes but treats them like athlete-students. I, on the other hand, am old — not afraid of losing my job, ornery and focused on them doing their job of first being a student, then a golfer.
I love this game. I absolutely love how emotionally, physically and spiritually brutal golf is, but I graduated from Wake Forest and even after playing 25 years of professional golf have needed my education to be able to thrive in the world.
5. Finally, a commonly-used description today of Division I schools not in a Power 5 conference is "mid-major." Over the years, schools from lesser-known conferences have played a major part in the history of men's college golf. GSU would seem to fit into this category. Do you see the "mid-majors" continuing as viable contenders for national championships in the future? How do you approach this when talking to recruits and their parents? How will you use your recent Team Academic recognition to this end?
This is a difficult question to answer in a short space. There is an old PGA Tour saying about a golfer that is not a good putter: "He may linger but he won't last." In competitive golf, to win, you cannot be a bad putter.
In Division I men's golf, you cannot win without money. Money gets you facilities, which gets you players, which gets you championships. The mid-majors that can raise money (Kent State, Augusta, Houston, South Florida, to name a few) can still compete, but the window is very, very small for a mid-major to really compete with the big boys year in and year out.
For Georgia State and I, the pride, love and appreciation I feel for my boys and how hard they worked is all the reward I need or want. The very first thing I talk about with every recruit and his family is schoolwork.
My basic line is "If you are shooting 68 every round, you wouldn't be sitting in that chair in front of me. You are here because Georgia, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, etc., haven't offered you. Son, I can find a 3.8 GPA student who can have a 75-plus scoring average. I don't need or want a 2.8 GPA student. When I go to bed every night and lay my head down, you are not going to be heavy on my conscience because I let you slide in school."
Parents love it, but I've seen a lot of squirming from potential student-athletes. They can do the work, they just don't want to. With me they have no choice. Either work in class or stay at home, period.