A Q&A With Robin Waters of the NGA Professional Tour
The Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) and the NGA Professional Golf Tour have maintained a strong partnership since 2002. Formerly known as the NGA Hooters Pro Golf Tour, the two organizations have and continue to work together on projects which benefit our member coaches, their student athletes, and their golf programs. Literally hundreds of today’s most recognized professional golfers around the world have cut their teeth on the NGA Tour after completing their college careers. Since 1999 Robin Waters has served as the president of the NGA Tour and is the individual responsible for its incredible success and growth. His understanding of the need and dedication to building a strong partnership with college golf coaches is the cornerstone of the relationship between the GCAA and the NGA.
In 2011, under the guidance of Waters, The NGA Pro Golf Tour was purchased from the estate of the late Robert H. Brooks, the former CEO of Hooters of America, Inc. Recently, the College Golf Connection reached out to Waters to update our readers on any changes players should expect on the Tour in 2012 and his vision of the role a developmental tour plays for young players just out of college.
For more information about the NGA Pro Golf Tour, please visit http://www.ngatour.com/.
Q: We understand there are changes underway for the NGA Professional Golf Tour. Could you update our student-athletes and their coaches on these and the ramifications that will affect them after they turn pro later this spring?
A: The National Golf Association (the sanctioning body of the NGA Pro Golf Tour, formerly the NGA/Hooters Pro Tour) was recently purchased from the estate of Robert H. Brooks. The NGA will continue to do business as we have for many years by conducting professional golf events and offering the best preparation for players to develop to compete on the PGA Tour. The most significant changes are reduced entry fees and field sizes for a majority of the 2012 season. By reducing field sizes, lowering the entry fees, and accordingly, the guaranteed purses, but keeping the same 72-hole competitive model, it will allow more players the ability to compete in more events later into the season. It costs a player on average $23,000 in entry fees to play a developmental tour season and, by changing the fee structure for 2012, it will only cost $17,550 to play an 18 event 72-hole competitive schedule. Additionally, there is no ranking school requirement for any past college golf competitor, as they are automatically given exempt status with reference from a coach, according to availability.
Q: The GCAA and NGA Pro Golf Tour have partnered on several projects since early 2002. These have in the past or continue to include our GCAA Match Play Championship, the collegiate schedule area on the GCAA website and securing post-collegiate exemptions on your tour for our student-athletes. What if any changes do you anticipate under new ownership and direction with the GCAA?
A: The GCAA is one of, if not the, most important partnerships for the NGA. It’s a natural fit for the competitive golf developmental process by reaching out to the best young golf talent and coaches’ (advisors/instructors/motivators) to make the next step as seamless as possible to the professional ranks. We will continue our program of offering college players the graduate program where they are offered membership once they graduate at a reduced membership rate for 2012.
Q: What changes will your tour members experience onsite? Will the changes impact your tournament schedule for 2012? Do you anticipate entry fee changes in the coming year?
A: As mentioned prior, there are no significant operational or event changes (we’ll have the same staff as 2011, most having been with the Tour for more than 10 years-USGA/PGA Certified). We feel the reduction in entry fees (14 - $150K (925.00 entry) and 4 - $200K (1150.00 entry) will make it much easier on younger aspiring professionals to afford to compete at our level.
Q: Over the years, hundreds if not thousands of former college players have cut their professional teeth on the NGA Pro Golf Tour. Compare the college graduate of 2011 with that of the same player a decade ago. What if any changes do you see in such things as swing mechanics, athleticism, temperament and maturity? Any other changes that come to mind?
A: The one characteristic that really stands out more than any other is the maturity aspect. (I know this will sound cheesy, but there can only be one explanation.) I would have to say the experience and quality of coaches has probably had the most significant impact on players. More coaches are former players or instructors and understand the player development aspects more than in the past. No doubt, the equipment has improved, but focusing on the player, himself or herself, is what is helping the players to be much better prepared to deal with the challenges of finances, time management, and commitment to achieve their dreams of one day playing on the PGA or LPGA Tours. No doubt, Coaches have had the most impact on players being better prepared for life and competing professionally.
Q: The list of successful PGA Tour members who are NGA alumni is like a who’s who on the PGA Tour. Besides the opportunity to play for prize money, what are the most important things a rookie on your tour can learn? Can you think of a specific case or example of one of your alumni who took full advantage of this developmental tour opportunity?
A: Our model for competition of mirroring the Nationwide and PGA Tours is the single determining factor for successful player development. Keegan Bradley is the most recent player to stand out. He was tied for our Rookie of the Year in 2009 going into the last series of events and only lost out by one event’s performance to another very talented young player (Philip Pettitt – 2012 Nationwide Tour). Oddly enough, Keegan has gone on to make history in a very short time on the PGA Tour and will do much more in the coming years.
Q: If the Nationwide tour is thought of as the AAA league for the PGA Tour, how would you characterize the NGA tour?
A: We’ve been considered for many years as the AA of professional golf. Not many people know that the NGA was founded in 1988 and conducted its first competitive season in 1989, predating the Nationwide Tour. Our alumni list speaks volumes for what we do – on average, over a third of every PGA Tour field and over half of every Nationwide Tour field is made up of players that were either members of or played events on our tour. Many start up mini tours have tried, over the years, to buy their way into the AA level, but are no longer in business or have cut back dramatically from when they started. Our model continues to stand the test of time. Consistency is what leads players to the PGA Tour.
Q: Finally, a common question among college coaches is: Can a player on your developmental tour make a living or is he just buying professional experience? How would you address this question?
A: A player with a successful college career and determination can absolutely make a living in their first couple developmental years. They are not going to get rich, but they can pay their bills and have money left over. The top twenty players’ earnings from the 2011 NGA Tour money list ranged from the top earner of $151,000.00 to the 20th place earner receiving $46,600.00. However, we do not want players to be satisfied just “making a living” on our tour. The main focus of our tour has been, and always will be, to prepare our players for success on the PGA Tour.