A Q&A With Swing Thought Tour Member and Former LSU Golfer Stewart Jolly
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 Stewart Jolly, a member of the 2015 National Champion LSU Tiger men's golf team. Jolly was a two-time All-SEC player in Baton Rouge and played for Team USA in the 2014 Palmer Cup at Walton Heath Golf Club.
Q: At what age did you start playing golf? At what point did you know you wanted to play collegiately?
I started playing when I was about 2 years old but didn’t start playing tournaments until I was about 12. I really enjoyed playing in tournaments and about the same time realized I wanted to try and play in college.
Q: You played collegiately at LSU – finishing your career with a team National Championship last year. What was it like to be a part of that championship team?
It was really an incredible experience. We did such a great job working hard to be the best team we could be and pushed each other to get better everyday. There is no greater feeling than to be able to share an experience like that with a group of guys you are so close with. It is pretty cool to think about that you go to play college golf to win a national championship and we actually did it. It is something that I will never forget. I am so proud of my teammates and it was a perfect way to end my career at LSU. I’m proud to be an LSU Tiger.
Q: The championship format at the NCAAs is Match Play. Is Match Play something you enjoy playing?
I do enjoy match play. I think it is a lot of fun and it’s nice to change it up every now and then from the normal stroke play. The Golf Channel does a really nice job covering the National Championship and made it fun for fans to watch.
Q: You also got the chance to represent your country in a team match play event while in college, the Palmer Cup at Walton Heath Golf Club. How did you enjoy that experience? What did you find most different about Walton Heath than courses you play in the US?
There is no bigger honor than to represent your country. It was so much fun playing in London with some of the best college golfers. It was a lot of fun meeting some of those guys and they were all great guys. It was also an experience that I will never forget and such a great event. Being a part of anything associated with Mr. Arnold Palmer is a great thing. The golf course was a lot different than here in the U.S. Walton Heath is the firmest golf course I have ever played and maybe one of the toughest I have played as well. They had heather surrounding the fairways which are little bush kinds of things that were very difficult to get out of and the greens were some of the fastest I have ever putted on as well. It was really an eye opening experience. It was an honor to be a part of the Palmer Cup, and I hope to be able to represent the U.S. in more events in the future.
Q: Have you found it a big adjustment going from playing as a part of a team in college to individual events as a professional?
It has not been a huge adjustment since golf is for the most part an individual sport, but there are definitely some differences. Playing and traveling as a team in college just makes everything a little easier from being able to be around your friends. It is also nice not to have to worry about making travel arrangements because it is all done for you. For me it almost added a little more pressure playing for a team because you never want to let your teammates down, but on the other hand it's really nice to know that your teammates have your back. The biggest difference is just some basic decisions during the round like playing towards the safe side of the hole under certain circumstances. If teams can keep double bogeys off the scorecard then they will typically have success. In pro golf you are just playing for yourself so you can be as aggressive as you want and it’s all on you. You don’t have to make decisions on the course based on how your teammates are playing.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you offer current collegiate golfers hoping to have professional careers?
I would tell them to work hard on wedge play and short game because professional golf is about making a lot of birdies so you need to be able to hit wedges close to the hole and make a lot of putts.
Q: You recently had a T2 finish at the Savannah Lakes Village event. What felt best about your game during the week?
My ball striking was phenomenal all week. I hit 34/42 fairways and 46/54 greens for the week. I really didn’t have a great week on the greens but my ball striking was good enough to give me a chance to win.
Q: What are your goals for the remainder of the season?
My goals for the rest of the season are to get my first professional win and earn status for the Web.com tour for 2017. I also want to play in my first Web.com tour event.
Q: What would you say is the favorite course you have ever played?
This is really tough but I would have to say The Country Club at Brookline. I played it for the U.S. Amateur in 2013. The course was fantastic and the history there is pretty cool.
Q: Several alumni of the Swing Thought Tour have gone on the great success on both the PGA and European Tours. What about the Swing Thought Tour prepares golfers for continued success as they progress through their careers?
The Swing Thought Tour is a great place to play and stay competitive for the guys who do not have status on a main tour. There are a lot of really good players who just have not made it to the main tours yet but they are the next ones to make it. There is a lot of great competition in every event and the Swing Thought Tour does a great job to make the events as close to a Web.com or PGA event as possible. They work very hard to get everything in order for us to play against the best players who have not gained status on a main tour.