Watching the "Wannabes" on the Hooters Tour
The NGA Hooters Tour has come to our club this week, so I was able to spend a little time with some of the "wannabes" who toil out here, trying to see if their game can be taken to “The Show” that is the Nationwide Tour and eventually the PGA Tour. There is a lot of raw talent out here, but the hard truth is that very few will ever make it to the next level. There are a lot of reasons for that, but we must realize that the relative handful of golfers that play at the highest level represent the “best of the best of the best”. The talent level of even the journeyman PGA Tour professional is something to behold, actually.

So what’s the big difference between these guys and those who are playing The Old Course this week? Well, there are quite a few. Distance certainly isn’t one. The Hooters Tour has a long drive contest on Pro Am day and the winning shot was 367 yards! My host golf professional put it succinctly when he said "That was gross!"

I played in the pro am with a very nice young man who wasn’t nearly that long, but he was loaded with "game." His trajectories were tight and consistent, his directional control excellent, short game was sharp (when he had to use it). I believe he represented the norm out there – plenty of distance, good ball control, nice looking shots.

But most of them will never advance beyond this stage of competition, and most probably will fade from here within a year or two, as this is a tough life. Many travel together in car pools, bunk 3-4 to a room; some stay with host families for the week. You can tell they are living on shoestrings . . . fewer than 30 guys have made even $20 grand this year!

The Big Difference

If there was anything I would have commented on to my Pro Am pro (of course I didn’t), it was that he looked rather “manufactured” over the putter. There just wasn’t an appearance of comfort and confidence when he set up to a putt. In fact, as I watched dozens of guys on the putting green, I saw that a lot. Guys that quite apparently are struggling to make the putts they know they need to make. It’s hard to explain, but most good putters just look relaxed and "natural" when they get over the ball. And I think most good putters have little to no thought about their mechanics – it’s all about making the putt! I’ll bet if I were to go out and watch the last few groups on Sunday, almost all of those top 15-20 guys would be among the group who seem to look that way on the greens.

The Other Big Difference

As I was “working” the putting green, showing our EIDOLON wedges to some of the players, I had a nice visit with a young man who was diligently hitting little pitch shots to a difficult target he had set up. He had chosen a short pitch over a rise, into a side slope, and had made a 3’ ring around a hole with golf tees. He explained that his drill was that he couldn’t leave until he had hit five shots in a row inside that circle. He went on to explain that his observation of the “big tour” pros is that the biggest difference between them and “us” is that their short games are so damn good. He knew the percentages of putts made on the PGA Tour inside 3 feet, from 3-7 feet and so on, and said that his percentages were not that much different. The difference, as he explained it, is that they hit it so dang close when they miss a green, and that’s what he knew he needed to work on if he was to move up. I suspect that most all of these guys could follow his advice.

So, even these guys realize that the only way to get better and lower your scores is to work on your short game. Getting up and down is the key to scoring, no matter whether you are a scratch amateur or pro, or still working to break 90 or 100. And the best thing is that when you are within 30 yards of the green, all the athleticism that allows these guys to hit 367 yard drives is neutralized. Anyone . . . from a 12-year-old to grandma . . . can swing a wedge hard enough to hit good pitch and chip shots. The key is a good technique and practice.

Think about it.

photo source
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[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
Yea making it on the mini-tours is tough if you don't have the backing to at least get the season in and be able to back THAT up with a good game. Good on that guy though for respecting the short game. You NEED to knock it close to have a chance on tour. It's just that simple. If you have a wedge in your hands from 100 yards, you need to knock it to 10 feet. MAYBE 15. Take a foot off for every 10 yards in from there. That's the pro game. How often do we see that happen on tour and they're 12 feet away from 100 yards and they're angry? that's the scoring zone and they expect to hit it stiff.
sepfeiff says:
T, best article ever. Scoring in the game of golf is at 30 yards and in, completely agree. For us OOBers, take a look at your scorecard and recalculate one of your scores based on a 60% up and down... I'm willing to wager an internet dollar that it averages 10 or more strokes.
lcgolfer64 says:
I work with my local pro and the last 3 lessons have been based around everything inside 100 yds and a few varieties of shots I need to practice lot to perfect. His first advice was always "try not to put yourself in those situations "65, 37, etc yds out." But then we've worked on what happens when I'm there.

Another good article WG - it's most frustrating part (and the part I spend a LOT of work on before and after a round) of my on-the-course game and the part that seems to cost me the most strokes.
eventHorizon says:
Did anybody bite on an Eidolon wedge?
birdieXris says:
@eventhorizon - huh? bite on an Eidolon wedge?
mjaber says:
@birdie... Yeah, they're tasty with ketchup and a little salt :)
rmumph1 says:
I got one for free,(had to pay shipping). Didn't taste it yet.
eventHorizon says:
sorry. did anyone have any interest? I'm guessing they don't taste good.
Kurt the Knife says:
Maybe Terry will send me one and I will post an exhaustive diner's review.
Complete with recipe and wine pairing.
aaronm04 says:
I hosted two pros when the Hooters Tour came through my club last year. One of the guys said that on the 516yd par 5 #1, he went driver - wedge to get home in two. Said he was 148 yds out from his drive. Length is definitely NOT their issue.

It's tough for these guys... they have to pay their way into each tournament and if they make the cut, they basically break even. They must do well to come out ahead and even for the better players, the earnings are fairly small. None of their travel or lodging is paid for.

And when it came to practicing, the thing they wanted to do most when was putt. Not hit balls or chip. They wanted on the greens to see how they rolled.
birdieXris says:
@event - Oh, i'm waiting on mine. I have no intention of tasting them. I should have them on monday, as i'm out of town this weekend.
onedollarwed says:
Nice thoughts Terry. Of all the golf shots, driving and putting have the most disparate skill sets. It's no wonder you're highlighting it. Also, would you say that the pressure of competition is worse on the short game?
I don't compete with golf, but my few experiences with small stakes has me missing short putts almost inexplicably! I know we've talked about anxiety at length. How would you characterize the stress of playing on "that" tour and how it would effect their games?
It seems like poor nutrition could be a problem and effect adrenal glands, mood, attitude, etc. How are these guys doing? Are they getting in a good stretching, training scedule? Practice? Sounds a bit like a touring band.
onedollarwed says:
Golf can be divided into two basic types of activities: covering ground, and scoring. The approach is often both but not always (I think this is something Terry stresses re: having more scoring clubs).
The new golfer needs to cover ground almost exclusively. If they do they can be an ok golfer. I think the guys your talking about can essentially par every hole right?
So it comes down to:
1. Can they get the approach close enough to have a high percentage birdie putt (inside 10 ft)
2. Can they sink long and very long birdie putts?
3. When something goes wrong (ob, sand, water, etc.) can they scramble to make par or no worse than bogie?
4. Or were you seeing 3-putts?
LongTimeAway says:
Great article. Did you peek in the bags to see how and what loft wedges these guys carry? Were there many players with wedges of no more than 56* to 58* degree loft?
falcon50driver says:
I was very impressed with one of these guys. We played 4 rounds together at 3 unfamiliar courses from 7000 yards, and he shot 23 under including a double bogie second shot from the tee on a par 3 for a lost ball. I had never seen anything like it, and decided to pay the $2400 entry fee for two tournaments. He missed the cut on the first tournament, and we only collected $3000 on the second one. I tell you , It's a jungle out there.
blainekjones says:
Enjoyed your article. Keep up the good work.
stedar says:
If the number 1 golfer in the world can not hit the fairways every-time, you know the scoring is done with the approaches.
The short game, scramble and imaginative "skill" shots are where the scoring opportunities come from.

Great "timely" reminder what the game is all about...
BigDoctorJ says:
Gotta agree. My brother and I were having this argument the other day. I think that the player's ability to scramble is what sets each tier of player apart. He seems to think that my inability to hit it straight is my weakness. But we score similar because my short game
TheKong says:
I, too, hosted a pair of golfers on the Hooters Tour. I also caddied for one during the tournament. After a few holes, he noticed that I knew what I was doing and asked me to help him read putts (4 eyes are better than 2--he said). He putted amazingly and finished second. I agree with a lot of the comments on here. However, I think the problem with their putting is not having that second opinion. If they're a little confused about a break, they don't have any one to ask like the tour pros do. Then, they have to hit and hope. It makes a huge difference having someone else agreeing with what they see or telling them you see something different.
2ndSwing says:
Watching Big Break shows how much it takes to on tour. All those players seem to be able to hit the ball far, consistent, and well... just consistent scoring is so much tougher.
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