Breaking Through
By Snyper on 1/24/11
Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. His column will appear each Monday on ClubSG. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

This weekend at the North Coast Golf Show in Washington D.C, I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes talking to Carling Coffing, winner of Big Break Sandals Resort. For those of you who may not be familiar with the show, Big Break is all about giving players who are on the verge of breaking through to the professional ranks the opportunity to experience a couple events on the LPGA or PGA. Most of the contestants are young and working their way up, but some are also older players who have been back and forth and are hoping for one last shot. David Mobley, a two-time contestant on Big Break, joined Carling to entertain the crowd this weekend.
Yet, three years removed from college, she finds herself struggling to crack the top 60 on the Futures Tour, much less make a splash in the LPGA.

I am a pretty big fan of the show, and the concept for that matter, so I enjoyed the opportunity to meet a former winner and hear about how the show has changed her life. Her win gained her an exemption into the Dubai Classic on the Ladies European Tour and also a spot in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Although she finished dead last in the Ochoa Invitational, she did manage to become only the second contestant in the history of Big Break to capitalize on an exemption by making the cut in Dubai. In fact, she easily made the cut after storming out to a tie for 7th after 36 holes. Unfortunately, she struggled a little on the weekend and ended up in a tie for 22nd. Still, not a bad week as Coffing’s performance earned her a check for $5,700. That may not sound like a big prize, but her career earnings over three years on the Futures Tour barely exceed $20,000. As for her future, she plans to continue grinding it out in the minor leagues while hoping for a break-through during one of her LPGA opportunities. I certainly wish her the best and hope that she is able to make good on her Big Break success.

Meeting Carling and learning about her career makes me think about just how difficult it is for young players to make it in professional golf. Here is a girl who is a former high school state champion that went on to spend four successful years playing for Ohio State. She was arguably the best player on the team for three of those four years in spite of a wrist injury that hampered her during her senior year. Yet, three years removed from college, she finds herself struggling to crack the top 60 on the Futures Tour, much less make a splash in the LPGA. Her amateur career and victory on Big Break both speak to the fact that she has a ton of game, and yet, she appears to be a long shot to make it in professional golf.
Turning professional sounds like a pretty cool deal, but being a professional doesn’t mean your work is done.

Maybe it is the coach in me, but I find it very intriguing as to the difference between the players that are able to make a career of the game and those who are not. Once these players get to the Nationwide or Futures Tour level, they all have enough natural talent and ability to make it, so what is the difference between those who do and those who don’t? Is it as simple as being able to perform under pressure? Is it as simple as mastering the short game? Or is it as simple as having enough money to play and practice all year long? I would love to hear from some of the players who have successfully made the journey up through the ranks to get their opinion on what separated them from the rest. Unfortunately, the media focuses on the biggest names in the game and rarely have those players had to take the hard road to the top. I would love to see networks like the Golf Channel and ESPN do some documentaries on players who have climbed the ladder and made it through the grueling life of the developing tours. While it is understandable that the biggest names will always dominate the headlines, it would be great to see some more coverage given to the players that work for years before they are able to break through to the big time.

There is little doubt that making it to the professional level in any sport is a hard and long row to hoe. However, even those who manage to make it to the professional ranks still have a long way to go before they reach a level that sustains them financially. Turning professional sounds like a pretty cool deal, but being a professional doesn’t mean your work is done. In fact, for most players, the work has only just begun. If you are a fan of golf and you like to see the game played under pressure, you should make an effort to take in a Nationwide or Futures Tour event sometime. These guys and gals are playing with everything on the line every week and you can’t find much more pressure than that.

* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.

[ comments ]
el_pato_real says:
Regarding your comment on the difference between players who make their living playing golf and those who fall short, Dr. Bob Rotella has written extensively on this subject in his books. You hit the nail on the head...tons of people who have all the game in the world can't make it on a tour. They can go low, hit it as long as major champions, sink 50 three footers in a row...but unless they have the right mentality, they won't be cashing many checks.

I speak from no experience...just repeating one of the most prominent themes in his writing.
Angegolfer says:
It boils down the individual and their desire to make their dreams become reality. Just look what Vargas did at the Hope. I wish Carling the best. I'll be pulling for her to break through.
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