Wales' Richard Johnson has some worldly advice for any young European amateur golfer who aspires to become a successful professional.
Johnson says that accepting a golf scholarship at an American university is a waste of time. And he should know, having been through the experience at Augusta State in Georgia, just down the road from Augusta National, home of the Masters.
“I don’t know why I stayed,” said Johnson.
“It probably wasn’t the best thing for my golf. It’s great to get a degree and have fun for four years, but as far as being a golf pro, I don’t think college golf is the way to go.
“For us, you’re probably better off doing it through the international federation, going on tour, taking the hard knocks and learning that way.
“The English Golf Union, or what they’re doing down in Australia, they’re far superior to anything college can do over here. It’s best to have private coaching.”
Johnson, 36, is a rookie on the US PGA Tour, but he’s no spring chicken. After his aforementioned wasted years at college, he plied his trade on the secondary American tour for eight years before finally finishing number one on last year’s money list and earning his promotion to the premier league.
But it has not been an easy season, a series of poor performances leaving him languishing 171st on the money list.
Johnson was so concerned with his form that he recently switched coaches, hooking up with South African instructor Mark McCann. The initial results suggest it was not a bad move.
“He’s simplifying it,” Johnson said of his swing changes with McCann. “I’d been a little tied up. I’ve put on 20 yards in the last couple of weeks, which is great, because I’d lost it.
“I’m hitting the ball better than last year. If I keep that going, I’ll be fine.
“At the Nelson (the Byron Nelson Championship) two weeks ago, I shot 65 the last day in a howling gale. Last week I played okay, but putted like a blind man.”
Johnson is hoping, if not expecting, a decent performance this week in his first appearance at the Sawgrass TPC, a course he believes is a fabulous test of every facet of the game.
“It’s a super test,” he said. “I like it, because you’ve got to move the ball right-to-left, left-to-right, high, low. It really does test everything.
“Your brain’s got to be working too. The greens are hard and fast. I had a six-footer yesterday I missed and it went 40 feet by.”
Johnson has more pressing issues on his mind than the Ryder Cup, such as keeping his exempt status on tour for next year, but he would obviously love to be part of the European team for the 2010 event at Celtic Manor, just down the road from his hometown.
Although he has lived in the United States for more than a dozen years, currently residing with his wife and two children in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Johnson says he is getting more homesick as the years go by.
“Last time I went home I was like ’why did I leave’?” he said. “You live in Britain and you want to go to the States, and then you live in the States and you go back and see the old stuff.
“I’m on the fence. I miss Europe now. This country (United States), you can make a lot of money but you miss out on the fun stuff, the beer drinking in the pub, and the social side.
“Most people over here work too hard.”