On top of the golf world as a collegiate player, Morgan Hoffmann
is now making his presence known as a pro
ong before he hit the PGA Tour, Morgan Hoffmann was considered a top professional golf prospect. After leaving home at just 16 years old to train in Hilton Head, South Carolina, he dominated Oklahoma State University’s team. In 2009, as a freshman, he was named both the Big 12 Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, received his first of three All-America team honors and won the Phil Mickelson Award, a prize given annually to the nation’s top collegiate golfer. He was, in short, one of the best amateur players in the world.
That all changed when Hoffmann turned pro in 2011. A series of injuries and poor play hampered his development and delayed his lifelong dream of becoming a regular on the PGA Tour. Consequently, the now-23-year-old New Jersey native’s ranking tumbled.
Morgan Hoffmann tees off during the first round of the 112th U.S. Open, held at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, on June 14, 2012
But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and Hoffmann isn’t giving up on his dream. Ralph Lauren isn’t giving up on him either, and in 2012, the company welcomed him into its fold of sponsored professional golfers. Hoffmann is focusing on this and other positives. “I used to get down on myself if I failed to birdie an easy hole, miss-hit a shot from the fairway or missed a cut after shooting a good score,” he says. “But over the past year, I’ve learned to stay more composed and focused in the moment.” His efforts are paying off. In October 2012, he earned his official 2013 PGA Tour membership card by placing 19th on the 2012 Web.com Tour (formerly the Nationwide Tour) money list.
Today, Hoffmann is more confident in his game than ever and believes his best days are close at hand.
Ralph Lauren: You left your family’s home at age 16 to attend high school and play golf in Hilton Head, South Carolina. How did that feel?
Morgan Hoffmann: It was hard to leave family and friends. But I was focused on what I wanted to do and knew living in New Jersey would make it difficult for me to realize my dreams. The weather there is not advantageous to practicing my game all the time.
By all accounts, your game is pretty well rounded, but hitting the long ball seems to be your specialty. What’s your secret to big drives?
All the tough courses have really long roughs. If you drive the ball poorly, then you start each hole in a hole. My secret is to work from the ground up. Focus on your feet. Most people try to hit the ball as hard as they can, and their feet are never even on the ground. Envision a baseball player: A batter gets most of his power from the pivot of his feet. The same goes for golf.
“I’m going to work for the rest of my life to be the best.
I’m going to the top.”
You had tremendous success as an amateur that didn’t immediately translate to your professional career. What kept you motivated?
If you’re going to play this sport at this level, you are going to have good times and very, very bad times. It’s the nature of the game. I surrounded myself with the right people and learned from them how to keep my head level and stay positive and optimistic. I have also been lucky that my parents instilled a good work ethic in me, and I had an excellent coach in Gary Gilchrist. He’s still with me today.
How did you meet Gilchrist?
We met at Sawgrass [Marriott Golf Resort and Spa, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida] when I was 14. He was putting on a seminar about the mental side of the game. I had never heard anything like it. Gary helped me fine-tune every facet of my game and taught me how to evaluate my game when he is not around. I’m now able to look at my swing and identify whenever there is a problem and then fix it. That knowledge alone has gotten me through some rough times.
Who inspires you on the tour?
When I was just starting my competitive career in 2000, Tiger Woods was playing at a level that no one had ever seen before. He won everything. And he has been in the limelight nonstop ever since and still continues to prevail. I try to take after him. He is so focused on the course. He doesn’t let anything bother him.
If you could play a round of golf with anyone on the tour, who would it be, and why?
[It would have to be] fellow [Oklahoma State University] alum Bo Van Pelt. He is one of the nicest guys I have ever met. Last week, I asked him to play a practice round, and he said, “Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.” I think he’s ranked [around] 25th in the world right now, and he still has time for a rookie. That’s rare. It’s really cool learning from someone like that.
(Left) Hoffmann is all smiles at the Utah Championship Presented by Utah Sports Commission at Willow Creek Country Club in Sandy, Utah, on July 13, 2012; (right) Hoffmann putts the first hole at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in Avondale, Louisiana, on April 26, 2013
If you could take a lesson from any one golfer, past or present, who would it be, and why?
Arnold Palmer is such a “feel” player. He wasn’t into videotaping his swing and analyzing it over and over. He placed the ball where he wanted to by sheer will, not by having perfect technique. He showed that you don’t have to have the greatest or most mechanical golf swing to play great golf.
I’d also want a lesson from him off the course, because he is an amazing person. I once asked him how he deals with the pressure of the game, and he said to sign every autograph that I was asked to sign. “If the worst part of your job is to sign autographs every day, then you are pretty lucky,” he said. It’s so special to know that one of the most celebrated athletes of all time is also humble and down-to-earth.
What course would you most like to take a lesson on?
Merion Golf Club, in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, where the U.S. Open is being played [in 2013]. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s also one of the toughest courses in the world. There are two par-fours over 500 yards, and the greens are small and undulating, which makes the game more difficult.
How would you describe your personal style?
On the course, I’d describe my style as fun but classy. I wear mostly darker colors but with a touch of flash, something bright, something unique.
What type of clothing are you most comfortable in?
Gym clothes. I like to work out and be active. Most of the time, I am hiking, swimming, biking, playing tennis, doing anything outdoors [and] moving around.
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