Stephanie Dittmer, AJGA communications
One of the AJGA’s most distinguished alum stopped by The PING Invitational following the first round of action Saturday afternoon. Hunter Mahan, the 1999 Rolex Junior Player of the Year, returned to his alma mater Oklahoma State to advise juniors at Karsten Creek about a variety of topics, including making the right college decision and life on the PGA TOUR.
With PING College Golf Signing Day right around the corner – the early signing period begins Nov. 13 – and more than 50 percent of the field verbally committed, the topic of picking the right place to play college golf was a focal point of the hour-long Q & A session.
“[Choosing your school] is a difficult decision,” Mahan told the crowd of juniors. “You feel like this is a big decision, this is the next four years of my life. Where do I want to go? I want to play professional golf so which school is going to best fit those needs. There’s a lot that goes into it.”
Mahan originally signed to play golf at the University of Southern California, but transferred to Oklahoma State his sophomore year. In 2003, Mahan advanced through qualifying school and earned his PGA TOUR card for the 2004 season.
“I just felt like Oklahoma State was a better fit for me and was going to better improve my chances of being a TOUR player,” he said of his difficult decision to transfer. “It was just kind of my speed on a social basis, it was a slower pace. We had our own golf course out here. We could come out and do whatever we wanted. Coach Holder did a great job of creating a nice, fun atmosphere that was golf heavy, but still great. I had a great time here.”
Mahan stressed the importance of finding the right fit and going to a school that can really help one succeed personally and in their golf career. A continual theme throughout the stories and advice, however, was how no matter where you went, time spent at college and the journey with teammates were things to cherish.
“My best memory at OSU, it’s hard to pick just one, but I think playing the national championship here was one,” he said. “We finished second and we had a great team. The best part of college golf is getting to know your teammates and having fun. The bond with your teammates is going to be the best thing for you and the best part about college golf. Those are the bonds that I will have for the rest of my life and those were the best times of my life, no doubt about it.”
Throughout the evening, Hunter mixed humor and real-world honesty into his answers and interactions with the juniors. It was evident many of the juniors wanted to hear about life as a PGA TOUR professional and how to score low on the notoriously difficult Karsten Creek. When asked about his favorite hole on the track, his response was met with laughter and agreement to conclude the evening.
“My favorite hole out here is probably No. 18 because you don’t have to play anymore; this is a tough course.”