May 13, 2008
ATLANTA – Junior David Dragoo has worked his way into a regular spot on Georgia Tech’s post-season lineup this spring in his fourth year in the Yellow Jackets’ program. Dragoo came to Tech from Scottsdale, Ariz., red-shirted his first year, then played in just four events combined during his freshman and sophomore years.
Now as a junior, Dragoo has played in nine events this year, including his first appearance in last month’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship, where he closed with a 5-under-par 67 and finished in a tie for 13th place. The only lefthander on the team, he will be Tech’s No. 4 player when the Jackets play in this week’s NCAA Central Regional in Columbus, Ohio.
Dragoo majors in Economics, carries a 3.60 cumulative grade-point average and has been named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll three times.
You’re in your fourth year in the Tech program, including a red-shirt year, yet you played in your first ACC Championship last month and are now playing in your first NCAA championship event. What does that mean to you?
“Championships are what you practice for. Everyday you think about winning something important and being a part of something important. This is the best of both. I have been through quite a bit around Tech, so it’s nice to feel like you’re on the right track, and your work produces the results that you want. But, really, it’s a culmination of both on- and off-the-course processes. By practicing right, studying and going about your business in the right way, good things happen if you keep sticking around and doing the right things.
You played in only four events combined the last two years and have worked yourself into a regular spot in the Tech lineup. What have you done to improve your game over the past year?
“My swing has improved, and I pay close attention to my fundamentals so it generally stays very consistent. With golf being a mental game, you must believe in what you’re doing and understand how to play. That component comes with experience, with competing against your teammates. After you have the skills to put the ball where you want it, it becomes a matter of staying competitive and believing that you have things figured out on your own.”
What do you do to keep in shape physically? The team’s morning workouts can be pretty intense.
“I think I am aware of the physical side more than most guys on the team. I eat very healthy, and it sort of has become a joke on the team, because I won’t eat any fast food and cook for myself often in the dorms. During this last off-season (November-January), I worked out twice a day to get ready for the spring. I did running and abs in the morning and then weights in the afternoon. In total, it took about 2 hours. During the season, you’re in more of a maintenance mode, so you try and run, stretch, and do light weights a 3-4 times a week. It’s different for golfers, because generally there is no off-season. Collegiate golf is really the only exception, so I try to take advantage.”
Golfers come in all shapes and sizes. You are only 5-foot-6 and have to compete with taller players that have more leverage and hit the ball longer. How do you overcome that?
“I have to be consistent with hitting the fairways and hit good wedges on the long holes. Par 5’s are the major issue, and I really have to think more in order to get the most out them. I have to think that hitting the ball shorter and straighter is an advantage and that having good wedges is an advantage versus the guys who hit it farther.”
What are the strongest parts of your game?
“I have had to make the strongest parts of my game my wedges and driving. It has evolved into this idea where I think I can wedge it closer than some people can chip it”
You broke a collarbone playing squash last year. There can’t be many students on this campus who play that.
“That all started to cross-train. Working out can become a chore if it’s the same old things all of the time, so I wanted to change it up. Squash is a fast moving sport, and it’s a good change of scene from running. I also took boxing lessons about a year ago in the winter at a gym in Atlanta. It’s all part of the same thing, really getting more out of training than you have in the past and trying to keep your body in the best shape possible.”
How long did it take you to recover from that injury, and how long was it before you could swing a golf club again?
“First of all, the injury was a freakish accident. I still think that it was a good decision to play, and I would have done the same thing over again. There is never a good time to get injured as an athlete. It can become discouraging. Coach Heppler has always said the collegiate athletics is the time when you will receive the most support in your life, from coaches to trainers to academics, etc. It was very true when I broke my collarbone. I was treated very well by (director of sports medicine) Jay Shoop and the people on the training staff. (Team orthopedist) Dr. X was great, and he is one of the best knee and shoulder doctors in the U.S., and he is right here with the athletes on call. I spent every morning with coach Shoop stretching my shoulder, doing exercises, and putting ice and heat on the area for about and hour. I played about eight weeks after the accident and it healed great and I have had no problems.”
On your questionnaire you list fly fishing and skiing as other interests. How much time do you spend in those pursuits?
“I think you could say that fishing is my favorite hobby. It’s a big deal for my dad and me. I have three sisters, so I always look forward to a trip with just the boys. We go on a long one every summer for about 10-14 days. We have gone to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, British Columbia, Alaska, and Colorado. This year we are headed up to Manitoba in Central Canada. It’s not for the faint of heart.”
“Georgia Tech golf is a special community and I could feel that when I came here. Our alumni are very supportive, and it’s a very successful, highly demanding place. We have the best support of any golf team in the United States, and I have been well taken care of since the day I arrived. I don’t think distance is an issue for any player because they can see right through that on a visit. It’s were you want to come if you want to win.”
Now that you are playing regularly, what would you like to accomplish this year and next before you graduate?
“Golf is both individual and team oriented. As a team, I want to win an NCAA championship and the ACC championship next year. Those can never be underestimated. As an individual, I want to make All-American and Academic All-American next year. I know I will keep showing up and doing the right things, and good things will happen along the way.”