Sept. 23, 2009
by Jon Cooper, OSR Contributing Editor
OSR Sting EXTRA
ATLANTA — When love comes a-callin’, you just know it.
For Kyle Scott, that call came at the age of 17.
It was at that age that the 23-year-old junior transfer and native of South Africa, who, as a right-handed-hitting catcher was good enough to on his country’s Junior National Team, suddenly decided he had irreconcilable differences with the sport he’d been playing since age 10. It wasn’t so much the game as those around it.
“The politics back home, just got a bit over the top with the whole team sports and all that,” he recalled. “My dad had been playing golf for ages and I just decided to start playing, going to the academy to keep me busy after school. It was love at first sight.”
He fell hard and got good enough to win several junior tournaments, even though his high school, Edenglen High School, did not have a golf team.
Courtesy of the Internet, Scott was discovered by the University of West Florida and was soon headed to Pensacola, Fla., to play golf at the Division II school. He performed superbly, earning Division II Ping All-America First Team, and PING All-South Region honors. He finished third in the 2008 NCAA Division National Championship and led the Argonauts to a D-II National Championship. After another solid season, Scott decided he wanted to take his relationship with golf to the next level.
He’d planned on going to the University of South Carolina, but a snag over red-shirting and transferring credit hours, and a friend of Georgia Tech head golf coach Bruce Heppler led to an interview.
From there, it was a tap-in.
“He was just looking to play Division I and play against the best players in the best tournaments,” said Heppler, who had never taken on a transfer or an international player. “He was an accounting major down there and a really good student, so that kind of opened the door for him.
“I met him and liked him and felt like he was willing to give up a lot to get here (i.e. the size of the scholarship),” he added. “So we felt like he would really appreciate that and make the most of it, and so far I think he has.”
In Scott’s first tournament with Georgia Tech, the Carpet Capital Collegiate, in Rocky Face, Ga., Scott finished plus-4 overall, tying for 24th, but carded a 1-under 71 on the tournament’s final day (tying teammate Paul Haley), helping key the Yellow Jackets’ surge into third place.
While he’s learning his way on the D-I level and still getting rid of any traces of his baseball background from his swing, Scott is up for the challenge of qualifying for Tech’s traveling team, something that must be earned on a tournament-by-tournament basis. Tech’s next tournament is this weekend, the Mason Rudolph Intercollegiate, in Franklin, Tenn.
“My goal is to be on traveling team for my last two years of college, just get the experience that I need,” he said. “Obviously, the main goal is to be on the PGA Tour, ASAP. So the more playing experience I can get, the better for me.”
But he knows that before he can tee it up with the likes of countrymen Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, whom he lists as his heroes (“I’m very patriotic. I love my South African golfers,” he said with a laugh), that he needs to fine-tune his game.
“I’ve always been a really good driver of a golf ball, keep the ball in play a lot, I hit a lot of greens, a lot of fairways,” he said. “I’d like to hole more putts. I’m a solid putter; I just don’t hole enough from over 20 feet. It would be nice if I could start doing that and bringing those rounds down, turn those 67s into 63s.”
Heppler believes that Scott will be just fine and that his best days are ahead.
“The more and more he plays against good players on hard golf courses, his game will kind of grow with that,” he said. “As far as his fundamentals and the way he goes about stuff, he’s on the right track.”
He’s gone the other way, but the thing that’s good about it is you get to the point where if you take this up when you’re eight or nine years old and that’s all you do every day for a long time you can get tired of it. So I think for him it’s new, it’s fresh, it’s all out in front of him because he’s hasn’t spent so much time in the rear. Usually guys that start that late struggle a little bit to catch up, but he’s done a good job of that.
But he’ll never forget his first love, baseball, and credits his experience playing the game for his solid swing.
“Baseball’s definitely helped me with the hand-eye coordination,” he said. “It’s a little different hitting a still ball to a moving ball, but it’s all hand-eye coordination there. It took me a while to get a lot of my baseball traits out of the golf swing. especially the quick hips. I used to clear the hips really fast to straighten out the golf swing. I just worked on that a little bit.”
He added that he he’s more relaxed knowing he won’t have to dodge 90 miles per hour fastballs, he also can no longer elude responsibility for his play.
“In golf, it’s all about you,” he said. “There’s no one else to blame but yourself. You go out there and do it yourself.”