March 31, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
For a guy who didn’t take up golf seriously until he was 17, Kyle Scott’s done quite well. He’s even par in tournament play, and his scoring average of 72 per round is third at Georgia Tech, trailing only James White (71.3) and J.T. Griffin (71.4).
So how did a guy from Johannesburg, South Africa, get from barely playing golf there to golfing his tail off here, for one of the nation’s premier college programs?
He was, after all, a baseballer.
“It was pretty serious. I made the under-18 South African [baseball] training squad,” Scott said. “We trained for about six months, and it was pretty much going nowhere. I was a catcher and a second baseman. I was 16.”
OK, so baseball ended abruptly. That still doesn’t explain how golf began.
“I’d played a little golf with my dad, on holidays. He had a really good friend who was a golf coach, ran an academy. My dad asked him if I could come hit some balls . . . just something to do to stay out of trouble,” the senior management major explained. “Within two weeks, the bug had bitten me; I was hooked.”
Indeed. Still, though Scott improved rapidly and played scads of junior tournaments in South Africa, his path to Tech was atypical to say the least. Given his late start, he was not exactly pinging on the recruiting radar of the top college golf coaches in the U.S.
So he took action, mailing, e-mailing and contacting reams of coaches overseas. It didn’t work.
Scott went a year out of high school without landing in a college program. Then, another year. Finally, a break came.
“The coach at [Division II] West Florida was pretty interested, in Pensacola. I was there for three years, played two. I red-shirted my first year,” Scott said.
Now in his second and final season at Tech (he’ll graduate in May), the South African has taken off.
He had two top five finishes in the fall, and finished third last month in the Puerto Rico Classic. His record for the school year (golfers beaten vs. golfers who scored better than him) is 461-98.
Being 24 years old helps.
“I think so. I still get angry, but I definitely feel like [age] has helped,” he said. “I feel real calm out there.” There’s plenty more golf to come.
Tech has one more competition before the post season, the Yellow Jacket Classic in a couple weeks, then his parent are coming to the States for the ACCs. After that, there will be the NCAA regionals, and – hopefully – the nationals.
Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that South Africa would send up such a fine golfer, given that Gary Player, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Tim Clarke and Rory Sabbatini are just some of the linksters that country has produced.
There’s no arguing, however, the fact that Scott’s path has not been straight.
“I feel like my golf game has gotten better,” he said. “It was a big step from Division II to Division I, every week competing against the best golfers in the country every time out. I have some visa issues to work out, and then I hope to start Tour school in September.”