On tour life, the Beau Hossler Rule and why watching the Dodgers in the World Series is more stressful than playing the US Open.
Beau Hossler knows the drill. When he was a junior golfer growing up in southern California, he had talent, but it took some time for him to find his way. Eventually, he put in the work to become a Rolex Junior All-American. A little later, he went off to the University of Texas, where he struggled as a freshman. But he adapted to campus life and went on to earn national player-of-the-year honours.
Hossler prepared to be humbled once more after settling in Dallas (where he plays out of Trinity Forest, venue of the AT&T Byron Nelson) and embarking on his pro career in February 2017, seven months later than he expected because of a freak injury. Only this time, the learning curve has turned out to be even shorter. In just 11 Web .com Tour starts, Hossler earned enough money to secure his US PGA Tour card for 2018. And since then, he has made a habit of finding his name on leader boards, contending in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Pebble Beach in the early days of his rookie season on tour.
A playoff loss to Ian Poulter at the Houston Open cost him a spot in the Masters but was the latest sign that the 23-year-old is posed to join fellow Texas Longhorn Jordan Spieth and contemporaries Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele in becoming a mainstay on tour.
Most golf fans first heard of you at the 2012 US Open, when you were 17, still in high school, and made the leaderboard at the Olympic Club. How often do people bring that up?
There are plenty of people who still recognise my name from that. I’m very fortunate to have had that experience, and it’s helped me with exposure for sure. But the biggest challenge has been to make sure that doesn’t become the defining moment of my golf career.
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You needed one year after turning pro to earn a US PGA Tour card and join a lot of other twentysomethings in making the quick jump from college. Why has this become so common?
We’re all friends and have had success at the amateur and college level, so once you see one of them break through in the pros, it becomes something we all feel like we can do. Jordan Spieth kind of opened the floodgates for our generation. The guy won his Masters when he was 21 and has three Majors at 24. Well, we all played against him as juniors and amateurs, and we all held our own.
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Is there something, though, about your development that explains your collective success?
In my generation, there are more amateurs who played in professional tournaments before they turned pro. When you have experience at that level – when you’re not playing for any money but you’re learning and you’re seeing how the courses are – that’s invaluable. I played in three US Opens by the time I was 21. I knew exactly what I was getting into when I got out here. Now, did I learn things since I’ve gotten out here? Of course, but the reality is, I wasn’t shell-shocked when I showed up as a pro.
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What has been the biggest surprise playing on tour full-time?
Just how much each week takes out of you, not physically but mentally. There’s a lot going on at the tournament outside of the golf. It’s kind of a travelling circus that keeps you busy all the time. I played six weeks in a row earlier this year, and that was a lot. That last week, it was Riviera, my favourite course, and the tournament I was most looking forward to. Well, I was exhausted and played terrible. From that point on, I vowed I was going to do my best not to play more than three in a row.
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Do you have to be a little cocky to be a pro golfer?
Inwardly, yes. Obviously you don’t want to act that way on the outside, but if you’re not confident, you’ve got no chance.
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So are you a little cocky?
Certainly at times when I’m playing well. At all times you’re trying to play your best golf. And when you’re in that killer mindset to win a tournament, that’s where you want to get to when you tee off on Thursday.
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What was the toughest part of the transition to the pro ranks?
It’s going to sound strange, because you don’t have classes to deal with anymore, but finding time to practise. You turn pro, and you go from being an All-American basically back to ground zero. You’re starting at nothing. You have your résumé, but that’s it. So then you run around trying to play wherever you can to earn status. I played nine straight weeks on the Web .com Tour last year. The challenge then is time management and how you prioritise things when you’re home. You’re there really for very short periods of time, so you don’t have enough time to accomplish what you need to. There’s a fine line between being home and getting away from golf, and being home and accomplishing things to be ready for the next tournament.
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You decided to have a childhood friend, Jordan Guilford, be your full-time caddie rather than hire a veteran. Why?
It’s about being comfortable out there, and I think having someone you have a really good relationship with is very important. Particularly when you’re playing and it’s new, you want to be able to look and see a familiar face on your bag. He’s gone from a very good friend and a good caddie to obviously still a very good friend and
an extraordinary caddie.
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At the 2016 NCAA championship, you tore the labrum in your left shoulder in the middle of the semi-final match. You’re one day away from the finals, two days away from turning pro. How difficult was that?
Yeah, I had everything pretty planned out in terms of that summer with tournaments and sponsors. It was a very emotional high just getting to that point, and then when I got hurt it was a bummer. I tried to keep a good attitude, but I had never had a major injury before. Fortunately, everything worked out. But when you have your career really in jeopardy over something like that, because you don’t know how bad it is until [the doctors] get in there, and it was bad. But you have to keep a long-term approach and realise the No.1 priority is just getting healthy.
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You had surgery and a layoff before you finally started your pro career. You had no Web .com status, but you had sponsors’ exemptions lined up. Was your game ready?
Not really. I was basically in a spot where I had six months to get healthy, but there’s a difference in getting healthy and getting tournament ready. Healthy means I go play golf and my shoulder doesn’t hurt. Tournament ready is, I’m going to play golf, and I’m totally dialled in. And I was not near that. I was literally, Let’s just physically get ready to go play 72 holes. I was just a shell of myself for most of the year. I didn’t have the ball speed I normally have. But once I got some status, I wasn’t going to stop playing. I wanted to do whatever I could to earn a PGA Tour card.
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When did you feel like, OK, I’m back?
It’s going to sound crazy, but not until the Sony in January. Even though I missed the cut that week, I was absolutely bombing it off the tee. And I was like, This is where I should be. And that whole stretch on the West Coast swing, I played some really, really good rounds, and I played some poor ones, too, but for the most part I felt I had my game back.
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In hindsight, was there a benefit at all to the delay rather than jumping into a pro career right away?
No doubt about it. I’m a better person because of it. I have more realistic expectations. I certainly appreciated golf a lot more than I ever had in my life when I came back.
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There is now a rule in college golf, dubbed the Beau Hossler Rule, that allows teams to substitute for an injured player in matchplay at the NCAA championship. Do you get a kick out of having a connection to that?
Honestly, I’m not really a big advocate for the rule, and I’ll tell you why. I think a substitution makes sense, but there’s a slippery slope with how it’s set up. A coach can basically claim anything to be an injury and swap out a player who’s not playing well. I think that’s crap. It needs to be a situation where we can all agree that this guy is actually hurt. If they can make it work where it’s really used for the right reasons, I think it’s a great rule. But I’m just saying it’s kind of hard to monitor that, isn’t it?
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What would you say is your perfect non-golf day?
Going to Game 7 and watching the Dodgers win the World Series.
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What was it like to watch the World Series last year? (The LA Dodgers lost to the Houston Astros in Game 7.)
It was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. You know how difficult it was to get to that point. It’s one of those things, you’re [cheering] so hard that you don’t even really enjoy watching the games. You just want it to be over, and you want them to win, because it’s so stressful to watch. I was so focused on the result, I didn’t even get to really appreciate them playing in the World Series.
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More stressful to watch them in the world series than play in a US Open?
Oh, for sure. Way more. Put it this way: I was playing in the final group in Las Vegas that same week, tied for the lead in my third PGA Tour start as a member, and I was way more nervous watching them play in Game 7 than I was playing.
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If you could have a mulligan for anything in your career so far, what would it be?
That’s tough. You change one shot and you totally change the experience from what you learned, and I’m not sure I’d want to do that. I guess it would be getting injured in the final of the NCAA Championship rather than the day before [in the semi-final], so I could have played in the championship and we maybe could have won. I wouldn’t even need to avoid the injury – just wait one day.
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Is there a hobby you’d like to try?
I don’t think there’s anything I’d do all that seriously until I was actually done playing golf. If I’m going to do something, I want to be all in on it. But I think it would be really cool to take a golf course that’s struggling and create your own golf club. Where all you have is the locker room and a lounge area; you don’t have a pool or tennis courts or anything like that. And you have a limited membership where you don’t make tee-times. They keep the golf course in a players’ condition with a little bit of rough and the greens are firm. Where you can have really good players look forward to going out there and being challenged on a daily basis.
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Is there a place you’re thinking you’d model it after?
There’s a club near Palm Springs called Plantation Golf Club. They just have a small, regular clubhouse and keep the course in exquisite condition. And they have cool practice areas and a really good playing membership. I think stuff like that is pretty cool, where you can go out and have a game with anybody.
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What’s the first website you check out each morning?
I go on Twitter for pretty much all of my news.
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Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: what’s your favourite?
I definitely post the most stuff on Instagram, whether it’s photos or videos. And then I would say I consume Twitter the most. It’s where you can learn more, whether it’s links to articles or direct feedback from people.
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Other apps to kill time?
I use the realtor .com app a lot. I like to keep up with stuff. I’ve always been very entrepreneurial and business-minded. With my sponsors, I’ll do photo shoots with them and try to dive into the business model of what they do and try to see what makes them click. I think it’s fun. The thing we’re really lucky about in golf, whether it’s pro-ams or sponsors with tournaments or your own sponsors, we really have access to a really wide variety of industries, which is cool.
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Who has been your most interesting pro-am partner?
Man, I play a lot and probably will forget some really big ones. I played with this guy Jesse Biter in Hawaii. He lives in Sarasota. He got started in tech. He’s a pretty young guy, and now he’s investing in that whole Sarasota area in different things, real estate and whatnot. He’s done some really good things for the community. And he tries to give back a lot.
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What aspect of your game still needs the most work?
My patience level, for sure. I’m not trying to be perfect, but it’s tough to swallow sometimes the fact that you’re playing 30 weeks and you want to see the results right now. The reality is, sometimes it’s just not always going to be there. But you’ve got to put the work in, and if you stick to a quality process, it will happen.