Rickie Fowler's Right Hand Man

If you follow golf, and you've heard of Rickie Fowler, there's a good chance that you're familiar with Joe Skovron's work. Rickie Fowler's caddy since 2009, Joe also happens to be the son of PGCC Temecula's Country Club Management Instructor, Lou Skovron. Joe recently took some time out of his busy schedule to stop by the golf college and speak to our seniors about golf, and how he became a caddy for one of golf's youngest and fastest rising stars.

Joe Skovron at PGCC PGCC: Joe, there are different roads to becoming a professional caddy, what was your route?

Joe Skovron: My route was through competitive golf. I played competitively from 9 years old until I was 26. I played college golf at the University of La Verne, and played professionally for 3 years after I graduated. I got into caddying by accident.

It started when I would occasionally caddy for my mini tour roommate, Brendan Steele, at tournaments when I missed the cut. It turned into caddying part time for Brendan on the Nationwide Tour along with another friend of mine, Charlotte Mayorkas, who played the LPGA Tour.

Rickie [Fowler] asked me to work the Columbus Nationwide Tour event when he was still an amateur. That went well and it turned into my full time career when he turned pro that fall. ('09)

PGCC: You mentioned that the Ryder cup was probably the most exciting experience you've had to date. What was the highlight for you?

JS: The whole experience of the Ryder Cup was fantastic. From being in the locker room with the guys I looked up to as a kid, to the atmosphere surrounding the event, it was all pretty special.

I really think the way things unfolded in Rickie's singles match made the experience that much better. For him to come back from 4 down and halve that match to keep the US hopes of winning alive, that's pretty special stuff. I can’t really describe with words what those last few holes felt like. It’s something I will always remember.

PGCC: Replacing a caddy has been something of a hot topic recently. As a caddy you know that you can be replaced at any time, how do you deal with that kind of pressure and fragile job security?

Joe Skovron at PGCCJS: It’s definitely a reality in what we do. There is very little job security as a caddy. However, I don’t think you can caddy effectively if you are focused on that. I just go out every day and try to be the best caddy I can be for Rickie. I am always looking for little things I can do to improve, and make him as comfortable as possible over every shot.

While caddying doesn’t always have the best job security there are player-caddy relationships that have stood the test of time. My goal is for Rickie and me to have that kind of working and personal relationship that lasts for a long time.

PGCC: You have a line of really sharp golf apparel, Beyond The Links, how is that going? Do you have plans to expand?

JS: Actually, I recently sold Beyond The Links. It had gotten to a point where I couldn’t keep running the business while I was caddying. Beyond The Links was my passion at one time and I learned a lot of valuable lessons in my time spent building the company, but caddying has become my #1 priority and I want to keep it that way.

The new owner, Karl Schubert, is a friend of mine and a former college teammate. He is really excited about BTL and I wish him nothing but success with the brand. It would be very cool to see my vision become a reality at some point.

PGCC: You're caddying full time for a rising superstar, do you still make time to focus on your playing career?

JS: My playing career ended in October of 2007. In my three years as a pro I had some success on the mini/developmental tours, but not enough. My results were not where they needed to be to realistically pursue a career on the PGA Tour and I wasn’t making an adequate living off of playing golf. It wasn’t easy, but I hung up the clubs and haven’t looked back.

I have not played much golf the last couple of years but I was granted my amateur status again at the beginning of 2011. I plan on starting to play more golf in the future and maybe an amateur event here or there.

PGCC: As a former golf coach I'm sure you know a good deal about sports psychology. How does this influence your approach to caddying for Rickie?

Joe Skovron at PGCCJS: My background in golf, and sports in general, definitely benefits me as a caddy. I think it is very important to not only know the physical part of your player’s game but their mental habits as well. I think some guys get so caught up in numbers that they forget about the mental aspect of caddying.

These guys are on the PGA Tour for a reason. They were shooting low scores before they had a caddy. Sometimes it’s more important to say the right thing in between shots or make a joke at the right time then it is to give them 162 yards instead of 163.

In coaching and caddying, one thing I see as a constant is that the more your player enjoys playing the game the better the results will be.

Grad Takes Augusta's 19th Hole Design Contest

Sonny Pittman's 19th Hole DesignIt’s not every day that anybody asks you to improve upon perfection but the Augusta Chronicle did just that. The Chronicle urged readers to submit proposals for a 19th hole at the home of the Masters. Originally Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones planned on creating a 19th hole at Augusta National Golf Club, the hole was intended to tee off from the left of the 18th green.

MacKenzie, the co-designer of the course, was the inspiration for the contest. He had the idea to have a 19th hole so golfers could make a friendly wager, or play for double or nothing, though it was likely wiped from the drawing board because of the opinion that it lacked the flow that made the rest of the course feel seamless, not to mention that it would have been a distraction from the legendary 18th green. MacKenzie's plan was designed for golfers to exit the 18th green and head left, a tee would be built there, and the 90-yard, par 3 hole would play up the hill to where the practice putting green is currently situated.

When the Augusta Chronicle proposed the contest the guidelines were simple: use the course aerial as a guide; the hole must be a par-3, no more than 100 yards; the direction of the hole is toward the Par-3 Course so the tee can be anywhere behind the 18th green. The rules were simple enough, so the real show would be in the creativity and mastery of course design. As luck would have it, Sonny Pittman, a Fall 2011 graduate of the Professional Golfers Career College in Hilton Head, heard about the contest and decided to take a shot.

After retiring from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sonny, 64, elected to attend the golf college where part of the curriculum focuses on course design, though unbelievable he had yet to take any design courses when he took on this challenge. Pittman recalls “I wanted something that would be a challenge to the professional but would also be enjoyable for the members to play, so I kind of blended both.” His design had the uphill hole with a tee box located between the ninth and 18th green, this allows numerous pin placements, and be flanked in the front by a sand bunker and with a large grass bunker in the rear and the green, sized at approximately 6,500 square feet, would be level on the right and slightly downhill on the left.

Sonny Pittman's 19th Hole DesignThe draft, which took him Sonny about a month, would take much longer to approve than expected. “It took a year for me to find out I’d won, I kind of forgot about it until the next Masters came around.” A week before the legendary tournament Sonny received an email from an editor at the Chronicle informing him that his design had been chosen and that he’d be receiving and plaque, a book and concert tickets to Hootie and the Blowfish.

The Chronicle’s goal was to encourage the creative vision, if only on paper, that the original designers, Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, would have been pleased with. Pittman explains this challenge dovetailed seamlessly with his post-graduation goals, “I would like to get into the design and construction phase.” Or, he says he’d like to work at one of the military courses, “A lot of their military courses don’t have trained golf professionals, they have a manager, which is fine, but I think it’s important to have somebody who understands the business side and the golf side of it.”

President and Founder Awarded Life Membership to SCPGA

Dr. Somerville Receiving Lifetime Membership to SCPGADr. Tim Somerville, President and Founder of The Professional Golfers Career College, was presented a very special award on November 20, 2011. The Southern California section of the PGA, Inland Empire chapter, awarded Dr. Somerville its Honorary Life Member Award. This award was given in appreciation for his dedicated service to the game of golf, his distinctive contributions to the game and his love of the golf profession.

Over the last 31 years he's spent developing and refining golf education "Doc", as he is affectionately referred to around the campus, has taken the idea of a college dedicated to golf and made it a reality. In Dr. Somerville’s own words, every day the school is “Educating the future leaders in the world of golf” which is what they’ve done for literally thousands of students who have now graduated from the golf college.

Dr. Somerville was quoted as saying “With all humbleness, I accept this award on behalf of my staff and the students who make PGCC such a wonderful school to attend.”