There are flashy ways to leave your mark on the game at a relatively early age, like, say, shooting 58 or winning 14 majors. And then there are less glamorous but equally important ways, like discovering how to use restaurant grease to fuel greenskeepers' mowers or designing technology that makes golf easier and more fun to play (with the simple twist of a wrench!). These 40 peopleall under the age of 40have followed both paths. They are the game's up-and-coming generation of influencers, trendsetters and newsmakers, an eclectic mix of talent worth watching today and for many years to come.
Nominees for this ranking were solicited from
a variety of sources, including but not limited
to the PGA Tour, the LPGA, the United States
Golf Association, The First Tee, the Golf
Course Superintendents Association of
America, the American Society of Golf
Course Architects, leading equipment
manufacturers, and the editorial staff
of the Sports Illustrated Golf Group.
The finalists were determined by a
panel of Golf Magazine editors.
Ricke Fowler, 21, golfer, PGA TOUR
Pairs a skater 'cut and love of motocross with a killer homegrown swing that earned him two second-place finishes during his rookie season in 2010 and a ticket to the Ryder Cup. Titleist and Puma wasted little time signing him.
Natalie Gulbis, 27, golfer, LPGA Tour
She's won just one LPGA event, so there are plenty of players with more game. But better looks and marketability? Hardly. Gulbis has 16 sponsors, a modeling career and the ultimate branding vehicle: her own reality show.
Alexis 'Lexi' Thompson, 15, golfer, LPGA Tour
Qualified for the U.S. Women's Open at age 12, turned pro this past June and a month later finished just a shot back at the Evian Masters. The LPGA hasn't had a young player grab the public's interest and hold it since Nancy Lopez back in the 1970s. Maybe Lexi can do it.
Ryo Ishikawa, 19, golfer, Japan Golf Tour/PGA Tour
The Bashful Prince, as they call him, has won eight times on the Japanese Tour, the first W coming at age 15, and earlier this year shot a 58 in competition. Seems destined to be a star on the international level Ã la Isao Aoki and Jumbo Ozaki, and maybe snare Japan's long-sought first men's major championship.
Lorena Ochoa, 28, retired LPGA player
Retired from competitive golf earlier this year when she was the world's top player so she could focus on family and her foundation, which helps marginalized children and teenagers. She also helps fund La Barranca Educational Center, near Guadalajara, where more than 300 kids are educated and fed.
Rory McIlroy, 21, golfer, European Tour and PGA Tour
He's won twiceat Quail Hollow this year (thanks to a final-round 62) and in Dubai lastand finished tied for third at both the British Open and PGA. Major titles are imminent for the most buzzed-about Euro comer since Sergio Garcia (remember him?).
Anthony Kim, 25, golfer, PGA Tour
One of only five players in the past 30 years to win three Tour events before age 25, Kim was also a stud at the '08 Ryder Cup (2-1-1, including a 5-and-4 beatdown of Sergio Garcia). He struggled with injuries in 2010, but few doubt that he will quickly return to form.
Michelle Wie, 21, golfer, LPGA Tour
In 2006, Time named her one of "100 People Who Shape Our World." Things didn't quite work out that way. She finally won an LPGA event late last year, and has been on the bounceif slowlysince she dumped the William Morris Agency as her handler and switched to IMG. She went 3-0-1 in the Solheim Cup for the U.S. last year, by far her best performance as a pro. She's still only 21, even if it feels like she's been on the scene for 30 years.
Tiger Woods, 34, golfer, PGA Tour
It has been a year he'd love to forget, though a recent Harris Poll showed he's still tied as the most popular athlete in America with Kobe Bryant. Dubious company, for sure, but a big indicator that really all Tiger needs to do to regain his standing with the public is, in the words of Al Davis, "Just win, baby."
Sean Foley, 36, teacher, Core Golf Academy
Seemingly on the verge of becoming Tiger Woods's next swing coach, Foley mixes physics, kinetics, psychology, philosophy and a dash of hiphop with mechanical advice for the likes of Sean O'Hair, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose.
Matt Killen, 25, teacher, The Club at Olde Stone (Bowling Green, Ky.)
Still the reigning boy wonder of teaching, his good ol' boy students include Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes. Killen was only 19 when Perry started heeding his advice.
Gio Valiante, 39, sports psychologist
An associate professor of education at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., Valiante has helped Tour players such as Camilo Villegas, Chris DiMarco, Justin Leonard, Matt Kuchar, David Duval, Vijay Singh, Stuart Appleby and Fred Funk identify their performance fears and conquer them. Four of his PGA Tour clients have won this year, including Appleby, who shot a 59.
Donald (Donnie) Trump Jr., 32, real estate developer
He's handling the development of the controversial Trump course in Aberdeen, Scotland, for the old man. In the end, the site will have 900 apartments, villas and a 400-room hoteland the very traditional-sounding Scottish name, Trump International Golf Links.
Pete Bevacqua, 38, chief business officer, USGA
After serving as the managing director of the U.S. Open from '03 to '07, Bevacqua brought corporate partnership to the USGA for the first time, signing sponsorship agreements with RBS, IBM, American Express and Lexus. He also helped to implement the "Virtual U.S. Open Championship," an online video game that allowed users to compete with each other during the actual tournament. He oversees the USGA's broadcasting, membership, communications and digital media operations.
Robbie Henchman, 38, senior vice president, IMG Golf
International Management Group (IMG) is the game's heavyweight champ of behind-the-scenes operators. Henchman runs the booming Asia Pacific region for the company, and he built the LPGA tournament platform in Asia (where women's golf is far and away at its most popular), revamped the Australian Masters, and played a key role in developing HSBC Champions into the biggest tournament in Asia (and a WGC event).
Kevin Lynch, 37, head of recruiting, IMG
Over the past two years, Lynch (a former golf coach at Northwestern, Richmond and Kent State) has mined the amateur ranks to bring Danny Lee, Ryo Ishikawa, Jamie Lovemark, Matteo Manassero and Matt Hill into the IMG fold.
Alissa Super, 37, vice president, SFX World
She reps her brother (Tim Herron) and LPGA legend Juli Inkster, in addition to several rising LPGA players. She's known as a savvy marketer, and she's a pretty good stick herself (she won the '99 U.S. Women's Mid-Am).
Laura Hill, 34, senior director of communications, PGA Tour
Primary media liaison for the Tour's Championship Management arm, which includes the Players and Tour championships, WGC events, Barclays and the Northern Trust. No small chore in the eye of the Tiger storm this year.
Elizabeth Hutter, 35, producer, The Golf Channel
The only woman golf producer in the TV biz, she's in charge of TGC's LPGA Tour coverage. Among innovations she's helped implement are players wearing live microphones during Tour events, analysts interviewing players at the turn, and the "walk and talk," where an on-course commentator joins a player after her tee shot and chats with her.
Alan Hocknell, 39, senior vice president, research and development, Callaway Golf
For years the force behind clubs at Callaway, Hocknell now drives the development of balls, Odyssey putters and electronic devices.
Matt Pringle, 38, manager of research and development, USGA
Inventor of the TruFirm device used to measure the firmness of greens to insure consistency. Also developed the Pendulum Tester, which is used to measure COR for driver heads. Lead engineer for the USGA's groove research over the past few years, and co-inventor of the GrooveScan portable measurement system.
Nate Radcliffe, 32, metalwoods development manager, Cleveland Golf
Co-developer of the HiBORE driver, which led golf into the geometry era of drivers and woods. Currently leading research on ultra-light metalwoods to reduce total weight of the club to generate greater swing speed.
Nathan Sargent, 30, R&D expert, TaylorMade
A mechanical engineer in the company's metalwoods division, Sargent developed a core feature in the R9 driver called "Flight Control Technology (FCT)," which enables golfers to adjust the left-to-right ball flight trajectory with a simple twist of a wrench. In 2009, the R9 was the game's best-selling driver.
Michael Nicklaus 38, design associate, Nicklaus Design, and owner/broker, Golden Bear Realty
He may never design as many courses as his old man, but the youngest son of Jack and Barbara Nicklaus took the lead on Applecross CC near Philadelphia, which debuted this summer. Baby Bear also runs Golden Bear Realty, a luxe real estate firm with nearly 40 agents in North Palm Beach, Fla.
Stacy Bonos, 39, turfgrass researcher, Rutgers University
Working to improve dollar spot resistance in bentgrasses and increased salinity tolerance of coolseason grasses. Think of her when you don't see any blotches on your course.
Christopher Gray, 38, superintendent, Marvel G.C. (Benton, Ky.)
Has won several environmental awards for his innovative thinking. Our favorite: modifying mowers to be fueled by grease collected from nearby restaurants.
Eric Greytok, 37, superintendent, Belfair G.C. (Bluffton, S.C.)
How's this for rÃ©sumÃ© fodder: the youngest super ever to host two U.S. Opens (2000 at Pebble Beach and '06 at Winged Foot).
Jason Straka, 38, senior designer, Hurdzan/Fry Golf Course Design
In a show of respect from his peers, Straka was one of the youngest members of the American Society of Golf Course Architects ever elected to its board of governors. He's currently working on a project in Brazil called Aguas Belas, and his Dundarave GC in Prince Edward Island has garnered acclaim despite its relatively low cost to build.
Bryce Swanson, 38, senior designer, Rees Jones Inc.
His recent refurbishing work at Atlanta Athletic Club's Highlands Course in preparation for the 2011 PGA Championship has drawn rave reviews. He's also done a facelift at Royal Montreal's Blue Course, and rebuilt Bellerive C.C. in St. Louis, a former host of several major championships.
GOOD OF THE GAME
Justin Timberlake, 29, entertainer
The pop star is the host of the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, which benefits a network of hospitals that provide free care to children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip. He's also the owner of Mirimichi GC in Tennessee, the first course in the U.S. to be designated as a certified Audubon International Classic Sanctuary and to have certification from the Golf Environmental Organization.
Amy Mickelson, 38, inspirer
The most high-profile Tour wife is in the throes of a brave battle with breast cancer that has given hope to many families and raised awareness of the disease among PGA Tour players and fans. Amy and a victorious Phil embracing at the Masters was the highlight of the 2010 season.
Dan Rooney, 37, PGA professional, founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation and Patriot Golf Day
This guy deserves his own gatefold. Folds of Honor provides scholarships to the spouses and children of troops injured or killed in conflict. Patriot Golf Day is a nationwide fund-raiser supported by the PGA of America, the USGA, the National Golf Course Owners Association and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. Rooney is the majority owner of Grand Haven GC in Michigan, as well as a residential developer. And, oh yeah, he's flown two combat tours in his F-16 over Iraq. Remember this guy next time you hear some Tour pro whine about fast greens.
Kevin Fletcher, 39, executive director, Audubon International
Golf courses have always been associated with green, but as "green" has taken on a new meaning and golf development has come under assault from some environmentalists, Fletcher and Audubon have embraced the game and its courses, educating developers and architects and publicizing the positive environmental, economic and social impacts of environmentally responsible course development and management.
Guy Garbarino, 34, director of outreach, The First Tee
Introduces and sells The First Tee National School Program to elementary schools across the United States. With 3,400 schools actively engaged, and a goal of 4,000 by year's end, Garbarino is helping thousands of kids learn golf fundamentals, and he's also doing what The First Tee program does bestpromote personal character and development by incorporating its "Nine Core Values" into the curriculum.
Joshua Jacobs, 34, founder/president/CEO, TGA-Premier Junior Golf
Since its inception in six Los Angeles schools in the fall of 2003, TGA is now nationwide in 2,100 schools, reaching 90,000 students from kindergarten to 8th grade in 21 states. Its fivelevel program includes not only golf instruction and self-esteem enhancers, but also fundamental math, science, English and history.
Dawes Marlatt, 38, director of education, PGA of America
Since joining the PGA in 2008 has led a complete overhaul of the membership process at the PGA. He's now engaged with a diverse team of experts to revise the curriculum for PGA professionals, with a focus on how best to employ technology to teach golf and manage facilities and events.
David Normoyle, 32, founder, Normoyle Historical Consulting
Former assistant director and historian of the USGA museum in sleepy Far Hills, N.J., Normoylea Ph.D. candidate at Cambridge is taking golf history to the people with his new firm that will help clubs, courses and resorts research and organize their individual histories. He's also the new Mr. Dottie Pepper.
Ben Sater, 19, philanthropist
At ages 2 and 10, Ben was a patient at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, in Dallas. He had trigger finger, a condition that can lead to permanent curling of the digits. At 11, he started KidSwing, a ninehole scramble for kids to raise money for the hospital. He raised $20,000 the first year, and this year, the eighth for KidSwing, he raised $128,000, for a total of more than a $1 million in less than a decade.
Kate Tempesta, 37, founder, Kate Tempesta's Urban Golf Academy
Golf in Gotham? Yep, Tempesta teaches hundreds of New York City kids the SNAG (Starting New At Golf) approach to the game in Central Park and playgrounds around Manhattan during the spring and on Long Island in the summer.
David Windsor, 39, teacher, Adaptive Golf Academy, Sarasota, Fla.
Has made it his life's mission to help injured veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam to learn golf, and has literally been a lifesaver for many of them. He has also developed new training curriculums that help hospitals around the country implement community adoptive golf programs online and train staff and therapists.