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 people—all under the age
of 40—have 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 twice—at Quail Hollow this year (thanks to a final-round 62)
and in Dubai last—and 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 bounce—if slowly—since 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
hotel—and 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.
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
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
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
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
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
best—promote 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., Normoyle—a 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,
hundreds of New York
City kids the SNAG
(Starting New At Golf)
approach to the game
in Central Park and
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
golf programs online
and train staff