ryson DeChambeau has converted himself into one of the world’s biggest stars – literally – in just a few years as a professional. He was a goofy youngster who “didn’t hit it anywhere” and looked like “the biggest 3-year-old you’ve ever seen” before becoming a U.S. Open champion, multiple-time PGA Tour winner, and even hotshot amateur with victories at the NCAA Championship and U.S. Amateur in the same year.
Josh Gregory, now an assistant on the PGA Tour, was the newly hired head coach at SMU following back-to-back NCAA championships at Augusta State at the time. Gregory was hoping to strengthen the Mustangs program with a blue-chip signing, as he recently told Golf.com’s Subpar Podcast, and DeChambeau’s name came up – but with a few warning labels: different, not well-liked, terrible attitude.
Gregory was nevertheless interested by DeChambeau’s findings.
“I picked up the phone, phoned Bryson, and said, ‘Hey, Bryson, my name is Josh Gregory, you don’t know who I am, I don’t know who you are, I just won two national titles at Augusta, I’m going to SMU, and I’m going to rebuild this program as fast as I can,'” Gregory recalled. “And I said, ‘Over the phone, I’m going to award you a full scholarship, sight unseen.’ And the child is on the verge of tears because he does not come from a wealthy family.
“He was being recruited by UCLA, Stanford, Washington, and everyone else on the West Coast, and his desire was to attend Stanford, and I knew the only way to beat Stanford was to get in early.” They have the ultimate trump card: Tiger Woods, one of the best universities in the country, and perhaps the best place to play collegiate golf… ‘I’m flying down to Torrey Pines tomorrow to watch you compete in the Junior Worlds,’ I added. I’m merely coming out there to keep an eye on you.’ I’m not sure what I’m getting.
“Here’s what Gregory observed when he arrived in Torrey: “I go out there,” Gregory recounts, “and I see this kid with a pull cart….” He’s wearing a Payne Stewart cap. All of his irons are the same length. He’s swinging a zero-shift plane – I guess that’s what he was calling it because the club never – anyhow, it wasn’t even one plane; it was wacko – at this point. He is, however, stripping it. He didn’t hit it anyplace, but he ripped it to shreds. And when I say the worst attitude I’ve ever seen, I really mean it: pounding clubs, swearing, pouting, and looking like the largest 3-year-old you’ve ever seen.
“However, I am unconcerned. Because, believe it or not, I am capable of resolving this issue…. I can’t turn 76 into 68, but I can turn 68 into 65 by teaching them how to play the game and having a positive mindset. I’ll never forget a coach who asked, ‘Why are you taking that kid?’ I won’t say who it was. ‘What are you talking about?’ I asked. I mean, why wouldn’t I? He has a 4.0 in class and scores a 68 every time he tees it up on the golf course.’ He’ll be great if all I do is keep him out of trouble and get him to the tee on time.”
He was, in fact. DeChambeau went on to win the 2015 NCAA individual title and subsequently the U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills, despite Gregory only coaching him for two years after NCAA violations forced him to retire shortly before DeChambeau’s junior year.
After winning low amateur honors at the Masters the following year, DeChambeau went pro, and the rest, as they say, is history.