Talor Gooch is someone you should get to know.
Talor Gooch modified his Power Wheels Jeep to carry his toy golf clubs when he was two years old.
At the age of three, he would accompany his father to the golf course and occasionally hit a few strokes from the fairway. He made an albatross and broke 80 as a 6-year-old. He’d already gotten 150 yards out of it. Three years later, he was a global champion, winning the second U.S. Kids Golf World Championship.
Gooch’s adventures attracted a lot of attention in Midwest City, an Oklahoma City suburb with a population of about 50,000 people. He was excellent enough to sign with Oklahoma State, one of the nation’s top golf programs, by the time he graduated from Carl Albert High School, where he won 19 of his 40 matches, including a state individual title. Mike Gundy, the Cowboys’ veteran football coach and a Midwest City native, was familiar with Gooch.
“I’m aware of your existence. According to Mike McGraw, the Cowboys’ former golf instructor, Gundy replied, “You’re a hometown icon.”
Now, the ‘hometown hero’ is a PGA TOUR winner and the FedExCup leader heading into the opening tournament of the year.
Gooch won the election in November, just a few days after his 30th birthday. After starting the final round of The RSM Classic with the first 54-hole lead of his career, he put in a strong performance on Sunday. He made 16 putts and didn’t make a bogey on his way to being only the seventh player in the last four years to hold a 54-hole lead and subsequently win with a score of 64 or lower.
What about the others? Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson, Joaquin Niemann, and Si Woo Kim are among the top golfers in the world. Three previous World No. 1s are among the members of this group. Except for one, every single one of them has won a major or THE PLAYERS.
The Sentry Tournament of Champions kicks off the PGA TOUR’s 2022 season this week. Because to his debut at Kapalua, Gooch had to cancel his yearly mates’ trip. He doesn’t seem to mind. For the former sensation, this may be his big season.
In all but one of his six starts during the fall section of the season, he finished 11th or better. He leads second-ranked Sam Burns by 122 points with 852 FedExCup points. Gooch was able to launch the Talor Gooch Foundation, which will support children’s issues, as a result of his success and winning RSM’s Birdies Fore Love, which offers $300,000 to charity to the player who makes the most birdies or better in the fall.
It wasn’t always so straightforward. On the other hand, it’s not always the case. The exceptions are the Morikawas and Hovlands, which we can overlook. Gooch, on the other hand, was prepared for the difficulties that come with so many pro-golf careers. He grew up surrounded by sports, beginning with his father, Ron, who was a member of the Texas Rangers organization, and he understood the importance of self-belief in order to succeed, especially in the face of adversity.
Kelsey Cline, Gooch’s mentor and a former University of Oklahoma golfer, stated, “Any athlete will tell you if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.” “Golf gets tricky, and we all make it difficult for ourselves.” Self-confidence and ball control are the two most crucial factors. “The rest will be taken care of by itself.”
Growing up in Oklahoma’s windy climate aided in the development of the latter. On blustery days at The RSM, he’s one of the top iron players on the TOUR, and his low “stinger” tee shots were crucial. Earlier in his career, the former had been hardened by his experiences.
Before making it to the PGA TOUR, he had to undergo two seasons on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada and a scare at Q-second School’s stage, which left him wondering whether he’d have to work at Best Buy to bankroll his career.
In 2018, his rookie season was cut short due to the removal of his appendix. He tried to brazen it out and keep playing instead of obtaining a medical extension. For the next season, he was granted conditional status, and at Torrey Pines, he shared the leaderboard with some of the game’s top names to prove he belonged.
“One thing I’ve learned from my father and all these great athletes I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with is don’t get down, and don’t let anyone see you’re sad,” Gooch said. “It’s okay to feel frustrated, but get back up, dust yourself off, and keep going.”
Ron Gooch was a minor league baseball player with the Texas Rangers, with over 1,600 plate appearances and a.271 batting average. In almost 100 games at Triple A, he hit.293 but never made it to the majors.
Talor played childhood rounds with Sam Bradford while the Heisman Trophy winner was thriving at Oklahoma thanks to his bond with Cline. J.T. Realmuto, the All-Star catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, attended Carl Albert at the same time as Gooch, and the two are still friends today.
Wyndham Clark, Gooch’s former Oklahoma State teammate, refers to him as “a gamer” for his toughness and ability to get the ball in the hole. Gooch won a competition in high school less than 48 hours after his clubs were taken from his car; he shot 68 with a backup set and a driver borrowed from his coach. Another former Cowboy, Charles Howell III, describes Gooch as “quietly confident.”
That is evidenced by his decision to attend Oklahoma State. He was aware that people doubted his ability to make the Cowboys’ starting lineup, which included three first-team All-Americans (two reached No. 1 in the world amateur ranking, while another was the son of a major champion). Every event began with Gooch as a freshman.
“You’re not going to make it long if you don’t have that little bit of tenacity to go prove people wrong,” he remarked.
Gooch finished third in the Farmers Insurance Open in his second TOUR season, despite only having conditional status. Only Justin Rose, the world’s No. 1 player and the defending FedExCup champion, and Adam Scott were able to defeat Gooch. He equaled Hideki Matsuyama for second place, with Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, and Jason Day trailing him on the leaderboard.
Gooch finished fifth at the PLAYERS this year, trailing only Justin Thomas, Lee Westwood, Bryson DeChambeau, and Brian Harman in the tournament with the best field in the game. In October, he scored a final-round 62 in THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT to join McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, and Rickie Fowler, another Oklahoma State product.
Gooch stated, “I want to be the greatest and fight against the best.”
This year, he’ll have more opportunities. With his RSM victory, he climbed to a career-high 32nd place in the world rankings. In April, he’ll play in the Masters for the first time, and owing to his tremendous fall haul, he’ll almost certainly qualify for his first TOUR Championship.
Gooch’s playing has improved since a coaching change in March. At THE PLAYERS, he began studying with Boyd Summerhays, better known as Tony Finau’s instructor. Since 2011, Gooch has been ranked fifth in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green (behind only Daniel Berger, Collin Morikawa, Paul Casey and Justin Thomas).
Summerhays’ itinerary at TPC Sawgrass was already filled due to his commitments to his other TOUR pupils, but a caddy advised him not to pass up the chance to practice with Gooch.
Summerhays, an Oklahoma State alum, said, “Everything I had heard about him being a competitor, a dog, having that fight, I saw from the beginning.” “When I told my caddie that Gooch could be coming to meet me, he said, ‘Trust me, Talor has the ‘it factor.'” I didn’t think twice about it. “I have faith in my friend’s judgment.”
Summerhays, on the other hand, couldn’t meet with Gooch until the night before THE PLAYERS. At 4:30 p.m., he texted Gooch to see if it was too late, but Gooch didn’t hesitate to show up. On the eve of one of the year’s most important events, they worked till 7 p.m.
Gooch is no stranger to late afternoons on the course. After his baseball career ended, his father’s love became golf. Talor quickly inquired whether he could attend the training as well.
“I wanted to play golf, but I didn’t want to leave him out of anything,” Ron said of his 6-year-old prodigy in a 1988 piece in The Daily Oklahoman. “You may either feel bad or take him and increase your handicap.”
Ron picked the latter, and Talor immediately gained notoriety, which is why he was profiled in the local newspaper at such a young age. On the par-4s, Talor would tee it up from 150 yards, while on the par-5s, he would tee it up from 175 yards. After striking his drive around 30 yards from the green and holing out with an 8-iron on the par-5 16th at John Conrad Regional Golf Course, he made two. “Yes!” he said, sprinting for his ball, according to the newspaper.
Conrad became a second home for me.
Ron told the Oklahoman, “I might go get a sandwich at Conrad, and he’ll go hit two buckets of balls.” Conrad is “your standard muni,” according to Talor, with flat fairways and shaggy greens. He was shaped by his humble roots.
His family would regularly spend up to 15 hours in the car driving to tournaments when he was a young golfer, and they struggled to make ends meet.
“So much of my makeup comes from where I started, not having the best of things… and trying to make the best of what I have,” Gooch said on the Talk of the TOUR podcast. “I had everything I wanted, but I had to go to work to acquire it.”
This week at Kapalua, that includes a PGA TOUR victory and a place among the game’s elite. Talor Gooch’s determination helped him to keep his word.