Men’s Golf: Pat Goss Q-and-A

Pat Goss gives a golfer guidance on a putt. The longtime mentor has stayed busy in his new role as director of golf and player development.

Daily file photo by Andy Gottesman

Pat Goss gives a golfer guidance on a putt. The longtime mentor has stayed busy in his new role as director of golf and player development.

Kevin Casey, Reporter


Pat Goss is a busy man.

The Northwestern alum gave up his men’s golf head coaching role of 18 years in September to associate head coach David Inglis in order to move up in the program with the additional title of Director of Player Development. Goss remains NU’s Director of Golf, where he oversees both golf programs at the school.

Goss is also back as the swing coach for Luke Donald, a former Wildcat as well and an ex-No. 1 player in the world. And he’s also in the midst of writing a book.

The Daily sat down with Goss last week to talk about his role change, the state of the NU’s golf programs, the reunited partnership with Donald and some thoughts on Masters preparation.

Daily: So this head coaching change was announced in September, but when did you guys start thinking about it?

Pat Goss: Last winter and spring. I had a 10-year contract that was up at the end of August, so we re-did that. But the biggest goal was that David Inglis has done a phenomenal job and is really somebody that I wanted us to be able to keep. We had already promoted him to associate head coach, so this was really the next step.

Daily: Inglis was a national assistant of the year candidate a couple of times, was he getting any offers from other schools?

PG: Yes, he was getting pursued for very high level assistant and associate head coaching jobs, he’s been called about for a few head coaching jobs. David’s incredibly well respected in the college golf world. He’s only been in it five years and he might have more friends that are coaches than I do. This summer we were ultimately getting calls from Stanford, Alabama, Texas Tech, Arizona State, UCLA, were all places that tried to hire him.

Daily: Did you feel it was also time for you to transition more into an instruction role?

PG: Well, the other part for me was that fundraising has become more critical than ever. There have been some rule changes in college golf that ultimately will really help us, but they’ve made it expensive. We’re traveling more players, we’re taking more trips, we’re taking more nights away, all of that. For me, I need more office time to focus on those fundraising relationships and building that support system so that we can continue to compete at the highest level.

Daily: What do you think David brings to the team that differs from yourself as head coach?

PG: I’d say my biggest strength is individual player development, for sure. I think I really understand what it takes to be a professional golfer and what it takes to develop those skills at a very high level. David’s strengths are that he’s the best in course management I’ve ever been around. That’s a huge contribution, he’s teaching our players how to manage the game, and we’ve got some kids who’ve got to continue to learn to manage it better, he’s very good there.

Daily: So you’re back to working with Luke Donald on his swing since the fall, what was that time like when he was with Chuck Cook and the emotions when he called you to say he wanted to reunite?

PG: We stayed really closed during that year, and obviously he is an incredible ambassador for Northwestern golf. He’s incredibly generous financially and with his time, I don’t think there’s a Tour player who does more for his alma mater than Luke does for Northwestern. Obviously with his game, I stepped back and worked purely on his short game with him. I was disappointed, but I always understood that it was the nature of the business. I was shocked to get the call to reunite, I didn’t anticipate it. I thought we’d already been there and done that, and it was time for him to move on.

Daily: You are back together now, though, and Luke said in the past that maybe he wanted a major too much, how much are you guys focusing on that now, or what is the main focus?

PG: The main focus now is strictly getting him back to his strengths. The hard part with Luke, and we see it out on Tour a lot with players, Luke Donald got to No. 1 in the world through some very solid strengths, he was a great iron player, a great putter, great short game, arguably the best in the world in those three. But he had hit a point in 2012 or even when he was No. 1 in 2011 where he became very consumed with winning a major and became more and more consumed with the idea that he didn’t drive it well enough to win a major championship. And the more he pursued fixing that weakness, he didn’t get better at the weakness and he actually lost his strengths.

Daily: How do you think these changes back to the norm are sinking in?

PG: It’s been slow, for sure. We’re seeing a lot of progress at home, we’re just not seeing it on the road yet. Putting is the big one. His putting has looked phenomenal at home, as good as I’ve ever seen it in the whole time I’ve coached him. Every time I go and spend a few days with Luke, I tell Inglis that you can’t believe how good Luke’s putting is. And then he’ll go play competitively and not putt at that level. And I think it’s mainly confidence. Just like any athlete, he played poorly for too long and it has sunk in to his psyche. Fundamentally, he can do exactly what he wants to do consistently, but that ball’s just not going in. And at that point, you start questioning your reads, his speed’s been inconsistent which is something we’ve never really dealt with. That’s an innate thing that Luke works very hard at.

Daily: So you, Luke and the guys who wrote “Freakonomics” were planning on writing a book, what’s the progress there?

PG: It’s slow, but we’ve done a lot of golf research. Something we’ve found in our research is that we have empirical evidence that David Inglis is the best at course management. We did some amateur golf research where we caddied for them, and it’s incredible to see how much David helped these guys. We’ve made a lot of progress, we’ve been held up internally with their having to write other books for Harper Collins. 2016 is what they’re telling us.

Daily: What’s your relationship with Emily Fletcher and Beth Miller like with the women’s golf program?

PG: My biggest role with the women’s program is to make sure that they are supported and they have the resources necessary to do what they need to do. When we took this over and Emily and I started working together, we really had to improve the schedule, we had to get better practice facilities, we started hosting a tournament that really helped us improve out schedule. My role is in the background, I have a strong intimate knowledge of their operation. But it’s theirs to go run.

Daily: What are your thoughts on the future of both NU programs?

PG: For the women, we’re going to have the deepest team we’ve ever had next year. We lose Hana Lee this year, but we have a whole bunch of good players behind her and a great recruiting class next year. They are right on the precipice of making themselves the clear best team in the Big Ten and a team that is one of the top 10 teams in the country. The men’s team, the future is very good. Our recruiting is the best it’s been and we’ve got three good players coming in and we have good players at home.We knew this was going to be a tricky year after Fitzpatrick left and Whalen redshirting. I have no doubt that our men’s program will be on the top of the Big Ten and a top 10 or 15 team again.

Daily: What are you preparing Luke for at the Masters?

PG: Putting. Luke took some time off because of a wrist nuisance, but a good thing is that he is a member at the Bear’s Club and they will take the one green for the Tour players there and speed it up. Basically, they make it ridiculous and it’ll get so fast, so he can really do a lot of great speed work and figure out how much break he has to play. And there’s some specific short game for Augusta we needed to work on.

Daily: Do you have any long term goals when it comes to Luke? Or is it more day by day?

PG: We really want to see daily improvements. A one percent improvement each day, stacking those improvements upon each other, build your confidence that way. We’ve talked at length about this, but Luke and I don’t really know what he can achieve. Our goal is do the things you need to do, be the player you can be and let the results take care of themselves. If that means winning five majors great, one major, great, if you don’t win any, you’ve had an amazing career.

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