Golf learns from former Tour pro

Two months ago Richard “Gator” Todd Jr. was working an insurance job.

“I wanted to pull my hair out,” Todd said.

After playing professionally for the last seven years, the former All-SEC golfer for Alabama found himself at a crossroad. He quit the professional circuit last November, but his love of golf never subsided. In August he was hired as the assistant coach for Marquette golf.

“I wanted to do something I was passionate about,” Todd said.

At age 11, Todd started playing the game of golf casually. He says he was burnt out from baseball and basketball. By 14, he truly fell in the love with the game — luckily he was quite good at it, too.

Todd received a scholarship offer from Alabama to play collegiate golf. When he arrived on campus, the golf program was ranked 98th in the nation. By his senior year they were No. 1 in the country.

Like any other Division I sport, golf is a huge time commitment for student-athletes.

“I feel like I went to college and majored in golf and minored in business,” Todd said with a chuckle. “Playing a college sport takes up so much time and that’s where most of my knowledge is.”

Todd wanted to find a job that allowed to him share his knowledge and experience. Coaching seemed to be a natural fit for the 30-year-old who has quite the impressive resume.

In addition to membership on the Tour back in 2012, Todd has also trained at Sea Island Golf Performance Center, a well-respected training center in Georgia. For five years, he was living with guys like Team USA Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and Zach Johnson, among many other successful PGA golfers.

“I’m really excited about what he is going to bring to the table,” head coach Steve Bailey said.

Breaking into the collegiate coaching ranks is not an easy thing to do. Todd cited the fact that golf coaches tend to stay at their position for long periods of time. There’s not a “coaching carousel” like in other sports like football where turnover can happen every other year. So when he heard about the opportunity at Marquette, he reached out to Bailey.

After a phone conversation, Bailey invited Todd to come up and visit the campus.

“Luckily, I guess I was the guy he chose,” Todd said. “(Bailey’s) just a class act and a wonderful guy to work for.”

As a coach, Todd believes that he can help this program grow in numerous ways. He’s hoping to pass down the instruction he received at Sea Island from 2010 PGA Teacher of the Year Todd Anderson.

“As far as teaching technique, I’m pretty knowledgeable there,” said Todd.

However, there is more to coaching than just tweaking swings or setting lineups — there’s the human element. Marquette golfers have to adjust to college life just like every other student on campus.

“I think I’m going to learn a lot from coach (Bailey) about the whole life coaching part of it,” Todd said.

The Golden Eagles will field a young roster for the 2016-’17 season. With just one senior on the roster, Marquette will have to depend on younger guys to play in possibly their first collegiate competition. At the age of 30, Todd views his youth as an advantage that will help him connect with the team.

“There’s nothing that they’re going through that I haven’t been through or seen myself,” said Todd. “I told them anything off the course, on the course, come talk to me.”

For many first-year coaches, relating to players ten years younger can be difficult. Fortunately, Gator Todd has an interesting icebreaker that might make the job easier.

“I used to bite people on the shoulder when I was a baby,” said Todd.

Todd says that his aunt gave him the “Gator” nickname when he was about two years old — he stuck with it ever since.

“My teachers called me that, my friends called me that, my family called me that,” said Todd. “I would say my name (at college) and they would be like, ‘Your name’s what?'”

Gator’s hoping his addition to the coaching staff will help Marquette golf take a bite out of the BIG EAST.