It’s not only a road less traveled, but one chock full of obstacles as well. Indeed, the journey from Wyckoff, New Jersey—or any town in the Northeast—to the PGA Tour is one not easily negotiated. From the time he was barely a teenager, Morgan Hoffmann knew it was going to require drastic steps.
Sure, there were driving ranges with heated stalls, but that wasn’t the setting that was going to help Hoffmann realize his dream. While his counterparts down south or out on the West Coast were honing their skills playing all year around, Hoffmann was grooving a plan that would become as important as his magnificent and powerful golf swing.
Now that he’s four PGA Tour events into his life as a pro—including this week’s Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C.—he can look back at it and laugh. At the time, however, leaving home at 16 to pursue his dream was a sensitive topic around the Hoffmann household.
“It’s a very difficult goal to pursue growing up in the northeast,” said Hoffman, now 22, who turned pro after his junior season at Oklahoma State University. “I’d asked my parents about going to one of the golf academies in the Carolinas or Florida on a few occasions. I’d done a ton of research and knew where the right places were, but still, the answer was always a flat no. Finally, I sat my dad down one day and I said: ‘Dad, I love and respect you, but you just need to sit and listen to me for the next 30 minutes.’ He let me talk, but after that I felt like he didn’t speak to me for a week. Finally, one day he said ‘Let’s take a walk,’ and he told me he was going to let me go.”
Having missed 58 days of high school his sophomore year at Ramapo to play in junior events all over the country, it didn’t come as too big a surprise to friends that the golf prodigy made his move. Off he went, packing his golf bag for a year at the International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head, S.C., and then to the Gary Gilchrist Academy in Orlando, where he forged a relationship that seems destined to last. Gilchrist still serves as his swing coach.
Just four years after leaving Bergen County, in 2010, Hoffmann found himself living the dream, seeing his name atop the leaderboard at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach for much of the first round. That flash of brilliance boosted Hoffmann’s confidence—as well as serving notice to the golf world that he’s an up-and-comer.
He debuted as a pro at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., in June, posting four rounds in the 60s and finishing tied for 43rd place. Despite rounds of 72-69 at the John Deere Classic in Florida in July, he missed the cut, but two weeks later he tied for 22nd at the Canadian Open. In addition to the Wyndham this week, he hopes to get some additional sponsor’s exemptions and qualify for a few Nationwide Tour events as well. He could earn his PGA Tour card by finishing in the top 25 on the Nationwide money list, or by finishing among the top 125 on the PGA earnings.
Whether it’s one of those avenues, or via the Tour’s grueling Qualifying School, Hoffmann is destined to earn a nice living with his golf game for a good, long time.
He won the first junior event he ever played in at the Arcola County Club in Paramus, was the International Junior Golf Tour Player of the Year three straight years, and was the North Jersey Player of the year in 2005 and ’06. He captured the Phil Mickelson trophy as the nation’s top freshman at OSU, where he was a two-time All-American.
“He’s been waiting a long time for this and he’s been extremely focused and dedicated since I first met him,” said Gilchrist. “With the way he drives the ball, he’s going to have lots of chances to hit it close and make some birdies. And when he makes a bogey, he’s on the next tee box thinking about making a birdie. There’ll be some ups-and-downs—there are no shortcuts for a pro golfer—but he’s got a great temperament for the game and he’s got an extremely bright future.”
Nowadays, golf is a full-time job, which has him running, weight training and hitting hundreds of golf balls every day. Drive and determination are among his biggest assets—just as they were when he fought off the bitter winter chill dreaming of the game’s biggest stage. Now living in Jupiter, Florida, Hoffmann shares a home with former OSU teammates Rickie Fowler and Cameron Tringale, and often plays practice rounds with Tour vets Charles Howell III and Bo Van Pelt, whom Hoffmann calls “one of the best guys I’ve ever met.”
Hoffmann loves his new occupation, and can’t wait to get right back at it bright and early the next morning.
“No matter how good you are,” he said, “you can always get better.”
That, too, is all just part of Morgan Hoffmann’s Master Plan.