Pat Goss and Jeff Mory, both long prominent in Chicago golf, are busy guys.
Goss is director of golf at Northwestern, head coach of the NU men’s team and the swing coach of Luke Donald. Mory is director of golf at Conway Farms, the Lake Forest course that includes Donald among its members. It will host the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship in September.
Mory’s pupils include University of Iowa golfers Vince India and Brad Hopfinger – the Illinois State Amateur champions of 2010 and 2011, respectively.
In one way or another Goss and Mory have worked together for over 20 years, and now they’re collaborating again – with a relatively new program that isn’t yet as high-profile as Goss’ NU golf program or Mory’s world-class golf club.
In 2011 the two co-founded the Wildcat Golf Academy in an effort to fill a need in junior golf. Goss describes the Academy as “the first NCAA-legal sports club for golf.’’ Sports clubs are common in other sports, like volleyball and soccer, but it wasn’t so easy to get similar opportunities for golfers. Lots of paperwork needed to be done, but it was all worthwhile.
“There’s a huge demand for us to work with junior golfers,’’ said Goss, “but it was hard for me because it’s against NCAA rules to give private lessons to a high school boy. This program is NCAA approved. It’s the only program of its kind in the country.’’
Mory, an Illinois high school champion in 1982, was the Northwestern men’s coach from 1990-97. During that period he was the Big Ten coach-of-the-year in 1994. Goss was, at first, one of his NU players.
In 1992 Goss became Mory’s assistant and took over as head coach when Mory moved to Conway Farms. The Wildcats have won four Big Ten titles and 32 tournaments in Goss’ 18 seasons. His players have won seven Big Ten individual titles – Scott Rowe (1995), Jonathan Loosemore (1996), Donald (2000 and 2001), Chris Wilson (2006), Eric Chun (2009) and David Lipsky (2010).
Coinciding with their success in their other jobs, Goss and Mory broadened their scope by creating the Wildcat Golf Academy.
“We felt something was missing for junior golfers,’’ said Goss. “If they’re going to improve this is the direction to go.’’
The Wildcat Golf Academy is a year-around program. Budding golfers don’t need to head to warm weather climates in the winter. They can get what they need to grow their skills in the north suburbs. Academy members work at the Luke Donald Practice Facility at The Glen Club in Glenview in the spring, summer and fall and use either the Gleacher Golf Center, located in the landmark Patten Gymnasium, or the all-purpose Trienens Center on NU’s Evanston campus in the winter.
Patten is famous for being the site of the first NCAA basketball tournament in 1939. The Gleacher Center, which opened as part of a renovation in 1987, is historic as well. It was the first facility of its kind in college golf with its 2,000-square foot pitching and putting green and adjacent sand trap. The Trienens Center can be netted like a dome for golf and has enough room for pitch shots.
Goal of the Academy is to develop highly motivated junior golfers who have the desire to compete at the highest level locally, regionally and nationally. The same teaching principles that Goss and Mory have used on their other jobs are utilized in the Academy, but the staff is much larger than just the two co-founders.
The Academy has three levels. Sam McKenney handles the juniors, youngsters who start at age 10 and must have taken lessons before they enroll. McKenney is an assistant coach for both men’s and women’s teams at Northwestern and also a teaching professional at Knollwood Club in Lake Forest.
Goss and Mory oversee the other two levels – academy and elite — with a staff of well-qualified instructors. They include David Inglis, assistant coach of the NU men’s team; Beth Miller, assist for the NU women’s squad; Conway Farms assistants Harlan Chemers and Jamie Fischer; Dan Massello, assistant professional at Evanston Golf Club; and Daniel Gray, assistant at Skokie.
While the Academy is for “highly motivated’’ players, Goss admits “there are different levels of commitment within the group.’’
The junior level is geared for kids to learn in a fun manner. The academy is for fifth graders and up and the elite is where students work in small groups twice a week directly with Goss and Mory. Fitness training is also included, directed by Cory Puyear – Northwestern’s strength and conditioning specialist who also works with golfers on the pro tours. Participants must live within 50 miles of the Evanston.
The Wildcat Golf Academy has quadrupled in size since its first sessions but the most interesting aspect is the summer-to-winter ratio.
“The offseason (winter) is become a critical time,’’ said Goss. “We do all the things we can’t do when the players are competing. The lowest number of our participants is in the summer, the highest in the winter. That’s the opposite of most teaching programs.’’
The effectiveness of the program is showing in tournament play, particularly in the Illinois Junior Golf Assn. events. Academy members like Bennett Cotton, Chip Savarie John Kryscio, Jason Paek, Blake Yaccino and Ethan Farnam have been among the very best in those competitions.
Remember those names. Could one of them emerge as the “next Luke Donald’’ in a few years? It’ll be interesting to find out.
Registration information is available at www.wildcatgolfacademy.com.