Texas’ Cole Hammer follows Scottie Scheffler’s example, hoping for similar career path
While much of the name, image and likeness buzz has centered around football and basketball, the cash flow has reached other sports like golf, with University of Texas senior Cole Hammer now a beneficiary of the new system.
Hammer is one of four Longhorn athletes to sign on with Optimum Nutrition, representing the brand’s new orange blast flavor of Amin.O.Energy Plus electrolytes sparkling hydration drink. Others from Texas who have signed on include Christian Bishop from the basketball team, star swimmer Drew Kibler and track and field dynamo Chanel Brissett.
As expected, Hammer said he appreciated the orange tie-in while chatting with Golfweek, and the senior has needed extra energy as he, Travis Vick and Mason Nome have had to pick up some slack with star twins Pierceson and Parker Coody sidelined for the first part of the spring.
The results aren’t exactly what Hammer hoped for at last week’s Amer Ari Invitational in Hawaii. Sure, the Houston product was the top Longhorn individual finisher at 9-under-par 207 (70-68-69), and he dropped six birdies while posting a 69 on Saturday. But he finished T-15, not exactly where a future PGA Tour hopeful looks to place, even at a power-packed tournament.
"It’s put a lot of extra weight on our backs (without the Coodys),” Hammer admitted. “And for me, I’d taken a solid three-month break from competitive golf, so I’m still knocking the rust off and working to get where I want to be. I feel like I’m playing well — I’ve made a bunch of birdies and I’ve seen a lot of putts go in.”
Hammer’s resume is impeccable, he already has three U.S. Opens and a pair of Walker Cups under his belt, and he won the Mark H. McCormack Medal as the world’s best amateur golfer in 2019. And on Tuesday, he was named as one of 30 players on the watch list for the 2022 Ben Hogan Award, along with Pierceson Coody.
But to take the next step, leaving Austin and joining the cutthroat world of professional golf, he’ll need to find consistency through the year. Hammer has witnessed as others, like former Longhorn Scottie Scheffler, have continued to climb the world’s golf rankings.
“I’ve known Scottie since before I came to school. He hasn’t come back to Austin in a bit,” Hammer said. “But when we’re around each other, we’re just friends. I just learn from watching him rather than asking questions. He’s matured a lot and his time management is really impressive. He’s grounded and that’s vital for someone who wants to get where he hopes to go.”
But while the pro game is looming and major amateur tournaments are also trying to woo him, Hammer is soaking up his time on campus while he can. He’s decided against playing any amateur events this spring, and said his competitive juices are flowing, knowing he’s got the Southern Highlands Tournament in Las Vegas approaching in a few weeks and then a Big 12 Championship Tournament at Whispering Pines near Huntsville.
“It’s crazy to think about, but COVID ruined my sophomore year and a lot of last year, too,” he said. “Pretty much things are back to normal, and now I’m focused on whatever I can do to help us win a national championship.
“It’s really nice to walk around campus and take a lot of this in … but it will be nice to be an alum, too.”
Stacy Lewis will be the youngest captain in U.S. Solheim history
Houston resident Stacy Lewis hadn’t even been publicly announced as the 2023 U.S. Solheim Cup captain when she started filling up a notebook. At 36, she might be the youngest to be named captain of Team USA, but she believes plenty more just like her will follow. In true Lewis form, she’s already thinking of ways to make the job better.
“Behind the scenes, I want to set things up in place for future captains,” Lewis told a group of reporters, “so certain things from when the announcement is made to when you go about the process of doing your clothes and your bag and all that stuff, that it’s already kind of in place and set up, that it’s not kind of reinventing the wheel every time. Because I think looking forward, your captains are going to continue to be younger. They might still be playing like I am, so there’s got to be a balance there.”
Lewis, who will lead the USA’s efforts to reclaim the Solheim Cup from Team Europe at Finca Cortesin in Spain in September, is already big on practice sessions, wanting to make sure the routines of Solheim week are comfortable for all 12 players as best she can. This will be the hardest event of their careers inside the ropes, said Lewis, and she’s all about making it as stress-free and fun as possible. She also wants to win.
Could she possibly lead by example next year in Spain? Heading into 2022, Lewis never imagined she’d be a playing captain. But after opening up the 2022 season T-4, T-8 and T-18, she’s not counting it out.
“If I need to build the best team possible and my name is a part of that,” she said, “then I’ll do it.”
Birdies and bogeys
• Hammer and Coody aren't the only area college golfers to be named to the Hogan watch list. Texas A&M golfers Sam Bennett and Walker Lee were also on the list. Bennett was a semifinalist for the award a year ago, and is No. 1 on the PGA Tour’s University Velocity Global Rankings with a 69.44 stroke average this season. The Madisonville native has a pair of top-3 finishes this season and has finished every round at par or better.
• How close is the new PGA of America headquarters in Frisco from being completed? The two golf courses are not yet ready for play, but the massive Omni on the property site will have a topping-off ceremony for the media on Friday. The most expansive resort development in the country, it’s set to open in the spring of 2023.
• The Save Muny movement is dancing its way to the Moody Theater. Friends of the city’s beloved Lions Municipal Golf Course will gather at ACL Live on February 20th for "Imagine Muny," which organizers are calling “a night of music and fellowship to raise funds to help make the future of Muny a reality.” Asleep at the Wheel, Eric Church and Lukas Nelson are among the big names set to perform. The event is sold out.
Tim Schmitt is the managing editor for Golfweek, golf coordinator for the USA Today Network and lives in Round Rock. Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols also contributed to this report.