In his yearly state of the game on Golfchannel.com, Arnold Palmer says reports of golf's death are greatly exaggerated. He concludes that we're seeing a normal "churn" of participants that are in line with historical standards and that equipment sales are only down two percent quarter to quarter, not the free fall that Dick's Sporting Goods layoff of 500 PGA pros would have us believe. "Golf has had a couple of tough years, but we’ve had them before," the King writes. "In fact, all sports go through cycles. Think of the NBA before Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Think of boxing after Muhammad Ali. Finally, before we bury golf, we might want to note that Golf Channel's ratings last year were the second best in its 20-year history. The fact of the matter is that golf is alive, well and booming worldwide."
At last it’s here. Yes folks, we’re talking about the just released compilation of the Bryan Brothers’ Top 10 Trick Shots of 2014. George and Wesley Bryan are a couple of young South Carolina golf pros who, when not trying to play their way onto the PGA Tour, produce some of the game’s most mind-boggling videos. We’re not sure which is more entertaining, their shots or their celebrations. You decide.
The fact that their shots are less about being tricks and more about actual golf skill. Both George, 26, and Wesley, 24, are professional golfers who were previously standouts at the University of South Carolina, boasting the school's best and sixth-best career scoring records, respectively.
"We pride ourselves on the fact we center it around real golf," said George, who was a PING All-American three times.
"Every shot is a great golf shot that we pulled off and you could hit on an actual course," said Wesley, a former All-SEC selection who can hit a straight 275-yard drive out of the air. "So the reactions are authentic."
The brothers' main goal remains making it onto the PGA Tour. But both acknowledge their new hobby has helped with their actual day jobs.
"It's taken some pressure off and eased my mind," George said. "Pro golf is all I've thought about for four years so it's nice to have a little outlet."
"It definitely helps with creativity," said Wesley, who added it's changed how he's viewed certain pressure shots. "I'll have a tee shot and I'll think if I threw the ball up and hit it, I'd have no problem hitting the fairway. If you can't hit a fairway when the ball is just sitting there on a tee, you might as well go home."
This year, George IV has been helping his father, George III, run his George Bryan Golf Academy in Chapin, S.C., while playing mostly one-day Carolina Mountain Tour events. Previously, he mainly played on the eGolf Professional Tour, where Wesley has spent much of this year. The two have been making videos during their free time, but now, they plan on turning the pro golf off-season into trick shot prime season.
"We're going to be pumping out stuff," said Wesley, who alluded to an upcoming NASCAR-themed video being in the works and that the two have been in talks to partner with some bigger names. And yes, they know who the Bryan brothers of men's tennis doubles fame are and hope to do a video with them as well.
"There's no group like us that's primarily doing golf shots . . . that's why we wanted to push it so hard," George said. "Golf is trying to get younger and hip and we can fit that mold by bringing entertainment and fun."
What happens when a tour pro can’t be a tour pro anymore? There’s a fascinating story in today’s New York Times about Meaghan Francella, who played on the LPGA Tour from 2006-13, twice finished in the top 10 in major championships, won more than $1.1 million, and who topped Annika Sorenstam in a playoff in 2007. But starting in 2011, Francella (shown above in 2012) was missing far more cuts than she was making and the game stopped being fun. After twice missing at the Tour’s qualifying school, she quit playing to return as a caddie, both for veterans and young players. Francella will be back out on the LPGA Tour in 2015—as caddie for Taiwan’s Min Lee—proving there is a life in golf after golf. Both are players to watch this year.