In this week's Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Sean Crocker talks swapping a baseball bat for a golf club, choosing to pave his way in Europe, and realising there’s a lot more to golf than just having talent.
My dad introduced me to golf when we moved to the United States from Zimbabwe, but until I took it up seriously at the age of 13, my first dream was to be a professional baseball player. My parents were devastated when I hung up my cleats and told them I was going to play golf full time. I think they were amazed that I was able to quit a sport like that so quickly for another one, but they have never looked back. My dad is a very tough old-school dad from Rhodesia, and I think the one and only time I’ve ever seen him cry was during Challenge Tour graduation.
For someone who came to the game late, I didn’t do too badly as an amateur. I played college golf at U.S.C and lost to Bryson DeChambeau in the semi-finals of the U.S. Amateur – and racked up a bunch of runner-up finishes to people like Bryson and Jon Rahm. But I think I was a little behind those guys who had been playing since the age of two with the course management part of the game. Learning what to do and what not to do is what’s taken me a long time.
It’s taken me a while to learn what to do out on Tour, too. Obviously, it’s amazing that I was able to jump out of Challenge Tour so quickly, but I also think that if I had spent my time a little bit more wisely two or three years ago it would have been a bit of a different story. I’m playing catch-up now. It’s okay, and I’m still only 23, but I think if I had been a bit of a faster learner I could have been further up in my career. Instead, I’d describe it so far as very average. It’s harsh, but it’s also something that makes me work harder because I expect so much more from myself then what I have done.
There were a few reasons I chose to come over and play in Europe. Some of it had to do with the agency I signed with, but it was also because my amateur ranking meant I’d get more opportunities here to play golf, which was all I wanted. I didn’t care if I played in Europe or the States, and everyone I spoke to in my circle said it was a great idea, that I would learn the fast way how to travel and how to play real golf. I think it was the best thing for me, and I ended up getting several European Tour invites early in the season. It kind of changed things up for me, helped me look at the bigger picture and made me realise I have to push myself to get better.
The Challenge Tour is a serious grind. You wake up really quickly to find out if you’re made to be out there and play golf, or if you’re going to get beat down and need to find another job. The travel is extremely long, you’re not playing for much, and I was only 21 at the time and couldn’t rent a car so was relying on my caddie. It’s a tough place, and although I was super excited to have locked up my Challenge Tour card after a decent finish in Kazakhstan, I made a real effort in those last few events and got fortunate enough to jump through and graduate to get on the European Tour. It was nice to get in and out of that situation as fast as I did because I know on any one of those tours you can get stuck there for a long time.
Following it up by keeping my card was definitely nice because it’s a different ball game on the European Tour, and my rookie season wasn’t as easy or enjoyable as I would have liked it to be. The level of competition is way higher and you’ve got to come prepared. There was a lot of learning for me. I was fortunate to have played on the Tour enough through invites that when I did get my card, I felt comfortable out there and had some good results, but I wasn’t very happy with the way I was performing. I’d make a cut then miss a cut, and week in week out everything was different. I had fallen in a little bit of a hole with my game, and watching Robert MacIntyre do what he did gave me a kick in the butt. I saw him out there killing it, and I realised I needed to find my own way to move forward or I was going to get stuck, and the worst thing in golf is being stuck.
I kind of woke up halfway through last season and there was a moment when I got locked out of my car that I thought of a little thing my dad always used to tell me. He would say that ‘talent is great and talent can get you so far but the guy that has half as much talent as you that works harder is always going to be better than you’. It hit home. I realised there’s a lot more to the game than just having talent or being able to step up and hit a drive 320 yards. I told myself hey we got lucky we got this gift of talent, and if you just apply yourself a bit harder who knows what could happen.
That really opened my eyes, so I took a lot of time off at the end of the season last year and did some serious work with my coach David Leadbetter. I told him, ‘I want to do something with this game so whatever you say is my Bible, whatever you tell me to do I’ll do, and I’ll give it 110 percent. I’m giving you everything, let’s just get better.’ We worked on a little bit of everything, trying to get my golf swing more consistent, and tidying up my short game and putting. In the past, I might have worked on things half-heartedly, but now I see him regularly and when he gives me stuff, I work on it every single day. That’s a big part of me being a slow learner and maturing.
To have the confidence now to know I’ve prepped enough to play well is probably the biggest thing I took out of my rookie year. Every week this season I’ve teed it up with the same enjoyment and enthusiasm and felt like I could go out and win. My consistency has been way better, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy to play a bad round of golf because I can tell myself, ‘hey you’ve put in your time, you’ve done what you’re supposed to do, you don’t have to beat yourself up.’
That’s something Sergio Garcia has taught me as well, to be patient. He’s become something of a big brother to me out here. I play a bunch of practice rounds with him and it’s been cool to pick his brain about my game, and he’ll tell me yes, or you’re doing this wrong, or tells me to tuck my shirt in. He’s been amazing to me. He taught me that if you know you’re doing the correct stuff and you’ve got the talent, it will come. It might be tomorrow, or it might be in two years’ time, but as long as you’re patient and you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, don’t stress about it.
I’ve been very fortunate with the people around me on Tour. Sam Horsfield and I grew up together playing a bunch of amateur golf and we both live close to each other in Florida, so we’ve always pulled together out here. It’s nice to have a familiar face and someone I trust to be around, and it makes the travelling and being away from home a lot easier. We definitely do check with each other if we’re going to go to a tournament, but it just kind of happens that we play similar schedules, and when we get there we play our practice rounds on Mondays on Tuesdays, have our little money matches, practice and have some smack talking, just something to push each other.
I’m not one to set goals because I’ve always thought that if you set a goal that’s a little bit too high or a little bit too out of reach and you fall short it can demoralise you a little bit. But one of my favourite quotes I’ve ever heard was from American rapper Joey Badass who said: ‘Feeling like young Simba, can’t wait to be king’. I’ve got a Simba tattoo, he’s on my belt buckle and my ball, and it’s the kid in me that loves Simba, but that quote is something I’ve always said about my game. You can be that young person but if you put in your time and you do the right things you’ll move up in the world.
I’ve been in a few final groups now, and it’s always fun to put yourself in contention. It’s nice to know that I can put myself in that situation and next time I do it, I’ll know what I can and can’t do to help myself one day hold one of those trophies. My game is still improving - it always can improve - but as long as I can keep going in the right direction, hopefully I can throw in a couple of good seasons. Right now, I’m just playing old man par and every day I’m trying to beat him.