Tallahassee is a long way from Grand Blanc, Mich., but if it’s a trip for your one true love, it is a trip definitely worth making. Just ask Florida A&M golfer James Petty. Although the task of balancing school, sports and one’s personal lifestyle may seem difficult, the 21-year-old business major makes it seem all too easy after making his mark as one of Florida A&M University’s greatest golfers. With his recent victories and accomplishments like the Spring Invitational individual championship, Petty has proven that he is capable of competing in the golf world. He has won two individual tournaments in the 2007 season and says FAMU can expect much more to come. Known as Pooter to his family, Petty said he couldn’t think of a better place to pursue his golfing career other then the Hill. While most know Florida as the Sunshine State, it is also known as the golf capital of the world and now a second home for Petty. The 6-foot-2-inch golfer and recent champion sat down with the Famuan fresh off his South Carolina tournament and welcomed the University into his life as a student, golfer and Rattler.
The FAMUAN: How long have you been playing golf?
I’ve been playing since I was 11 years old.
The FAMUAN: Who introduced you to the game?
I introduced myself, but Butch Rose was my first coach, a black guy out Flint, Mich. He coached at a golf course. He would pick me up from my house and take me to the golf course every day. I would hit balls, practicing on putting ever since.
The FAMUAN: What inspired you to play?
I found some golf clubs in the garage and started swinging them. I asked my parents to sign me up for some classes, and I’ve been playing ever since. The FAMUAN: Was there ever a time you felt like the workload was just too much – ever felt like quitting?
I would say no because I was just doing it as a hobby. My parents supported me the whole time; there was never any pressure from them. It was just something I wanted to do because I enjoyed it. There was never a point when I wanted to quit.
The FAMUAN: When did you fall in love with the game?
Around 12 years old. Soon as I get out of school, I would go play till the sun go down. I looked forward to playing daily. I just love to play golf every day.
The FAMUAN: Describe your state of mind during the time when the men’s golf team was cut from FAMU athletics?
I was disappointed that they cut the program, and I was hoping and praying that the school would bring it back. I was thinking about transferring. I love FAMU, and I was pretty much waiting it out and in high hopes that they would bring the program back. Once it was reinstated during the fall semester, I was excited. I mean, it’s the only reason I came to FAMU, so it did make me happy. The FAMUAN: How does it feel to be a minority golfer, especially playing in games that are majority white?
It doesn’t feel that much different from when I was growing up. Growing up, I was always playing with mostly white kids, but then I started playing inner city programs around 13 and 14. It was nice to see other African Americans doing what I do and enjoying it. I’m a competitor, and I don’t feel like I have a disadvantage being a minority. I’m just out there trying to win. The FAMUAN: How expensive is your equipment?
Golf equipment is pretty costly. I would have to say a good bag with nice clubs is about $2,500 dollars. We have to pay for them ourselves. The FAMUAN: How have spectators responded to you during your years as a Rattler golfer?
People are excited. They are always happy to see an individual doing well. It’s interesting when people learn that I’m a golfer. They ask me to teach them how to play and always want to go out and hit. I think more people are getting interested in the sport. It is starting to get common among black people now that Tiger Woods is one of the greatest athletes to play. Spectators respond well.
The FAMUAN: Is there any particular golfer that influences you?
Tiger Woods is my biggest influence in the game. He is an African American and the greatest golfer in the world. I like his style of play on the course.
The FAMUAN: How would you describe your style on the course?
I hit the ball pretty straight, probably at an average distance, and I’m pretty good around the green short range wise. The FAMUAN: What is one of your most memorable moments at FAMU?
Probably right now. I won two tournaments in one semester. It the most exciting news I’ve had so far… that and the golf program coming back.
The FAMUAN: What was your greatest accomplishment in the game?
My greatest accomplishments will be the lessons learned from golf. Being a golfer taught me how to react to different situations. It taught me patience, and it is also a great networking method. I meet a lot of new people on the course, and in the business world, a lot of deals are sealed playing golf. It’s beneficial for me being a business major. Winning two tournaments in one semester is probably one of my greatest accomplishments. The FAMUAN: Where do you hope to take your golfing career after college?
I’m going to try to go pro. If that doesn’t work out, I will pursue my career in business.