Why play 4 years of college golf? Cole Hammer explains


James Colgan

December 11, 2022

Cole Hammer was one of the nation’s best players for years before turning pro.

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Cole Hammer lives in rarefied air in college athletics lore. After four stellar years at the University of Texas, a bundle of invites to golf’s top amateur events, and starts at the U.S. Open and Open Championship, he is one of the few athletes of the last several years to have been on the minds of college sports fans for longer than Georgia Bulldogs quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Stetson Bennett.

Yes, Bennett is technically in his sixth year in college — a stretch that far outdates Hammer’s time in Austin. But Bennett wasn’t always a household name, whereas Hammer was.

Astute college golf fans will remember Hammer’s freshman year at Texas way back in 2019, an effort that brought the Longhorns all the way to the NCAA Championships before losing to Stanford in the finals. Hammer was the star of that Longhorn team as only a teenager, bursting onto the scene en route to Mark. H McCormack Medal honors as the top amateur golfer in the world.

But in a surprise to many golf fans, Hammer turned down the opportunity to head to professional golf after that year, electing to return to school for his sophomore, junior and senior seasons before eventually turning pro this fall. On this week’s episode of GOLF’s Subpar podcast, Hammer explained the rationale behind his decision to turn down the bright lights of the PGA Tour.

“[Turning pro] entered my mind, but I went in wanting to be there for four years, wanting to get a degree and win a national championship,” he told hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz. “Honestly, I had a great freshman year and we almost won as a team, we lost in the finals to Stanford. Beat Oklahoma State, beat Oklahoma and then just came up short in the finals.”

“I had such a great year that I potentially could have had the opportunity to [turn pro],” Hammer continued. “But it was the same year that Viktor Hovland and Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa were coming out of school, so I figured it would be in my best interest to do that, and on top of that I wanted to win a national championship so bad after coming up just short.”

For Hammer, the experience of getting so close to a national title without finishing the job was enough to keep him coming back. So he did, until the Longhorns closed out a successful national title bid to finish off his senior season this past spring.

To hear the rest of Hammer’s interview, including the impact of the PGA Tour University program and his experience as a 15-year-old U.S. Open contestant, check out the link below.

James Colgan
Golf.com Editor
James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.

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