Greensboro, NC â€“ Rocky Manning, a former standout golfer at Greensboro College, recently decided to turn professional. He left the ranks of amateur golf for the prospect of a career in the big leagues. Manning made his decision shortly after winning last monthâ€™s prestigious Triad Tournament of Champions, which included 31 of the areaâ€™s top players.
â€œWinning that (TOC) was a big boost for my confidence,â€ Manning said. â€œIt makes me think I can really play well as a professional. And recently, I have had trouble getting motivated for the amateur events. Itâ€™s time for me to try the next level.â€
Manning has a history of success at each level of competitive golf. He represented Greensboro College from 2003-06. A three-time first team All USA South pick, he earned 2005 All-America honors with a 9th place finish at the Division III National Championship.
He also won two collegiate tournaments, The Greensboro College Invitational and an event at Pine Needles.
As an amateur, he’s has had some solid tournaments post-college, including a win at the High Point Memorial last summer. And he shot a course record 63 at the Country Club of Charleston in March to qualify for the Azalea Amateur, an elite Amateur event.
â€œIâ€™ve had some strong results, and now itâ€™s time for me to take what I have learned and try to be successful as a professional,â€ Manning said. â€œIâ€™m looking at this as a full time job. I want to have the chance to provide for myself through golf.â€
With the financial backing of his father, Rocky Manning Sr., the 24-year old Manning will play a composite of Tarheel and Nationwide Tour (the junior tour of the PGA Tour) events and PGA Tour Monday qualifies. He also will compete in the first stage of the PGA Tourâ€™s Qualifying School in October. He will need to make the finals of â€œQ schoolâ€ (there are three stages) in order to secure at least an exemption on the Nationwide Tour. If he plays great in the finals, there could be a tour card for him for 2009.
â€œI figure Iâ€™m 24 years old, so this is my time to try,â€ Manning explained. â€œI donâ€™t want to be out there grinding when Iâ€™m 30. Mentally, Iâ€™m as mature as Iâ€™ve ever been, and Iâ€™m almost there physically.â€
In fact, Manning credits a new mental approach for his success at the Tournament of Champions. â€œBefore, I used to put so much pressure on every shot. Now, Iâ€™m more laid back and taking things as they come. Iâ€™m focusing less on the result and more on the process.â€
A weekend spent last year with sports psychologist guru Dr. Bob Rotella, author of several best selling books on golf including â€œGolf is not a Game of Perfect,â€ helped Manning develop his new attitude.
â€œI used to put so much emphasis on hitting perfect shots every time,â€ Manning said. â€œBut you canâ€™t always be a perfectionist and be successful.â€
To prepare for his professional career Manning also has increased his time in the gym. He now works out five to six times per week to prepare his body for the weekly grind of professional golf. In addition, he continues to work at least once a week with standout golf professional and former Greensboro College head menâ€™s golf coach Robert Linville, who recently was inducted into the Greensboro College Hall of Fame.
â€œRockyâ€™s extremely talented and not afraid of hard work,â€ Linville said. â€œMentally, heâ€™s getting a grasp on the emotional part of the game. All things point to him having a chance to be successful.â€
Manning is not the first GC golfer to take his shot at the prosâ€”and he wonâ€™t be the last. Former Pride standout Kevin Oâ€™Connell has played professionally on and off for several years. And Josh Cumming, an All-American for GC in 2008, plans to turn professional when he graduates next Spring. But the competition is intense, and the talent pool gets deeper each year.
â€œYouâ€™ve got to be phenomenally talented, and youâ€™ve got to be tough mentally,â€ said current GC head golf coach Scott Tiernan. â€œThe good thing is that there now are more mini tours on which young players can get experience. Before, it used to be just the PGA Tour and the Nike tour. Now guys can gain the experience necessary to work their way up to the big tour.â€
Manningâ€™s first event was the Tarheel Tourâ€™s Pete Dye Classic in Radford, VA on June 24-26. He missed the cut after a 74-76, but heâ€™s keeping his first pro tournament experience in perspective.
â€œMy goal is to keep building up my professional experience,â€ he explained. â€œI need to develop that cockiness it takes to win.â€
Next up for Manning is the Tarheel Tourâ€™s Southern Open in Concord, NC at Carrabus Country Club, July 10-12. In August, Manning will try to qualify for the PGA Tourâ€™s Wyndham Championship. The Wyndham is contested in Greensboro August 11-17.
**** Submitted by Greensboro College’s sports Information Director Bob Lowe ****