Plenty of fine golfers have won the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, but it’s unlikely that any of the others could shoot a basketball like 1989 champion Tim Hobby, of Alvin, Texas. Hobby played two seasons on the University of Houston basketball team, once making eight 3-pointers in a game against Southern Methodist, and helped the Cougars make the 1987 NCAA Tournament, where they fell to Kansas in the first round. Hobby transferred to Baylor University in the fall of 1987 to focus solely on golf – he earned a golf scholarship to Houston, but couldn’t crack the lineup – and he turned professional one year after winning the APL at Cog Hill in suburban Chicago over Henry Cagigal, a waiter from Fort Worth, Texas. Hobby played for five seasons on various mini-tours before becoming the head golf coach at Baylor in 1996. In 2003, he left Baylor to become the director of instruction at the Club at Sonterra, a 36-hole private facility in San Antonio. Last year, Hobby, who turned 47 in June, was named the Teacher of the Year by the Southern Texas Section of The PGA of America.
Were you a better basketball player or golfer?
I was one of the better players in the state of Texas coming out of high school for both sports. I was from Houston and they were pretty good in basketball at the time. I was the only guy out of our starting five [in 1986-87] who hasn’t played in the NBA. We had Greg “Cadillac” Anderson, Rickie Winslow, Rolando Ferreira and Randy Brown, who played for the Chicago Bulls. It was a good group. We had too many good players [on the golf team] and I didn’t want to sit on the bench. After my second year of playing basketball, I decided to move on.
What do you recall about the APL?
I never had even tried to qualify. I didn’t know much about it. I grew up on a nine-hole, par-33 course in Alvin, Texas, which is also the hometown of [baseball Hall of Famer] Nolan Ryan. That’s all we had. I lived on the seventh hole. We had no driving range. You just hit old balls and picked them up. It was a great place to learn to play the game.
I knew Cog Hill (site of the 1989 APL) was a great course. There were six to eight of us from Texas and we traveled together. I was by far the youngest guy and I wasn’t old enough to rent a car. We stayed in this hotel 10 minutes from the course and they were all leaving one by one, either missing the cut or losing out in match play. So I wound up taking a cab to the course. I would go back to the hotel, take another cab the next day and see what happens [on the course].
Did you bring a caddie or carry your own bag?
One of the guys I met in stroke play told me I was good enough to win this thing. He was local. I carried my clubs [in stroke play] and the first match. I had carried 36 holes all the time in college and I was going to do it again [for the second round]. This guy told me I can’t do that and he caddied for me the last few days. He had to go back to work for the championship match, so he sent this kid who was a high school golfer to caddie for me the final 36.
What were the course conditions like?
That course was brutal. That rough … I was playing for fairways and greens and winning matches that way. I remember they gave us this rain hat, which I still have in my closet. And you needed it. I just kept wearing it.
Did you know about the Masters invitation for the winner?
When I entered, I didn’t even know. I didn’t know until I got to like the semifinals or the quarterfinals and somebody said, “If you win this, you get into the Masters.” I was like, “Are you kidding me?” It definitely made me nervous for the last [match].
That was a pretty big deal. I played in the U.S. Open in 1995 as a professional at Shinnecock [Hills], but I qualified for that. Getting into the Masters and playing all the practice rounds over the winter was pretty special. But I was not prepared for what I was getting into at the time. What’s funny is now I take [members] over there [to Augusta National] on trips and stuff. I go to the Masters every year. It’s just a lot different.
What was it like coaching at your alma mater?
I was the leading money winner on different tours, but I quit that in 1996. My wife and I both graduated from Baylor and they were going to hire a full-time [golf] coach. I had missed five years in a row at the second stage of [PGA Tour] Q-School and just decided I was tired of this deal. It was fun. Jimmy Walker [a three-time winner on the PGA Tour this year] was one of my first recruits at Baylor. I coached him for four years. We won the Big 12 with him as a senior in 2001. The program had finished last in the conference four years in a row when I got there, so we were able to do some pretty neat stuff.
And now you teach full-time at a private club?
I am going into my 11th year. It’s a great place to be a teaching pro. I think I have helped 55 kids get college scholarships. We have 900 members, so it’s a busy place.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.