Langley: 'Go to Illinois If You Want to Be Great'
April 11, 2014
Former University of Illinois golfer Scott Langley has had a whirlwind first three years in professional golf since graduating and turning pro in 2011. Originally from Manchester, Mo., Langley started playing golf in the backyard with his family and chose to pursue golf and his education as an Illini. Being able to develop his skill in a competitive atmosphere and with Illinois' Demirjian Indoor Practice Facility, Langley was able to learn what life as a professional golfer would be like with the help and guidance of his teammates and coaches. His life has completely transformed from what it used to be but he knows he owes his smooth transition to achieving his dream to his time in Champaign.
"I would say deciding to go to Illinois was probably one of the best decisions I've ever made for golf, my education and my life in general," Langley said. "The program is growing and I feel like they're always getting better. You can go there and become a complete player and that's really what it takes to play on the PGA tour, is to really strengthen every part of your game and that's Coach Small's way. In addition to teaching us the right attitude to have, he worked on every part of our game to make sure we always maintained a good level of performance in each aspect of our game."
"I wanted to go somewhere where I could learn from someone who had done what I wanted to do," Langley said. "Not many coaches have done what Coach Small has done competitively. That was definitely something that attracted me to going to school there. For me, it was an overall feeling of comfort when I visited Illinois; it felt like home right away. It was close to where I grew up, so I was very comfortable there. I felt like I could fit in very easily with the school and with my team."
Small was helpful to Langley in all capacities, whether it was on the course or off. He helped with all of the little things like strategy, proper decision-making on the golf course and the right way to travel on the road. Langley says that Small brings his players up in the PGA Tour lifestyle in preparation for what might happen in the future.
"He's a great role model as a person, just the way he conducts himself," Langley said. "He taught us a lot about the right way to treat people and the right way to win and the right way to lose, which I think is important to learn.
"Golf-wise, he helped me immensely. He helped me develop my short game to what it is today and with my full swing, we really worked on a lot of technical stuff the first couple years at Illinois and laid a solid foundation for my game. He taught me the right way to play the game, which is a big statement because there are a lot of things that fall under that umbrella."
Small continues to impact Langley's skill even now that he's moved on from Illinois and is on the PGA tour. He talks with his former coach frequently, and Small continues to help improve his game.
"Whenever I see him, I try to pull him aside for a quick 15-minute short-game lesson or something just to get a little tip," Langley said. "Kind of check in and make sure I'm doing everything right. He always makes himself very available to us. If I ever have any questions or I need help with anything, I know I can call him and that's a great relationship to have. With all of his experience, knowledge and ability to teach, it's priceless."
That set him up for a monumental 2010 season, where he won an individual NCAA championship, the first in Illinois history, was named Big Ten Player of the Year, won the clinching match of the Palmer Cup, was selected to the United States side for the World Team Amateur Championships, qualified for the U.S. Open and tied for 16th at his first major championship, earning low amateur honors. In 2011, Langley was a semifinalist for the Ben Hogan Award, honoring the top collegiate player in the country, and finished his career with the second-best stroke average in school history.
Throughout college, Langley also maintained excellence in the classroom and was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection. He also was honored with Illinois' Big Ten Medal of Honor his senior year for his combination of academic and athletic excellence.
"The school was very important to me," Langley said. "My education was always on par with golf and I treated it very importantly and wanted to do really well in it. Going into the accounting program was very challenging but also very rewarding. I feel a great sense of accomplishment from having my degree from Illinois."
Growing up near St. Louis, Langley wanted to have a family at Illinois too, and soon realized that his teammates would become a big part of his life, even after school. He had former teammates in his wedding party and frequently sees former Illini teammate Luke Guthrie on the PGA tour.
"When they say you make friends for a lifetime it's not just a cliché, it's very true," Langley said. "To put it into perspective, literally probably my best friends I made at Illinois were on the golf team. We all keep in touch and we all keep tabs on the program and make sure that everything's doing OK, and watch how the guys are doing and I'm very proud to see the success they've had.
"I've done a lot of things individually, but winning as a team never gets old. It's so much fun. Just to work so hard with the guys day in and day out, we spent almost every second together. To come together and have success like what we had at Illinois was so cool. Any team moment I had, I would point to as a very special moment for me."
Langley says his life has significantly changed since leaving Champaign. Traveling to new places helps ease the fact that he's on the road most of the year. The rigorous collegiate schedule on top of schoolwork at Illinois helped prepare him for the life he lives today on the Tour, but it still doesn't match up to the time commitment professional golf brings.
"Even at Illinois, nothing can really prepare you for being on the road for that long," Langley said. "That's an adjustment. It takes learning and acceptance that it's going to be that way sometimes and you're going to miss home and you're going to want to be somewhere else at times, but then again it's one of the greatest jobs I could ever ask for. Being on the PGA Tour is something I've worked for my whole life. I'm very thankful that I'm here."
Although there have been many special moments in his golf career, there is one moment that truly sticks out in Langley's mind. At the 2013 John Deere Classic, which is usually well-attended by Illini fans, he was paired with former Illini Steve Stricker in Sunday's final round.
"That whole week, I had happened to be the first tee starter and the announcer announced me from Champaign, Ill., just because it's really close to school and we have a ton of people that come over and watch," Langley said. "I'll never forget the crowd's reaction when they heard 'Champaign, Ill.,' on Sunday morning when I was playing with 'Strick.' They went absolutely crazy. It was really, really special to know that I have that kind of support even after I've been gone for a few years."
With surely more amazing things to come in his golf career, Langley still reflects on his time at Illinois as one of his most treasured, but is excited for what the future holds.
"Any prospective junior golfer - obviously I'm biased - I would say you need to go to Illinois if you want to be great," Langley said. "There are many programs that are great out there. I think it's important for the young kids to do their homework and really feel comfortable wherever they decide to go and really buy into the program. That's a big thing that worked for us, we all bought in to what Coach Small was teaching us. I think just buying into the coach's philosophy, especially when the coach has done what you want to do, makes sense and is huge to set you up for success."