In just a handful of years as a professional, Bryson DeChambeau has transformed himself into one of the world’s biggest stars – literally. But before he was a U.S. Open champion, multiple-time PGA Tour winner and even hotshot amateur with victories at the NCAA Championship and U.S. Amateur in the same year, he was a quirky teenager who “didn’t hit it anywhere” and looked like “the biggest 3-year-old you’ve ever seen.”
Those were two assessments from Josh Gregory, a current instructor on the PGA Tour but back then the newly hired head coach at SMU following back-to-back NCAA titles at Augusta State. As he told Golf.com’s Subpar Podcast recently, Gregory was looking to bolster the Mustangs program with a blue-chip signing, and DeChambeau’s name came up – albeit with a few warning labels: different, not well-liked, bad attitude.
Still, Gregory was intrigued by DeChambeau’s results.
“I did something I’ve never done in my entire life — I picked up the phone, I called Bryson and I said, ‘Hey, Bryson, my name is Josh Gregory, you don’t know me, I don’t know you, I just won two national championships at Augusta, I’m going to SMU and I’m going to rebuild this program as fast as I can,’” Gregory recalled. “And I said, ‘I’m going to offer you a full scholarship over the phone, sight unseen.’ And the kid almost starts crying because he didn’t come from any money.
“He was being recruited by UCLA, Stanford, Washington, everybody on the West Coast, and his dream was to go to Stanford, and I knew the only way I could beat Stanford was to get in early. They have the ultimate trump card – they have Tiger Woods, they have one of the best universities, and it’s maybe the greatest place to play college golf … so, I said, ‘I’m flying out to the Junior Worlds tomorrow to watch you at Torrey Pines. I’m only coming out there to watch you, and that’s it.’ I have no idea what I’m getting.”
When Gregory got to Torrey, here’s what he saw:
“I go out there,” Gregory says, “and I see this kid with a pull cart. … He’s got his Payne Stewart hat on. He’s got all the irons the same length. At this time, he’s swinging zero-shift plane – I think it’s what he was calling it because the club never – anyway, it wasn’t even one plane; it was wacko. But he’s striping it. He didn’t hit it anywhere, but he absolutely striped it. And when I say the worst attitude I’ve ever seen, I mean the worst attitude I’ve ever seen: banging clubs, swearing, pouting, looks like the biggest 3-year-old you’ve ever seen.
“But I don’t care. Because you know what, I can fix that. … I can’t coach 76 into 68, but I can coach 68 into 65 with having a good attitude and learning how to play the game. I’ll never forget I had a coach – who I won’t mention – who said, ‘Why are you taking that kid?’ I said, ‘What are you talking about? Why wouldn’t I? He has a 4.0 in the classroom, and he shoots 68 every time he tees it up.’ All I got to do is keep him out of trouble and get him to the tee on time, and he’ll be just fine.”
And he was. Though Gregory only coached DeChambeau for two years after NCAA violations forced him to resign just before DeChambeau’s junior year, DeChambeau went on to win the 2015 NCAA individual title and then the U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills.
DeChambeau turned pro the following year after earning low-amateur honors at the Masters, and, well, the rest is history.