TRINITY — Matt Cote would have been happy to remain as head golf professional at Timber Greens for the rest of his career.
He was at Timber Greens, one of the underlooked courses in the Tampa Bay area, for seven years and was perfectly happy — until Fox Hollow Golf Club came calling.
“I loved it at Timber Greens, but Fox Hollow was just too much to pass up,” Cote said. They told me the job was mine if I wanted it, and I wanted it.”
Cote, like many professionals, got his start practicing with his dad on the driving range, hitting shot after shot despite the blisters. He played college golf and then did something few golfers do: he burned out and entered the food service business.
That didn't last very long, however, especially when he was offered a chance to work as an assistant professional in Dunedin, a job that isn't quite as glamorous as it sounds. He spent his time washing golf carts and fetching range balls, but Cote said the game was back in his blood.
“I had to do a little bit of everything but I learned the job of being in the golf business so it was all worth it,” Cote said. “Golf is a big business and it needs strong management. It all came together for me.”
Cote had some professional aspirations at the start when he started putting up some good scores, but he said he crushed his chances at going professional as a player because he was “too lazy.” Once he got the game back into his system, he started practicing hard. He also learned a lesson that most casual golfers don't understand — despite having grown up playing golf, he finally learned how to play the game.
Ask any serious golfer and they will tell you that there is a big difference between playing golf and knowing how to play the game. Playing golf is something anybody can do. Hit the ball as far as you can, keep hitting it, putt, play bogey golf and hit the 19th hole.
Knowing how to play the game is different. It means knowing how to play the ball from left to right or right to left. Learning how to set up your third shot by hitting the tee shot to the right spot. According to Cote, once he learned how to play, his career took off.
“All I was doing was hitting the ball,” Cote said. “Once I started practicing and learning how to really play the game, I got pretty good. It took a lot of work, but now I can live vicariously through my son.”
His son, Matt Jr., is a junior at Florida Gulf Coast with serious professional aspirations. He was the Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year and is already preparing for Q-School, that torture chamber that almost all players have to survive to earn their PGA Tour card.
“He can make it,” Cote said. “He's that good.”
Cote said his teaching methods are simple. Don't try to do too much and remember that you don't have to bomb every drive or make every putt.
“You know, everybody wants to hit the ball 300 yards, but 250 is really good. There's a misconception about what is good in golf,” Cote said. “For a regular golfer, breaking 100 is pretty good. Anyone who can break 90 is a really good golfer. You can't compare yourself with the people on television. Have fun and do what you are capable of doing.”
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