IMG Academy – perfecting students’ rounds of golf and their brains


IMG Academy – perfecting students’ rounds of golf and their brains

May 29, 2021

by Will Doctor of


What do the following professional golfers have in common?

Byeong Hun An, Emiliano Grillo, Cheng Tsung Pan, Peter Uihlein, Paula Creamer, Sean O’Hair, Nelly Korda and Casey Wittenberg.

Besides being successful in amateur and professional golf, all of these players attended IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. As high school amateurs to polish their game before making a splash. at the professional level.

They took the same academic courses as everyone else: math, science and everyone else. IMG is academically respected, and the average college student scores higher on the SAT and ACT than the national average.

Similar academic / athletic academies thrive in the development industry, but IMG is the only one to combine education, golf and fitness on the same campus. There is not a wasted minute, which is expected for players looking to compete at the college level.

“I would say time management has been a big part of my success so far. As a varsity golfer, you travel a lot and you need to be efficient over time to excel in school and golf. IMG really prepared me for this, ”said Kaito Onishi, a senior player at the University of Southern California. Onishi graduated from IMG Academy in 2017 and had an immediate impact on the Trojans team. He was the first Pac-12 year in 2018 and was the first Pac-12 team in 2019.

IMG Academy has an enviable track record of success that no other academy can boast. The academy has won over 1,000 junior golf tournament victories and has sent more athletes to universities through scholarship than any other academy in America. After IMG Director of Golf David Whalen, Jessica Korda’s former swing coach, and Paula Creamer left IMG in 2015, the academy struggled with management.

That all changed in 2019 when IMG decided to hire a new manager, Kevin Craggs, whose resume included over 31 years of experience coaching some of the best players on tour. He is currently the coach of Colin Montgomerie and has built a solid new foundation for the academy.

“First and foremost, we built the academy around three main platforms: education, encouragement and evidence,” said Craggs. “People can only be educated by knowledge, wisdom and information. We know that encouragement is a powerful tool for changing behavior. But everything we do, from evaluating a student’s play to improving course strategy, is evidence-based. “

– Photo IMG

If there is one thing that competitive golfers are looking for, it is the assurance that a well-designed practice will directly correlate with lower scores on the course. However, the most essential part of Craggs’ program is proof. “We use evidence to help athletes better understand what needs to be improved and, most importantly, the process to improve it,” said Scott Bettger, who is in his 23rd year as an academy coach. . He has seen the ebb and flow of leadership and is convinced that Craggs has the academy on the right track to succeed.

Junior golf is extremely competitive in the upper years of high school. If you are a student who has not yet made a commitment to golf in college, life can get busier than it needs to be for teens. The three main platforms of Craggs have been developed so that student-athletes stay in the moment and control controllers on a daily basis. Just ask Gregory Solhaug, a junior golf graduate who received no scholarship offer to play to the next level until the end of his high school career at IMG.

“I was a late player in junior golf. During my junior year, I felt I started to play better as I got bigger and stronger, ”said Solhaung, now a freshman on the University of Canada’s men’s golf team. Oregon. “IMG helped me a lot, and all the coaches made me believe in myself before I even started playing my best.

Like many students who attend IMG Academy for golf, there is only one perk that matches education: the unbeatable weather in Florida all year round. A quarter of IMG students come from the northeastern region of the United States to avoid a long winter season, and they hope to gain the attention of colleges throughout the year. Unlike anywhere in the United States, IMG runs a Junior Golf Tour, formed in 2010, that travels across Florida (and sometimes the Northeast) during the school year.

Andrew Parr, Director of the IMG Junior Golf Tour, has been committed to making the tour a path to the higher levels of the game since its start in 2010. The tour was formed to help players succeed on and off. from the golf course and get ready. them for college.

“We currently organize around 25 events per year,” said Parr. “Children certainly have more options if they don’t want to travel and stay close to home. Our goal has always been to provide high quality play opportunities, and the key is to provide those opportunities where kids actually play for something. In our case, that means entry status based on AJGA performance. What this means for a child is that they can participate in our events to qualify for bigger events. “

For Parr, it’s about giving junior golfers the opportunity to progress by delivering tournaments that deliver real value. Even when the tour has a few events in the Northeast in early fall, the winner of an event gets an exemption from the Northern Junior Championship. The tour includes the mindset of moving up the rankings starting early for junior golfers.

“I played a lot on this tour when I was under 15. All of the events on the IMG Junior Golf Tour have helped me find a way to play against decent enough ground and get the competitive juices flowing, ”Solhaug added. “So going on this tour was a convenient way for me to prepare for bigger events in the future. The courses we have played are all in great condition so it was always a good test.

Kevin Craggs (IMG photo)

But it wasn’t until Craggs arrived at IMG that the academy started to fully enjoy the tour. Craggs has taken extra steps to ensure amateur academy golfers are always in competitive mode and not just beating balls on the course.

“The tour is now included in our curriculum where students play seven mandatory events throughout the year, which instills and develops the competitive attributes of our students,” said Craggs. “IMG is not a swing factory. It is a program to develop players to improve their game and become well-rounded people.

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