Cooper Dossey (Baylor Athletics photo)
Cooper Dossey would like to talk about his brothers. You can’t adequately tell his golf story without mentioning them. While Cooper, 21, is the oldest among the three Dossey boys, in many ways, 19-year-old Luke is the trailblazer.
It was Luke’s influence that landed Dossey on the Baylor roster three years ago, and also Luke who led Cooper to his current swing instructor, Chuck Cook. It’s fitting, then, that Luke was on his brother’s bag for part of the week at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort as Cooper picked up a game-changing win at the North & South Amateur on June 29.
“A lot of stuff I’ve done has been because of him,” Cooper said.
There’s a tight bond between Cooper, Luke and 16-year-old Sam, who caddied for Cooper through North & South stroke play. This fall, Cooper and Luke will become teammates at Baylor, a school that Luke was drawn to first. Cooper was already committed to Texas A&M, but when Luke visited in the fall of 2015, the start of Cooper’s senior year in high school, Cooper’s interest was peaked. He got permission from Texas A&M coach J.T. Higgins to take an official visit to the Baylor campus in Waco, Texas just to quell the what ifs. It ended up going a lot differently.
“I remember walking into the business school and feeling like this is home, this is where I’m supposed to be,” said Cooper, who is now a communication major at Baylor.
It’s common in some college sports, like football, to withdraw a commitment from one school and commit to another. It’s not so common in golf, so when Cooper returned from Waco, it was an emotional weekend. Cooper didn’t want to leave Texas A&M in a bad spot, but Baylor is in the Dossey blood – more than 20 family members on both sides of the tree are alumni.
“If Luke had not have gone on that visit, maybe I would still be here but at the same time, I’m thankful he did because I don’t know what would have happened,” Cooper said.
McGraw and Dossey
The oldest Dossey has thrived under head coach Mike McGraw, one of the most renowned coaches in men’s college golf. In McGraw, Cooper found a mentor in life, not just golf.
That’s been important for a kid who has taken the lows with the highs. Cooper was a three-time Texas state champion and Golfweek’s
No. 8-ranked junior in the class of 2016. At Baylor, he made every start with the team as a freshman but began to feel pain in his left wrist at the end of his first season. That prompted a cortisone shot to get through the postseason. Cooper was runner-up at regionals and won his NCAA Championship quarterfinal match against Oklahoma’s Blaine Hale even though Baylor didn’t advance past that round.
When his wrist pain returned the following November, it forced a break from January to March. Cooper took time off again last summer and played without pain until the final start of his fall season. Ultimately, he had reconstructive surgery on his ECU tendon, and repairs to torn cartilage in his hand, on Nov. 8. He didn’t touch a club again until February of 2019, and even then was only hitting the ball off a tee.
“It was just a rough year, just lack of confidence, didn’t have anything going for me,” Cooper said of his junior season. “I was scared to hit certain golf shots because I didn’t want to hurt it again.”
That fear never really went away, but Cooper is a smarter player for it. He’s never been one to pound balls on the driving range but playing with an injury has made him more disciplined in all areas of his practice. He doesn’t hit risky shots if he doesn’t have to – like when his ball may have landed on a tree root in a practice round – and he avoids hitting off mats at a practice facility. He’s more inclined to work on his short game, which has paid off in recent weeks.
Cooper’s work with Cook, who is based out of Austin, Texas, has been a breath of fresh air. Luke and Sam have been working with Cook for nearly a year.
“I got back from my injury and wanted to change something, a new set of eyes. He’s very well respected by his peers,” Cooper said of a man who also works with professional golfers Andrew Landry and Kristen Gillman.
Cooper has committed to shortening his golf swing, making it less steep (which will ultimately help his injured wrist) and getting his backswing on plane.
“Just small tweaks in the golf swing, but the best thing he’s done for me is believed in me,” he said of working with Cook. “I’ve only known him for just over a month and he has encouraged me and supported me and texted me a lot. I want someone who is personal but also professional, who I can call and he’ll answer.”
This is Cooper looking for traits in others that he values in himself. His strong faith is both his platform and his foundation. Cooper often prays during a round. It has helped him remain rooted to his identity but also move forward.
In talking about his North & South victory, Cooper very nearly glosses over the fact that he’s 11-0 in match play since he arrived at Baylor in 2016. By contrast, he’s only made the cut in two summer amateur stroke-play events (those were the 2017 and 2019 Sunnehanna Amateur, for those wondering). Cooper’s ability to bounce back contributes to that flawless match-play record. If you can’t get over a bad hole, Cooper explains, you’re going to get 6-and-4’d pretty quickly.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re hitting it well or hitting it like garbage, you just need that one putt to drop,” he reasons.
This is perhaps the sort of insight that goes into a journal Cooper keeps about his game. His grandmother encouraged him to write about the good stuff and the bad stuff. He writes it down so he won’t forget it – and so he can make sense of it.
The first thing his grandmother asked when Cooper got home from his North & South win is how he could turn his match-play strengths into stroke-play success. That’s something he’s written about, too.
“If I can translate my game from match play to stroke play,” he said. “I think I can be a top player.”
His North & South victory doesn’t get Cooper into the U.S. Amateur later this summer – he’ll have to get through a qualifier for that on July 23. Surprisingly, Cooper has never played that event. It’s the top line on his list of priorities.
He has all the tools not just to get there, but to make a deep run.
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SNEAK PINEHURST PEEK
: That the North & South is essentially a preview of next month’s U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst Nos. 2 and 4 isn’t lost on anyone in the amateur golf community. North & South tournament director Brian Fahey thought that might inflate the number of entries for the long-running amateur event. To his surprise, the mail didn’t pour in. The quality of applications did increase, however.
Typically, Fahey sees 10-20 applicants inside the top 200 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. This year, he received around 30 of those.
“We’ve been trending in that direction the last couple of years anyway, but I’m sure some of it had to do with the fact that we are hosting the U.S. Am this year,” Fahey said.
Pinehurst incorporated the newly renovated No. 4 course into North & South week this year (players saw it during stroke-play qualifying). It was the first tournament test for a layout that will change the USGA formula. For the first time in U.S. Amateur history, the 36-hole championship match will be split between two courses – Nos. 2 and 4.
“A lot of our volunteers who work the North & South are volunteers for the U.S. Am so a lot of them got to see the opportunity and how the course plays and what that means for them, their committee and their jobs,” Fahey said. “Overall, players really enjoyed it. I think the course setup was really good, conditions were really good and the greens were rolling about 12.”
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: The beauty of growing up in a small-town is that you’re never forgotten. After finishing his college career at Baylor this spring, Garrett May won the Northeast Amateur last week, one of the most heralded tournaments on the summer amateur circuit.
When May returned home to Texarkana, Texas, he got a champion’s welcome. A crowd turned out at a local brewery to surprise and congratulate him.
Mayor Bob Bruggeman presented May with a certificate of accomplishment for his play at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I. May also was recognized as the first member of the sports Hall of Fame at Redbone Magic Brewing, where the celebration took place.
"The best thing about Texarkana is the community," May told the Texarkana Gazette
. "Everyone is really close and everybody knows everybody; which isn't bad. I love calling this city home. I have so many friends and family here, and they create a great support group around me.
"My ultimate goal, in golf terms, is to be the best player in the world. In life terms, I want to have an impact on anyone and everyone that I come into contact with."
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TOURNAMENTS TO WATCH
Sahalee Players, Sahalee Country Club, Sammamish, Wash., July 1-3
Many of the top amateur events have been on the East Coast so far this summer. The Sahalee takes the nation’s top amateurs to the other coast. Players we’re keeping an eagle eye on this week include Sahith Theegala, the 2017 champion who has been out the past year recovering from wrist surgery; defending champion Cole Madey; California Amateur medalist Sean Yu; and Spencer Tibbits, the Oregon State player who qualified for the U.S. Open and won the Oregon Amateur already this month.
Bayonet Black Horse Amateur, Bayonet Black Horse, Seaside, Calif., July 6-8
Another can’t-miss West Coast event, and one on a tough layout. It’s a relatively young tournament, having only been played since 2015, but draws some of California’s top college and mid-amateur players.
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STAT OF THE WEEK
: For four years, no one has been able to unseat Scott Harvey at the George C. Thomas Invitational. Despite being an East Coaster (Kernersville, N.C.), Harvey seems to have an affinity for Los Angeles Country Club, the tournament victory. It’s a difficult thing to defend a title in today’s amateur-golf climate, let alone do that three years in a row. Hats off to Harvey.
Read more about Harvey's latest victory here
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TWEET OF THE WEEK
: A new World No. 1 (in both the World Amateur Golf Ranking and the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com Player Ranking), and a fitting tribute