Carly Ray Goldstein is not your typical 16 year-old golfer. She’s amassed 84 — yes, 84 — golf tournament victories in her young career. Her father, Top-50 instructor Barry Goldstein, told me about his phenom daughter at the 2011 PGA Show. This year, he had the good sense to bring Carly Ray to the 2012 show and I had the opportunity to chat with her. At the time, Carly Ray was being courted by several Division I universities, offering her “full-ride” scholarships. She has since made a commitment to one school, which will be revealed in the following conversation.
Golf Conversations: Carly Ray, the last time I spoke to your Dad – a year ago – he mentioned that you were getting inquiries from colleges.
Carly Ray Goldstein: Yeah, I’m still deciding. We’re about to start visiting colleges. We’re going to figure it out pretty soon.
GC: The University of Moscow?
Barry Goldstein: Tell Robert the schools.
CRG: Louisiana State University, Wake Forest, Maryland, Missouri, Texas A&M, South Carolina, San Diego State.
BG: Their coaches have really been aggressive offering her scholarships to come play there. So she’s listening.
GC: On your way to Wake Forest – and I mentioned this to your Dad last year – I live near Charlotte…
BG: He wanted you to stay with him. Caddy for you.
GC: Actually … I wanted to be your business manager.
BG: Wake Forest is one of the top four or five schools. She’s really looking at LSU, South Carolina, Wake Forest … So we’ll take you up on that, thank you.
GC: You’ll have your own room. Wolfie will come in to see you. And Benny the cat will visit you, too.
CRG: Is it ok if I get a hot chocolate really quick?
GC: Go, go ahead. And take a handful of Splendas. Make believe…
BG: Make believe you’re in a restaurant in South Florida.
GC: That’s right!
[Carly Ray departs]
You know, if she goes to South Carolina or Wake Forest, I can keep an eye on her.
BG: Yeah, you’d do that for me! Keep those boys away for me!
GC: No can do that, Barry.
[Carly Ray returns]
BG: Pick her brain.
GC: You leave that girl alone!
When I spoke to your Dad a year ago, up to that point you had won, what, a thousand tournaments?
CRG: No, right now I think it’s 84.
GC: 84! That’s fabulous.
CRG: Thank you.
GC: And how old are you now?
GC: Amazing! How old were you when you first took up the game? And don’t tell me, “In the womb.”
CRG: I think I learned to walk with golf clubs, to be honest. I started playing tournaments when I was 8. I got really serious then. I’ve been around it all my life, hitting balls and stuff.
GC: If you started playing tournaments when you were 8, when did you learn how to play? When you were 3?
When did you learn how to swing the golf club?
CRG: I think I always had a natural swing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been able to swing a golf club.
GC: Don’t take offense, but I hate you.
CRG: It’s not mutual.
GC: I know! I wish I had been you…
CRG: Thank you. I know I’m lucky.
GC: Well, old guys like me who take up the game in their late 30s or 40s, unfortunately…
CRG: I’m really lucky, I know.
GC: But you’ve got the good golf genes, which I think, is 50% of it. You gotta have the genes and the eye-hand coordination…
BG: I agree.
GC: When you first started playing tournaments, were you a competitive person? Was it important to you to beat people?
CRG: I’ve always been pretty competitive. I love to win; I go to every tournament hoping for a win, looking for a win.
GC: Did you have that killer instinct? Did you want to step on their throats?
CRG: I’ve only killed a couple of girls.
Yeah. Ever since I started, I never wanted to stop winning. I guess I do have some killer instinct.
GC: I’ve always wanted to have that quality. And I’ve always admired people who had it. I never understood where it came from.
BG: She does it with a smile, though, Robert.
GC: She’s happy to kill you.
BG: Yeah, she’s always happy and in a good mood. Tells people “nice shot” but she kills them with a smile. She’s very competitive but in a happy manner. Nothing angry about it. She does it with a smile.
GC: Yeah, but who’s asking you?
BG: Sorry. I’m staying out of it.
GC: [to Carly Ray] How do you put up with him? Do you want me to tell him to leave?
GC: Dad, you’re gonna have to let go of her soon; she’s gonna leave the nest. What kind of food do you like to eat?
CRG: Anything at all.
GC: Ok, when you come to my house, I make a pot roast that you could die from. Like Grandma used to make.
CRG: I do like pot roast.
GC: And be sure to give a little to Wolfie under the table. So tell me how Dad taught you the game.
CRG: Dad taught me the fundamentals. I’ve always practiced the right way. I don’t remember exactly taking up golf, but I remember when I was really young, I’d always watch him play. And from then on, I just wanted to play … always. I knew that was what I wanted to do.
GC: Was it the playing? Or was it the riding in the golf cart?
CRG: At first, it was probably the riding in the cart. Seeing alligators on the golf course. And after that, it was the sport that I found attractive.
GC: Do you wear a golf glove?
CRG: Yes, left hand.
GC: Years from now, if you get married, are you going to wear one of those gloves with the hole in it so the ring shows through?
CRG: I haven’t thought of that yet.
GC: And then they also have those gloves …
CRG: With the nails?
GC: Yes, so the tips are showing.
CRG: Yeah, I don’t think so.
GC: You sure?
GC: Ok, those are the right answers. I don’t like playing golf with women who have the Crème Brulee design on their fingertips.
CRG: I don’t understand that. I don’t understand that.
GC: You watch: there’s a lot of stuff you’re not gonna understand.
What’s your favorite golf club in the bag these days?
CRG: May I have three?
GC: You can have three. Take three!
CRG: Driver, putter, and lob wedge.
GC: Lob wedge?
CRG: Yes, I love my wedge. I have four wedges: lob, sand, approach, and pitch.
GC: I have four also … plus my foot wedge for impossible sand shots. Ok, Carly Ray, it’s golf club quiz time: “What’s the heaviest club of your 14 golf clubs?”
CRG: Do you know the answer?
GC: I know the answer. And don’t look at him!
CRG: I’m going to say 3 wood or 5 iron.
BG: [whispers]: Lob wedge.
CRG: Lob wedge? Oh, I guess that makes sense.
GC: Yes, the wedges weigh more than the driver. You would think that a driver, which is longer, would weigh more. But you’re in good company – kind of – because they asked Michelle Wie that question and she said, “Driver.” Speaking of the driver, how long are you hitting that club these days?
CRG: 250 on average. If I catch one, maybe 260.
GC: That’s fabulous. Do you have a particular swing thought that you use?
CRG: I always try to focus on rhythm and keeping a nice finish. And my grip and my fundamentals.
GC: Do you allow your left heel to rise on your backswing?
CRG: No. Left heel stays on the ground.
BG: That’s old school.
GC: That’s old school?
BG: Nowadays we don’t teach much of that.
GC: I know that. And frankly, I don’t agree with it.
BG: You let the left foot come up?
GC: Yeah. Jim Flick said in Golf Digest this month that the big muscle theory is fine for really good players and tour players, but he’s concerned that it’s not effective for regular lousy players.
BG: Flexibility is a big part of it. She’s young and strong and flexible. A guy who’s overweight and 65 years old, he needs to let that left foot come up.
GC: Who said I was 65 years old?
Carly Ray: Match play vs. stroke play. Do you have a preference?
CRG: I love ‘em both. I think match play is very intense – going back and forth, blow to blow. With match play, it all depends on whose game is better that day. I played a girl – I think I shot two better than her for stroke play – but she beat me by one at match play. I like both, I have no preference.
GC: If you’re ever 3 down or 4 down in match play, what kinds of thoughts do you have going around in your head?
CRG: You have to assume that the other girl is not going to mess up, and that you have to go take it yourself. If I’m playing well and the other girl is just beating me, what can you do? You’re playing your game. If I’m not playing well, then just get back on track and make some birdies.
GC: Well, I can tell you what you can do: in her backswing, you do the Velcro rip on the golf glove.
Have you ever been the victim of gamesmanship? Or should I say, gameswomanship?
CRG: Maybe a little. Not that I’ve noticed. I don’t like dealing with that. I don’t do that to other players, so I’d hope girls don’t do that to me.
GC: Let’s say you’re on the 15th hole, you’re leading the tournament by 3 shots, do you start thinking at 15, “Oh, I’m gonna win this.”
CRG: No. I always try to just play my game. Just play the golf course. I always try to play smart golf, not try to do anything too risky that’s gonna make me lose my lead. That’s how I play my whole round. I try to put it in spots where I know I can make par; if I make birdie that’s great. But nothing that’s gonna take me out of the tournament.
GC: Do you have a particular shot shape that you like to play?
CRG: I play draws mostly. Just a small draw, a couple of yards.
GC: And what if you find yourself in a situation where you’re stuck behind a tree and you have to hit a fade?
CRG: I’ve just started getting kind of good at that shot. I didn’t have it in my bag for a while and I’ve been practicing it a lot. I’ve had to use it a couple of times at tournaments and it’s worked out well.
GC: You just started playing that shot? Is that because your father refused to teach it to you?
CRG: No! It’s just that I have a very strong ball flight and usually, if I miss it, it’ll go to the left. It just wasn’t in my bag until about 6 months ago and I’ve asked some tips from my Dad.
GC: But now that you’ve met me…
… you can ask me for tips. And whatever your Dad’s charging you, I’ll do it for 20% less.
So I’m assuming that you have professional aspirations?
CRG: Yes. I want to play four years; I want to be an All-American at whatever college I decide to go to. Then have success on the LPGA.
GC: Wonderful. The LPGA could use you.
CRG: Thank you. I appreciate it.
BG: A beautiful girl with personality that also has a good golf game.
GC: Carly Ray, I hope you become a big success — knock on wood. I wish you all the best making it to the LPGA. I just hope that when you become a big star, you’ll remember the little people like me.
CRG: I will, I will.
GC: The guys from the golf magazines and TV are going to take up your time … and I’m going to be outside the press tent with my nose pressed up against the plastic window: “Carly Ray! Remember me????? Please … let me in!”
And your agent will be saying, “He’s mental. Get him outta here!”
GC: Has Pops here given you a golf tip recently that’s really worked for you?
CRG: Before this most recent tournament, I wasn’t hitting it awesome. I didn’t have my swing that much. I was thinking too much: “What am I doing wrong? Why aren’t I hitting it well?”
He just told me, “Focus on your fundamentals.” I did that and I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens.
GC: Good work, Dad!
BG: Thanks. She’s got a great swing and I just try to keep it simple: grip, stance, posture, ball position, and a world-class finish. That’s what she works on. If something gets off, we use video once in a while. But I haven’t taped her swing in 3 months. She just has a good golf swing. She’s just a good player. You can get too technical in this game and that’s not us. That is not us. We keep it simple-stupid. Do you agree, Car?
GC: So what’s next? You got a tournament coming up?
CRG: I have a tournament at our home course.
GC: At Inverrary?
CRG: Yeah. February 10th and 11th. Then after that, one in Miami. And after that, we’re gonna focus on where I’m gonna go to college and take a couple of visits.
GC: Your favorite golf course?
CRG: Pebble Beach. No doubt.
GC: Can I ask you what you shot there?
CRG: It was in the Wal-Mart First Tee Open with the tour pros. So I didn’t have a personal score. But I made a lot of birdies. We figured I shot …
BG: You played great. You birdied 6, 7, and 10 on Sunday on the Golf Channel.
GC: When was this?
BG: September of ’09. She played with Nick Price and Andy North.
GC: How nice.
BG: She outplayed Nick and Andy. They both told us afterwards she was the best player on the course that day. She played great. She played Pebble three times. They interviewed her coming down 15. What an experience.
CRG: It was great.
GC: So you actually talked to the reporter? You didn’t say, “No interviews! Wait until after the round!”
Has anyone invited you to play Augusta?
CRG: No. But if I decide to go to the University of South Carolina, their team plays there once a year. So I would get the opportunity to play there.
GC: If that happens, you call me.
CRG: “Can I please bring a guest?”
GC: Any advice for little girls who are just starting out in golf?
CRG: Just have fun with it. I always loved the game since I was little. I think it’s something you have to love. It’s a sport you spend most of your time with. I love it. If you love it, you’ll have a great opportunity to go far with it.
GC: I understand that you’re friendly with Natalie Gulbis?
CRG: Yes. She’s been a really nice girl to me. She’s awesome.
GC: Do you guys text each other?
CRG: No, we don’t text each other but she’s called me a couple of times on the phone. She’s been really nice to me and sends me Christmas letters and stuff. She’s awesome.
BG: She’s been a role model.
CRG: Yeah, she’s always been a role model to me since I was younger. I’m hoping that one day I can be like that for a little girl who’s watching me on tour.
BG: She’s a good person. Her parents raised her right. She’s been awesome to my daughter. Giving her clubs and clothes … she’s a good person.
GC: Her dad’s a big dude.
BG: Yeah, we’ve met him, we’ve met her mom. We’ve been friendly with Natalie since Carly was 7 or 8. She actually called into the Golf Channel once when I was on the air with Carly … and talked with both of us on television. She’s a good person.
GC: I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you, Carly Ray. It’s just too bad that Pops here kept sticking in his two cents.
But seriously, thanks – to both of you. And Carly Ray, I wish you continued success in your golfing career and in college.
CRG: I appreciate it, thank you.
GC: And remember this when you’re looking for a business manager: just because a guy understands contracts, and tax laws, and has lots of contacts in the golf industry and the media … it doesn’t mean he can make a good pot roast!
So where will Carly Ray attend college? Barry spills the beans in this email excerpt:
“My daughter Carly Ray, a high school junior, gave her verbal agreement to accept a 4-year, full ride scholarship to play golf & attend Louisiana State University in the fall of 2013! She will sign her scholarship on national signing day in November at her high school.”