ATHENS — When it comes to his golf swing, Josh Broadaway doesn’t do anything right. But fortunately for him, the golf ball doesn’t seem to mind, and the Albany native finds himself a stroke out of the lead in the Stadion Classic at UGA.
A self-taught player, Broadaway plays right-handed but with a cross-handed grip. He putts left-handed with a baseball grip. Nevertheless, he manages to get the ball in the hole. It took him just 66 whacks to do that on the par-71 University of Georgia Golf Course on Friday, and he trails only Jim Horschel and Jim Herman, who are at 10 under par.
“I started playing that way when I was 5 years old because I didn’t have any left-handed clubs,” said Broadaway, who Nationwide Tour regular. “From hitting baseballs and holding a bat left-handed, that’s just the way I gripped it and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’ve been doing it 28 years that way.”
Broadaway was among 26 players within five shots of the lead. He was in a tie at 9 under with Vanderbilt graduate and former Ringgold resident Luke List, who won in Valdosta last week, Georgia Southern graduate Aron Price, and former PGA regular Jason Gore.
Among those in the hunt include recent UGA graduate Hudson Swafford, who’s at 6 under. Paul Claxton and Justin Bolli and Swafford were the only Bulldogs to make the cut this week. Defending champion Russell Henley — who was among nine players in the field with UGA ties — shot 74 on Friday.
“I fought hard out there, but I definitely didn’t have it,” said Henley, who won as a UGA senior last year. “I fought on all cylinders, so that’s something I can take away that’s positive. The round got off to a rough start, and I didn’t have many bad shots, but I did have plenty of bad yardages, and I had too many long putts. It’s a tough game, and you have to be on out there.”
Broadaway was on Friday. The 33-year-old graduate of Troy is in his seventh season on the Nationwide Tour, making $617,971 in prize money in that time, but has made just three cuts in six events this year. He has made only one PGA start — he played in the Honda Classic as a Monday qualifier this past year — and made the cut in that one.
“I’ve been playing well for a long stretch now, going back to last year, so my confidence is real high,” said Broadaway, who missed the cut in the South Georgia Classic this past week. “I just haven’t been able to put four rounds together. I feel like I’m close to busting through. If can just keep knocking, somebody will open that door. So I’m knocking away.”
Many have made attempts to reconfigure Broadaway’s swing or switch him around to play left-handed. He has tried but long since gave up on the notion.
“My grandfather, who taught me to play, tried to change me,” Broadaway said. “He always said, ‘if you’re going to be any good, you’re going to need to switch. So kind of thought that. But I couldn’t get it in the air with my hands on there right. So I just said, ‘the heck with it; I’m just going to stick with what I’ve been doing.’”
Broadaway falls into an ever-growing category for free-swinging, free-thinking golf enthusiasts. Masters champion and UGA graduate Bubba Watson famously never had a formal lesson and plays his own ball-bending style. Phil Mickelson is a right-hander who plays left-handed. Jim Furyk has made millions with a funky loop at the top of his backswing. Chris DiMarco grips a putter the way a red-tailed hawk snatches prey.
“They’re going to set back golf teaching for years,” Georgia golf coach Chris Haack quipped. “Over the years you’ve had a lot of guys with different kinds of golf swings. You’ve got guys like Moe Norman or Miller Barber or Lee Trevino. I think it just goes to show, use what works. The key to the golf game is having something you know that will repeat when the pressures on.
“That’s what’s natural to Josh, so why change it. If he changed it he’d probably be selling cars somewhere.”
Haack has a more than casual knowledge of Broadaway and his golf game. Not only does Haack count him as a friend, he actually claims him as a Bulldog. Haack made good on that claim by offering Broadaway a spot in the Bulldogs’ locker room this week.
Though Broadaway never attended UGA, he’s a lifelong fan of the Bulldogs who attends almost every football home game every year. He said he wasn’t recruited to play at Georgia because “I wasn’t good enough.” But he’s playing the UGA Golf Course this week with an official Bulldogs head cover on his driver.
“Coach Haack showed me my locker [Wednesday] and when I went there the head cover was in there, so I had to break it out,” he said. “Coach Haack has kind of adopted me. He calls me a pseudo-Dog, so they kind of treat me like a Dog while I’m here.
“It’s pretty cool. But when you’re here in their backyard, you definitely want to play well. It’s going pretty good so far.”