If you search Brian Davis online, among the many articles, videos and statistics you’d expect to find when searching up a professional athlete, you’ll run into a story that will tell you a lot about who Davis is as a person.
Despite playing in 385 PGA Tour events since 2005, many know Davis for one specific moment: In the playoff round of the 2010 Heritage Classic against Jim Furyk, with his first tour victory within reach, Davis self-reported a rules infraction that essentially handed the tournament win to Furyk.
The moment — that otherwise would have gone unnoticed by rules officials, spectators and fellow golfers if he had decided to not self-report — was one that received immense praise around the golf community, because it showed a real glimpse of the 49-year-old Englishman’s character.
One person who remembers it is Stoneybrook West Golf Club Director Rocky Hodge.
“We’ve never really talked about it, but to me, that moment actually gave me an idea of who he was as a person,” Hodge said. “Unfortunately, he’s probably more known for that than maybe his accomplishments. But I think that moment told everybody a lot about who he is as a person. To me, golf is a gentleman sport and an honest sport, so when you go to that trouble and potentially cost yourself a possible career … that’s certainly something you remember.”
Serendipitously, Hodge was put in the same group as Davis in an event in which they both played. After four hours together on the course, the two hit it off. That chance meeting was the foundation for the Brian Davis Golf Academy.
“We had a great conversation on the course, and he had mentioned looking at some changes from where he was and that he loved our energy, what the club did and also the location, because he lived very close,” Hodge said, “We then set up another meeting and spent the day together. We played golf again and kind of just … started to get the relationship rolling. As soon as that happened and we laid out a similar vision, the golf academy was born.”
Davis mirrored Hodge’s excitement about the project. The course and area remind him of his home in the United Kingdom.
“When the opportunity came up with Rocky, I jumped at it; I’m looking forward to what we can do here,” Davis said. “I love the place, because, obviously, I live very close by, so I know a lot of people here. It’s very similar to what I grew up with in the U.K. I just feel settled here, it feels very much like home.”
Like Hodge, Davis also appreciates the kind of person he has found in his business partner.
“It’s going to be very successful; that’s why I’m jumping in with two feet,” he said. “Obviously, Rocky is a big part of the reason why. He’s very driven. He’s a very hands-on guy, which I like. And I think we’re going to work well together.”
Their vision for the project is focused on serving the local community, and it starts with the kids.
“I don’t want to close the door to anything,” Davis said. “There’s a possibility for everything with this project, but a great example of what I do want to do is this. When I came here … Rocky had not been open that long. But he told me that the West Orange High teams moved over to our course, so I said to him that it’d be a great idea to host the girls and boys teams here and basically just give them the type of information or notes that you can really only get from someone who’s played on tour for a long time.
“I never had this when I was a youngster,” he said. “So, I look at these high school kids, and I see it as a great opportunity for them. … I’d love them to improve and hopefully follow their dreams — whether that’s to get to the LPGA or the PGA or just to be a good amateur player. I wish I had someone when I was younger — Someone to give me some of that information, so I didn’t have to make all the mistakes and go for it myself. … My parents never played golf. I just want to help these kids understand what it’s going to take and show them the little tricks that we’ve learned from being on tour.”
Hodge feels two sections of the golf community will be a big part of what the club’s academy will aim to serve: juniors and women.
“From just being open for a short period of time, I think juniors and women get left behind a little bit in the golf world,” he said. “For us, the academy will have a big presence of women and a huge presence of juniors.
“The juniors are a group we’ll target to serve in this community — whether it’s camps or individual lessons,” Hodge said. “We’ll have a bit of everything. We have the opportunity to help these kids, as a group, get into the game of golf.”
Beyond seeing an opportunity to serve up-and-coming youth golfers, the academy also will aim to meet the demands of the community — whether it be a novice trying to learn to play the game for the first time or the weekend warrior looking to improve their handicap. It also can accommodate groups and corporate events.