Sam Burns, the Shreveport movement and how he finally broke through with a PGA Tour win
Sam Rogers typed out a text message to Sam Burns while watching his prized pupil match Keegan Bradley shot for shot at the Valspar Championship.
Quit raising your left shoulder.
Before questioning the critique, understand that Rogers knows more about Burns’ swing than anyone. Rogers first laid eyes on him in middle school, then coached him at Shreveport’s Calvary Baptist Academy, where Burns won three individual state championships.
Burns didn’t see the text until winning his first PGA Tour event on Sunday, but it still made for a good story this week at Southern Trace Country Club, where Rogers works part-time.
“I sent him a text at every event,” Rogers said. “I don’t know if he listens to me now that he has professional coaches, but the kids I work with now enjoy it. Hopefully we’ll start seeing him on TV more now that he’s won.”
After putting his way to victory, the 24-year-old Burns embraced wife, Caroline, who flew from Shreveport to the Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, for the final round. His parents, Todd and Beth, and older brother Chase drove to Dallas on Saturday and made flights.
The scene was more anticlimactic at Squire Creek Country Club in Choudrant, located 11 miles outside of Ruston. Friends and neighbors gathered in the clubhouse to watch Burns, who lives in a housing development adjacent to Squire Creek. When Burns approached his final putt on No. 18, a severe weather advisory interrupted the local television feed.
Robert Smith, the golf pro at Squire Creek, bypassed the forecasts thanks to the Golf Channel live stream.
“People were going crazy wanting to know what the deal was,” Smith said. “A lot of them were talking to Sam that night and watching the replay to see what happened.”
David Toms learned from Hal Sutton
While Burns was winning the Valspar, another Louisianan was leading the Insperity Invitational on the PGA Tour Champions. David Toms, a 13-time PGA Tour winner, has mentored Burns from his earliest days in golf.
Toms, 54, set the bar high for the so-called “Shreveport movement” in golf, like Hal Sutton had for him starting in 1989.
“Hal was having a successful career while I was coming up, so that was fun to follow,” Toms said. “With me being close to Sam and our families knowing each other well, I think that gave Sam something to strive for.
“He played with multiple tour players when he was just a junior golfer, whether it was with me or on vacations, so he hasn’t been star struck by anything.”
The joke around Shreveport is take 10 people and half of them have a connection to the city. Take Burns’ teammates on the LSU golf team in 2017 — Burns and Nathan Jeansonne from Calvary Baptist, Loyola College Prep’s Eric Ricard and Philip Barbaree Jr. and Carter Toms, David’s son, from C.E. Byrd.
Rogers had one rule for his Calvary Baptist golfers — you can tell me what to do when you beat me. When you’ve coached teams to five consecutive state championships like Rogers, you don’t get tested very much.
Burns was one of the few who could tell Rogers what to do.
“But I’ve also beat him now,” Rogers said. “People used to kid me and say what’s the best thing I did for Sam and I always said stay out of his way. I’ve had some good golfers and Sam was always one of them that if a teammate needed help, Sam would be there to help him.
“Sometimes they’d get a little mad at him because he was right, but he understood the big picture in ways you don’t see from kids that age.”
So close to winning on PGA Tour
But Burns broke his ankle playing pickup basketball during his first full season on the PGA Tour. The initial prognosis was a three-month recovery, but Burns teed it up for the first event of 2019-20 at Greenbrier.
Entering the Valspar, Burns had led eight rounds this season. Another near-miss at the Houston Open and the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles became opportunities for growth.
“His comment to me after (the Genesis Invitational) was he played well and it was OK because he moved in the right direction,” Smith said. “For the average player, that would be a step back, but he was determined to make it a step forward.”
Toms recognized the sense of relief after Burns won at Valspar. He felt the same way when he captured his first PGA Tour event at the 1997 Quad City Classic — 10 days before Burns’ first birthday. Once you’ve done it, the narrative is no longer can you win, but when you’ll do it again.
“He thought that he had to play perfect to win a tournament and the reality is you can make mistakes,” Toms said. “You just have to get some breaks, play your best game and hopefully that’ll be good enough.
“Now he can relax a little bit and keep himself in contention on a weekly basis and push for majors.”
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