Former UNC coach Inman returns to competition at Rex

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Courtesy of UNC Sports
Inman (right) coached at the University of North Carolina for 13 seasons.
June 08, 2011
John Dell, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

While John Inman was coach at the University of North Carolina, he would constantly tell his players to play one shot at a time. Now he'll put that advice, and all the other advice he gave, into use on his own game this week at the Rex Hospital Classic Raleigh, N.C.

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Inman, who resigned as the Tar Heels' golf coach last month after 13 seasons, will be starting a new phase in his life - and it's going to be a lot like his previous life on the PGA TOUR.

Inman, 48, has set his sights on the Champions Tour and will gear up for the Tour by playing several Nationwide Tour tournaments until reaching that magical age of 50.

"I'm really looking forward to competing again," said Inman, who won twice on the PGA TOUR until back problems forced him into another line of work, where he eventually landed as coach of his alma mater.

With his back feeling good and his putting stroke feeling even better, he's optimistic about the future.

Last month Inman nearly Monday-qualified into the Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA TOUR by shooting 66, but lost in a playoff. He hadn't played 18 holes in about two months, but still had enough game to nearly make the field at Quail Hollow.

A lot has changed in pro golf since Inman last played a full season. In 1995 he suffered a herniated disk in his back that led to surgery and he played on the PGA Tour in 1996 on a medical exemption. He wound up playing his final season in 1997 on what was then called the Nike Tour.

Inman, who is a Greensboro, N.C. native, wound up making just over $1 million in his career on the PGA TOUR. He won the 1987 Provident Classic and the 1993 Buick Southern Open. And he did it without an over-powering swing, but with one of the best short games around.

"To see how much the game has changed I averaged about 247 to 255 driving and now these guys hit hybrids and 4-irons that far," Inman said. "So that's the biggest change that I've seen. But I say that knowing that it's still about getting the ball into the hole as fast as possible."

Inman, who graduated from North Carolina in 1984, was the ACC champion in 1982 and the NCAA champion in 1984. He said that for as long as he could remember he played golf just about every day until he started coaching at North Carolina.

With coaching duties consuming most of his time, he found out that fishing was a big passion. He loved when the Tar Heels played the ACC Championships at the Old North State Club at Uwharrie Point because of the great fishing on Badin Lake.

Now, Inman will be fishing for a career on the Champions Tour when he hits 50 on Nov. 26, 2012.

One of the luxuries Inman says he has is the chance to compete on the Nationwide Tour.

"Having the Nationwide Tour there is great for a lot of folks whether it's the young guys just out of college or for guys like me," Inman said. "It's a great proving ground and I know I'll have to show up and be ready to play."

John's older brother, Joe Inman, who is 63, spent a lot of years cashing big checks on the Champions Tour. Joe says his younger brother should make an impact.

"I think to be successful on that Tour you have to have two things," said Joe, who won three times on the Champions Tour. "You have to be healthy and you have to be able to putt and let me tell you that John can putt. So if John's back holds up and he can play without pain and play often then I think he's going to be successful."

The biggest adjustment Inman has to make is putting his body through the grind of playing golf again on a regular basis.

"Absolutely, that's the biggest thing I've got to get used to," Inman said. "It's one thing to play 18 holes every two weeks or so, but that's no longer the case for me."

Another plus for Inman this week is he can stay at home and commute to Raleigh to play in the tournament. He also has experience at the TPC Wakefield Plantation course because he played there in 2001 when it was called the Buy.com Carolina Classic.

Despite not having played competitively on a consistent basis for a long time Inman isn't just going to go through the motions.

"I always want to win and it doesn't matter what tournament I'm playing in," Inman said. "You've got to have that mindset and I'm going to go out there and take the good with the bad and see what happens. I'm looking forward to it."

John Dell has covered golf for the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina for the last 17 years. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. You can reach him at johndell@triad.rr.com.

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