Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Martin Laird?
If Laird, a former CSU graduate and All-American golfer, meets his own expectations, he will one day be mentioned in the same breath as the Professional Golfers Association's best players.
"I think I have enough potential to one day be one of the top players on the PGA tour, and my goal is obviously to one day be a full-time member of the PGA Tour and play in the majors," Laird said in an email interview.
Since graduating from CSU last spring, Laird, 22, has been in pursuit of a PGA career.
After making in through the PGA Tour's qualifying school in December, Laird played in his first tournament on the PGA's Nationwide Tour in January when he participated in the BellSouth Panama Championship in Panama City.
Although he was disappointed with the tournament's results – he shot a seven-over-par and failed to make the cut – Laird said he's happy with how his budding PGA career has started.
"I am very pleased as I made it to the final stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying school my first year, which is pretty rare," Laird said. "I think I am actually the youngest person on the Nationwide Tour. So I am ahead of most people in terms of where I am in my career."
Laird is not the only person who believes he has the potential to become a great pro.
CSU men's golf coach Jamie Bermel, who coached Laird during his CSU career, said Laird has the talent and work ethic to climb to the top of the PGA.
"I think the sky is the limit for Martin," Bermel said. "He has a plan to get better, and I think when he gets more experience, he will do just fine. I know he has the drive to be the best and has a lot of raw talent to get himself there."
BORN TO GOLF
Laird has spent most of his life sharpening his skills as a golfer. He said he was attracted to the sport at a very young age.
"I started playing golf as soon as I was old enough to walk," Laird said. "My dad played, and he introduced me to it when I was a kid, and I loved it right away. I think the thing I like most about the sport is the fact that it is such an individual sport; you are in total control of what you do. So you can't blame anyone else if you play badly and the same goes for if you play good. You can take all the credit."
Although Laird enjoys the individualism and independence of golfing, he said he got a lot of help from Bermel, which allowed him to take big strides during his four years at CSU.
"My golf in the four years at CSU got a lot, lot better," Laird said. "I now know that when I got to CSU I really didn't know how to play golf. I could hit the ball fine, but I didn't understand how to actually play and how to be a good player. Coach Bermel was a big factor in my game progressing over the four years."
Bermel said coaching Laird during his college career was a joy.
"It was an unbelievable experience," Bermel said. "Martin was one of the easiest players to coach because he worked very hard at his game. He was very focused and eager to learn. He made great strides in his game (while at CSU)."
Laird had a spectacular career during his four years at CSU. He was a two-time All-American, won the Mountain West Conference championship as a sophomore and, as a senior, was awarded the Merrill-Gheen Award and shared the Nye Trophy with former CSU and current Denver Broncos quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt.
The Nye Trophy is a yearly award given to the most outstanding male athlete at CSU, and the Merrill-Gheen Award is an award that honors both academics and athletics and is given to CSU's most outstanding male scholar-athlete.
Laird didn't just make himself better during his time at CSU; he also motivated his teammates to become better, said junior CSU golfer Kevin McAlpine, who is a former teammate of Laird.
"He was a great influence both on and off the (golf) course," McAlpine said. "He was and still is a role model to me. Playing on the same team as Martin was a confidence boost in itself. You just knew he would play well, and it rubbed off on me."
After becoming one of the collegiate level's top golfers, Laird now hopes to do the same at the pro level. Laird said he practices and works out during the day and continues to work on his putting, which he said has been a weakness in the past.
"My ball-striking has always been my strength, and my putting has let me down in the past," Laird said. "But as of right now, I would say my short game has actually got better than my long game, as I have been practicing really hard on it."
McAlpine said he believes his former teammate has what it takes to become a successful pro.
"There is no doubt that Martin has the game to make it big in professional golf," McAlpine said. "It is a big step up to the Nationwide Tour, and I think that once he finds his feet and starts playing week in (and) week out, he will establish himself as one of the best. Martin has the best overall game of anyone I've ever seen or played with."
Even though Laird graduated nearly a year ago, Bermel said he remains close with his former player. He still talks with Laird once a week, offering him support throughout his pursuit of a PGA career.
"I am very humbled he still calls and asks questions and (for) advice," Bermel said. "One of the great benefits of coaching (is) developing relationships. I know I coached him for four years, but also we have developed a great friendship. He knows if he ever needs anything, he can call, and I will do whatever I can to help him out. Not only is he a former player, but he is a friend for life."