Just four weeks on his new job — his first outside of Alabama — Scott Limbaugh already is going new places. And crossing oceans.
On Wednesday, the first-year Vanderbilt’s men’s golf coach embarked on his first trip to Europe. The former Alabama assistant will spend the next four days recruiting one of the world’s best golfers with the hopes of adding him to Vanderbilt’s 2013 signing class.
“I don’t recruit a thousand kids hoping to get one,” Limbaugh, 32, said while driving to the airport. “I try to work on a minimal list. If I’m recruiting you, it’s like the Army — that means I want you.”
In five years at Alabama, he usually got his guy.
As the Crimson Tide’s recruiting coordinator he developed a reputation for drawing the nation’s best to Tuscaloosa. Typically that meant not having to leave his home state. Last year five of the team's eight golfers hailed from Alabama.
Although Limbaugh wanted to get the state’s top golfer every year, he also left Alabama to attract the U.S. Junior Amateur Champion (Cory Whitsett from Texas) and the third-youngest player to make a PGA Tour cut (Justin Thomas of Kentucky). Last month, both contributed to the Crimson Tide’s best run in school history — a national champion runner-up finish.
“Once you get a couple of those junior golf players nationally, people want to start being a part of it because they saw this guy do it or that guy do it,” Limbaugh said. “It’s not easier but more top level players will want to come look at what you’ve got to offer there.”
Limbaugh enters each recruiting period with a list of 15 potential prospects. After many visits to living rooms and country clubs, that number begins to dwindle. In his strong country twang and with a friendly approach, Limbaugh delves into recruits’ character and intentions.
Sure, he is looking for the best talent but he doesn’t want to waste his time either.
“To build a program, you’ve got to have people who are all in,” said Limbaugh, whose last head coaching job was at Division III Huntingdon College in Alabama. “They want to give you their soul because they see your soul and your heart in the program and all over the program. ... I’m not a coach who preaches PGA Tour — I’m a college golf coach. My players will be able to see I’m going to push them hard every single day to be the best they can be. I’m going to get them in an environment that will allow them to succeed and to be best college player they can be.
“I believe that will help them reach their dreams of playing professional golf, if that is their dream.”
He has a track record for helping players do just that.
Two Alabama products currently play on the PGA Tour. Michael Thompson tied for second at the U.S. Open last month. Bud Cauley left Alabama in 2011 after his junior season and became just the sixth player to skip Q-school and go straight to the PGA Tour — an elite list that includes Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Now at Vanderbilt, Limbaugh can throw the name Brandt Snedeker into conversation when trying to wow recruits.
Snedeker, a Nashville native and a 2004 Vanderbilt grad, is in his eighth year on the PGA Tour. Last weekend, he matched his best finish at a major when he tied Woods for third at the British Open. He still resides in the area and has met with Limbaugh twice since his hiring and plans to remain involved with the program.
“It is not blind luck — Brandt Snedeker is one of the best players in the world and he played golf at Vanderbilt University,” Limbaugh said. “So we know you can be a highly successful golfer coming from Vanderbilt.”
When he returns from his trip overseas, Limbaugh said signing the best players in Tennessee will be his top priority. The Commodores have just two golfers from Tennessee, including incoming freshman and Hendersonville product Carson Jacobs.
Because of his connections to the national junior golf circuit, Limbaugh doesn’t foresee a slow adjustment to recruiting his new state. If he has his way, he’ll have a bead on the best young players in Tennessee.
As he tries to find a home for his wife, Kate, a former Alabama point guard, and their 17-month-old daughter Malley and a second child on the way, Limbaugh wants to plant himself near Franklin.
Here he’d not only be close to Vanderbilt’s home course, Vanderbilt Legends Club, but he wouldn’t be far from the Golf House of Tennessee, the state’s headquarters for youth golf.
“Right now it is put on your hard hat and your work boots,” he said. “It is going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of energy but fortunately that’s two things I’m willing to do. I’ve got a pretty high energy level.”