Long with the “big dog” driver and smooth with the flat stick, it’s not surprising that D.J. Tozier’s favorite athlete is another long hitter with a deft putting touch and the same nickname.
“I love the way Dustin Johnson plays. It’s the same way I would like to play,” said the Shenendehowa High School senior in reference to the PGA Tour standout.
Tozier, whose given first name is Don, admits to dreaming about becoming a professional golfer some day, but unlike many other hopefuls, this player just may have a legitimate chance.
“He’s got the distance for the next level beyond college,” said Western Turnpike Golf Club head pro Herb Moreland, a multiple winner of the Northeastern New York PGA Teacher of the Year award and the coach to many top amateurs and professionals, including LPGA Tour member Moira Dunn.
“He can overpower just about any course he faces. He can definitely move it a long way,” said Moreland, who has been Tozier’s swing coach for the last four years.
“His swing is good, and his fundamentals are sound. He also has a very good short game. He has all the shots. He can flop it, chip it and pitch-and-run it. He’s got that small motor that can really move the ball.”
Moreland says that he and Tozier work more on the mental side of the game than the physical part these days.
“D.J. is a great kid, but he’s tough on himself. I’d like him to be easier on himself and evaluate his shots as they come. I just want him to focus on every shot,” Moreland said.
“I love working with Herb,” said Tozier, who finished tied for second at this week’s Section II New York State qualifier at Orchard Creek. “I’ve gone to his condo in Florida, and we spend a lot of time together talking about the entire game. It’s not just about the swing, but rather the entire thought process. We talk about thinking the game of golf.”
“He’s shown me a different way of looking at each hole. It’s almost like a way of course management,” Tozier said. “We’re working on picking a spot on the course. I call it a cone. We pick a small target, and I try to hit it. The idea is to stay in the cone. It really helps my focus.”
Tozier eats, sleeps and lives golf every day. He has no other real hobby and plays the game year-round.
“I started playing when I was about 8 years old, and I’ve played for Shenendehowa for the last five years,” he said. “My low round was a 66 at The Edison Club when I played in a partners event with Seth Adams.”
Tozier finished 10th on the Northeastern New York PGA Junior Golf Association points list and has numerous top-10 finishes in junior golf tournaments around the country.
Surprisingly, despite his great length off the tee, Tozier’s favorite club is his putter.
“I love putting,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I love hitting the ball a long way, but sometimes, it gets me into trouble. Usually, I can keep my putting stroke going. Putting has always been a big part of my game. I want to hit it far, but I know that I can always get up and down with my putter. I’ve spent many hours working on my putting stroke. If you have a good putting stroke, you can always play a decent round.”
Tozier said he spends at least 45 minutes practicing every day. Most of the time, he spends a lot more time than that, unless he’s playing.
“I would love to make golf my career,” he said. “I’m looking at some colleges down in the Georgia area right now, but I’ve also considered Siena.
“I would love to go to a place where you could play golf every day, but I’ve heard a lot of nice things about Siena, too. We’ll see.”
Shenendehowa golf coach Chris Douglas, who also placed Jimmy Greg and Alex Kinkaid on the state team, said he couldn’t be happier for Tozier.
“This is great for D.J., because although he played on the state team as a sophomore, he hurt his back last year and couldn’t compete,” said Douglas.
“He’s been a great player for us for many years now, and he makes the job of being a golf coach very easy for me. He’s very talented, and is a great role model and leader for the rest of the team. Being such a long hitter off the tee and such a great putter is a nice combo to have.”
Douglas said he’s not surprised that Tozier spends so much time playing golf and not much else.
“Most of the guys who are good enough to get to this level just play the one sport and play it year-round,” he said. “They commit themselves to the game.
“He absolutely has the physical tools, the mental strength and the social skills to play at the next level, and I’m sure he’ll be successful.”