Episode 14 - Ross Roark

The Secret Golf's Steve Elkington visits his long time friend and World Champ Ross Roark to learn more about training horses, and plays golf with junior golfer Jason "JT" Pittman.

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NARRATOR: On this episode of "The Rural Golfer," Elk moseys into West Texas to reunite with an old partner, who also happens to be a 69-time world champion horse trainer.

-Here we are with my friend Ross Roark. Ross and I have been friends for 15-20 years. And I've never been here.

NARRATOR: And witness kind eye quarter horses transformed into champions.

-We'll start working him a little longer, feeding him a little bit more.

-Getting stronger looking?

-Stronger, yes sir. Yeah.

-They don't mess around here.

NARRATOR: He saddles a black beauty.

-That's Big Black.

-That's Big Black.

NARRATOR: And learns of a quiet 13-year-old's passion.


STEVE ELKINGTON: Ross has been handing down secret information to JT through me, and it's working. And that's healthy. That's good. I mean we're growing some golf out here in Monahans.

NARRATOR: "The Rural Golfer" rolls your way next.


THEME SONG: 1, 2, 3, 4. We got the big show revving and our eyes are on the map. Where we're going next week, just can't say. So grab your clubs, let's hit some balls, we're making friends and playing golf. The Rural Golfer's coming your way.

NARRATOR: On a map, it's halfway between Dallas and El Paso. In the history books, Monahans is steeped in American heritage. A working-class oil town smack dab in the heart of cowboy country, it's a tight-knit community with true Texan roots.

ROSS ROARK: Football is the sport in Texas, and if you don't play football they check your brain.

NARRATOR: But this resourceful West Texas town is looking to the future to branch out.

ROSS ROARK: We're always encouraging kids out here to come play. Because we know it's a game that they can play for the rest of their life. We have kids out here on the range all the time. There will be some good players who just walk up there and go help them, because they want Monahans to have a champion golf team.

-Here we are with my friend Ross Roark. Ross and I've been friends with for 15-20 years and I've never here. Why is this place capable of creating 69 world championships in halter horse training?

-69 official on the books. Yeah, I think the most important thing about our program, it's consistent.


ROSS ROARK: We do it six days a week.

-They don't mess around here.

ROSS ROARK: I was fortunate to be raised in a ranching family. Our granddad was a good horseman, a good rancher. My dad is a very good horseman. But everything in my life tends to the livestock, the cattle, horses.

NARRATOR: But there is a specific emphasis on quarter horses.

ROSS ROARK: By definition, a quarter horse to me is a horse that's 15 hands to 15-2. It looks like to me they can run a quarter of a mile. And the thing about the quarter horse, they're such good-minded animals. And you can do so many things with them. You can race them. You can show them. You can ride them.

The really important thing to quarter horses is the way the shoulder sits on them. You don't want a straight-shouldered horse.

-This horse, he's got a B there.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Oh, underneath.

ROSS ROARK: That's what you want. You don't want it flat.

They're deep-hearted. And they're good on their feet and legs.

Get them veins pumping.

NARRATOR: On the golf course, breaking par is the objective. But in Rourk's business, breaking horses is the goal.

-That's how you want them.


-If you get a little blood pumping in there, look how much better she looks.

ROSS ROARK: We'll get on them and spend 60-90 days just getting a little handle on them, riding them in the pasture, riding on the ranch. And it just, I think, helps them mentally. What you put into it, that's what you're going to get out of it.

You've got to get up. You've got to get the barn. You've got to take care of your livestock.

NARRATOR: For Roark, the key is in what he sees.

-That's a muscle there.

-You want to weather so that saddle fits on him.

ROSS ROARK: First of all, I want correctness in their feet and legs.

-See how that comes out?

STEVE ELKINGTON: Yes, sir. That's extra points?


ROSS ROARK: When you step behind a horse the widest part of the body is the stifle. And that just shows strength in their hindquarters.

-That should be the widest part of this horse.

I want a horse that's sound.

NARRATOR: Like the horses he breeds and trains, Rourk's career surpassed his wildest dreams by leaps and bounds.

-I've had 69 AQHA World Champions. I remember there was a day that I just wanted one. It's something I never dreamt it would happen. But I've been blessed with my family that believed in me, the people that work for me. I was fortunate to have the following. You know, if I don't have the good horses, I can't do it.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I got a lesson from Nick [INAUDIBLE] and Rich [INAUDIBLE]. You knew that. You knew that.

-Oh, yeah.

-I'm an expert now.

You tell me when I should make a move.

-All right.

-I'm going up?

-Going up.

-I was doing better when I was uphill and he was downhill.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I'm actually starting to feel a little better on a horse.

-What do you do to get him to go? A little kick? Which way am I going? This way?

-Pull that right way and this way.

-This way?


-Hey, you're going a little fast for me, here. You need to get around here and give me some lessons.


-I've given you plenty.

-Just go right.

-This deal?


-This way?

-Just go to the right. Kick with your feet.

-Come on.

-Right here, now let him-- there you go, there you you.

-[INAUDIBLE] one of these. Shoot. I'm a natural. Charlie, I like you.

-There you go.

-Right there.

-There you go.

STEVE ELKINGTON: We're just going like this.

NARRATOR: In Elk's line of business it's horses for courses.

-See how that ball's got some psh-sh-sh.

NARRATOR: In the case of long-time friend Ross Rourk, it's all about horses and courses.

-I might be changing my tune. Ross, I got me a good lesson man over here.

-I met Steve probably 20-25 years ago through Clay and Lori Walker. One weekend they asked me to came down there and just hang out and go play some golf. And next thing I know, we were out at Champions, and he introduced me to Steve. And from that time on we've been friends ever since.

You taught me to play to the hole, don't play back to the hole.

NARRATOR: Though his family and career as a horseman are Roark's top two priorities, Elk's friendship and "Secret in the Dirt" website takes a solid third.

-Let's go hit a few balls.

-Let's get it.

-Warm up a little bit.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I like it. The turf looks pretty good.

ROSS ROARK: When "Secret in the Dirt" come out, then I had access to so much in the vaults. And I could go in there and just watch things and learn. It's-- you hit down on it. That's where it's in the dirt. And that's what I've talked to JT about.

Living close to the golf course, I'd come over in the evenings and practice it. I've improved a lot in the last five or six years. I was probably 85-86 shooter.

-So how's the game been going this summer?


ROSS ROARK: Steve has always helped me with my golf. And even whenever I wasn't real good, he started teaching me from the ground up to get better.

NARRATOR: Before Elk came into the picture, Roark's mid-level handicap allowed him to trudge his way around a track. But now that he's discovered, well, the secret, Rourk remains in full stride.

-I'm proud of Ross. He's worked hard at it. Once he gets his work done at the barn, he's right here, boom. And it's his hobby. He loves it.

NARRATOR: The real secret to Roark's success, however, is the balance he keeps between horses and courses.

ROSS ROARK: My livestock are my number-one priority and my family. And that's first. And then I get my work done. Then I'll feel like they're taken care of for the day, that's whenever I go play golf. That's what I like to do. I like to rope and play golf.

STEVE ELKINGTON: And you've got a young fellow here that's coming along, JT Pittman.

ROSS ROARK: He's a young man that I try to help.

-One day he came out here, and introduced himself, and then we just started talking, starting playing golf together.

ROSS ROARK: He's got a lot of natural ability. And the thing, he's got a lot of work in it.

STEVE ELKINGTON: That's what we like to hear.

Nice. JT said, this was the first lesson he's ever had. And I think "The Rural Golfer" people, when they see JT's swing action, you're going to think, well, he may have had tons of lessons. But he learned like I did. He copies other people.

I'll give you the lesson that my coach gave me when I was a kid. He said the right hand grip--

-The club was everywhere during my swing. I had to do extra stuff to make it come back online.

STEVE ELKINGTON: We wanted to lay in between these two knuckles here in there. And on this thumb, the only piece touching the grip in the right hand is that dot. So let's see what you got.

That's where the fingers lay. That's right.

JT PITTMAN: He made the grip in my fingers and not in my hand.

STEVE ELKINGTON: And when your palm is pointing to where you're going, your brain knows it.

JT PITTMAN: Now it's square through the whole swing.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Now what that does, JT, is when you throw the club up here, we've got it square. It's not going anywhere. So now we can start building some power and put everything we want into it.

If I give JT an idea to do today like his grip, and then I can explain to him why that's good to him and he understands why he should do it, and then he believes it. Those dots get crossed right there, where it's 2 plus 2 goes 4 into his head. And he knows that that's going to work. Then it becomes [SNAP] like that.

Attaboy, attaboy. You could beat a lot of guys with that shot right there at your age.

-Yes, sir.

-Let's take that to the course, boys. What do you think?

-Let's head out.

STEVE ELKINGTON: He got it on the safe side. All right, JT. I was JT, 13-year-old golfer. The only thing I didn't get was a lesson from a pro.

Nice. Now the reason that leaked over there, is that's your old swing with your grip. So you'll be able to use your right hand more and more and more and more and more, now just straighten it out.


Big black.

ROSS ROARK: Big black

STEVE ELKINGTON: Up there somewhere. Is that a good spot, JT there? JT don't talk much. I got a feeling though, he might be a little one of those quiet assassins. I think he might want to--

ROSS ROARK: Cut you up?

STEVE ELKINGTON: Cut me up with a long part or something.

-I hit a little bit right. Ross is in the fairway. And Steve hit it about a hundred yards farther than all of us. So.

STEVE ELKINGTON: What kind of yardage have you got.

JT PITTMAN: 144 to the pin.

STEVE ELKINGTON: That's grip's looking good, JT. I can see it from here. Good swing, really good swing.

Looks good, Ross. Oh, wow. He's hit it in the hole. Great shot, mate.

-Thank you.

-Uh-oh, JT, does he do that to you all the time, a little bit?

-I don't-- I don't hold back on JT. I can't.

-You can't, no.

-He'll tell all of his friends.

-Your days are numbered, you know that?

-I know that.

JT PITTMAN: A little left.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Me and JT, we pulled our shots a little bit. That's OK.

ROSS ROARK: Where are you at, left?

STEVE ELKINGTON: Left edge. We've got to get up here and see if Ross is sitting next to the cup.

Oh, look at this guy. Good shot, JT. He got him some short game, huh Ross?

ROSS ROARK: He got him some short game. He's got eyes, got a good feel.

STEVE ELKINGTON: If you're going to make one, this would be the one, I think.

ROSS ROARK: This would be the one.

STEVE ELKINGTON: You got in, in four, though. Good hole.

All right, JT. I hate to-- I hate to do this to you, but you know, we can only be friends for so long. Ooh. God. Did you make that do that? You had some kind of magical spell on that over there. Attaboy.

ROSS ROARK: Up and down.


I was looking at those markers over there, Ross. That's a real thing.

ROSS ROARK: A drill bit they use in the oil fields.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Like the Beverly Hillbillies.

ROSS ROARK: Beverly Hillbillies.

-We hit oil, oil that is, Texas tea.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I know that the wind howls here.

I'm looking up there. I know that the out of bounds is not in play at all. But with the wind-- does it get help? I mean it gets serious.

-Oh yeah. Because the wind, we got Southwest wind coming right at us, and it can--

-It can howl.

-It can howl. That's what makes this course,

-Yeah, the wind.

-The wind.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Oh, we might have given it, given that wind too much-- too much advantage. Oh, look at this I man. Look at this man.

ROSS ROARK: Come on, wind.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Yeah, good shot.

ROSS ROARK: Thank you.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I get the read off you.

JT PITTMAN: Yes, sir.


It's a good three.

-I'd always come by here in the summer. And I'd say, man that little kid, he's out there at 8:00 in the morning. He's out there chipping and putting, and just practicing. He must have a passion for it. He's a young man who hits the ball high, which for at West Texas that's not very common. This young man's got a lot of talent. I've tried to help him with his grip, which Steve helped him even more today.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I'm never amazed to see really top kid players like JT. He's a sunup-to-sundown guy. And there's just no way that he's not going to be successful in golf.

ROSS ROARK: His dad's a good player. We started hanging out, and playing golf. And he was getting better and better. And he's just got a work ethic and a passion for it. And we'll see where it takes him.

-Like, get under bushes and hit through trees, just a tougher shot. So if you had that in the tournament, you know how to hit it.

STEVE ELKINGTON: No, I really, really enjoyed playing with JT today. He reminded me of me when I was a kid. And I suppose the thing that I'm most proud of all is my friend, Ross Rourk, who's mentoring JT. And the knowledge that I put on the internet, and my friendship with Ross has now creeped down a generation, which is really-- that's really cool for me to see that.

ROSS ROARK: Football is the sport in Texas. But a lot of kids realize that they can play golf the rest of their life. It's a game that they can enjoy with their families and with their friends forever.

STEVE ELKINGTON: We're growing some golf out here in Monahans. He's like a little carrot that's been planted. And he's growing up like spinach. Spinach is stronger than carrot, isn't it?

What's the shot? Just rip it?

-Just rip it.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Now do I have any advantage at all being that I might be maybe a little longer than you guys or not?

Come on, wind. You go, JT.

ROSS ROARK: Attaboy.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Great swing, JT. You notice these local boys are over here on the left side of the tee, with the wind off the right, it gives them all that room to play the hole. So I'm no fool. I'm going where they're going.



JT PITTMAN: This ain't fair.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I'm not very nice man. You know that, JT. Ross has already told you that.

Oh, nice.

-Stay straight?

-OK. You carried the bunker, yeah. Probably pin high. I've got an iron to the par five. I like it.

Get over. Come over. Catch a piece?

ROSS ROARK: Yeah, it's good.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I'll take it.

Hunting for a three. You're probably going to be buying lunch.

Oh, man, we got one of these freak players like Seve or something over here, do we?

Not bad, Ross. Not bad at all. I could save us a little bit of time here if I knocked in three. That would just kind of-- we'd the day would be over with. That's one of them [INAUDIBLE].

Damn. What happened and that? Good stroke, JT. Ooh.

Hey, somehow I sneaked it out. Thank you, Ross for have us down at your course. JT, thanks for-- thanks for--

JT PITTMAN: Thank you.

-Letting me come hang out when you guys.

-Yes, sir.

ANNOUNCER: Elk's Vintage Vault.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Knees straight, right?


-OK, now we're going to-- the first thing we're going to do is put the twirl in. It's 5, 5 degrees of this.


-Which is the twirl. Now you're at 5 degrees. As we go left arm parallel to the ground, we've got to be 10 more. And as we get to the [INAUDIBLE] we've got to do another 10.

So you weren't in a good position. Then as you go up, put all of over here, and real funky feel, funky too steep, right? Now you put the side tilt in, and you've got that late hit. Do you feel it?

-Yes, sir.

STEVE ELKINGTON: You know, there was a very specific purpose why I was here this week, and I was to visit my friend, Ross Roark, who I've been friends with for a long time. And I really wanted to see his operation that he has with the horses. That was important to me.

Now can I ask a couple of stupid questions? What's the difference between a male and a stud?

ROSS ROARK: A stud hasn't been castrated yet.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Ross has come to the side. He's learned his golf. And he's a horse guy. He's not a golf guy. He's a horse guy. He loves golf. And now he's mentoring another generation, which is really-- that's really cool for me to see that.

You don't have to come from a fancy town, or a big town and a fancy golf course to be great. And I really, really enjoyed playing with JT today. He reminded me of me when I was a kid.

Oh, look at this guy. Good shot, JT.

And I was really pleased with the way the three-hole challenge went. I'm not surprised the way Ross plays. He's a competitor.

ROSS ROARK: I was stunned, too.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I really enjoyed the show on a number of levels. I learned a lot about horses. I'm OK with boats gone forever. But horses, I think I'm going to get back into horses. I mean I was never in them. But I'm saying, I felt good on a horse yesterday.

Here's my horse. I got my buckle for of this horse.

ROSS ROARK: That's Big Black.

-That's Big Black.

NARRATOR: On the next episode of "The Rural Golfer-"

STEVE ELKINGTON: Calgary is one of the best places I've ever been.

NARRATOR: Elk lends a hand to our northern neighbors as they prepare for a premiere international sporting event.

-I never thought I'd be here able to say, I'm in the International Arena at Spruce Meadows on a horse.

-That's the thing, on the horse.

-Not many people can say that.

NARRATOR: Gets left in a woman's wake on the golf course.


STEVE ELKINGTON: What? What the-- What the-- what are we-- what are we doing? what's going on here?

NARRATOR: But recovers enough to get a little moosey with the locals.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Wait for it. I can do it. Wait for it!