Column: Golf is my passion, hobby and potential career

Sean Gillen
Oxford Stories

Golf. You either love it or you hate it. You may even perceive it to be boring.

I did not grow up a golfer, however it is a hobby and a passion I have developed within the last eight years.

I have played sports throughout my life – football for 13 years and lacrosse for 12. I continued to play at the club level at the University of Mississippi for three years.

When I was finally finished with sports, something was missing in my life. I needed something to keep me busy and challenge me.


I enjoy another beautiful day on the golf course. Photo by Sean Gillen.

I was introduced to golf my freshman year of high school. My best friend played on the golf team. I bought my first set, and we began to go to the driving range where he gave me pointers. He even got me my first job at a golf shop where he worked. I owe my huge passion for this sport to him.

I have a lot of self pride. I am proud of my accomplishments. Non-golfers may not understand this, but a golf swing is something crafted over time. It is an art, and it is something you make.

Up until last May, I never took lessons. Aside from my friend’s few pointers, I went to the driving range and recorded and analyzed my swing to see how I could improve it by comparing it to videos of my favorite golfer, Rory McIlroy.

I worked very hard to craft my own swing. It made me feel good when I took lessons for the first time to hear my coach say, “For somebody whose never had lessons, you have a very good swing.” Taking lessons, I was looking to improve my game and tweak my swing.

Growing up, my parents weren’t golfers either. Now my father owns a golf set, and so does my mother. It is a new way for me to bond with my family.

My little sister, Carlin, also plays golf. She has been golfing for the past four years, but has taken lessons for two years since we moved to Florida. Sports have been a big part of my parents’ lives. They always attended our (sibling’s) games, and with Carlin, my parents are actively learning the game.


I enjoy playing a round with my sister back home in Florida as the moon rises and sun sets. Photo by Heidi Gillen.

Carlin plays on the U.S. Kids Sarasota Local Tour. The group strongly encourages parents and family to be a part of the tournaments. This includes caddying. I was thrilled when I went home last spring semester to caddy for Carlin.

While I was caddying for my sister, in four starts, my sister and I accomplished three third place finishes and one fourth place finish. She also accomplished her lowest score of the year while I was caddying with her.

It was a joy to work alongside my sister and help motivate her, keep her spirit positive, and offer club suggestions.


Carlin and myself pose for a picture after we complete a tournament together. Photo by Sean Gillen.

Golf is not as easy as it seems. Some people say, “Oh you are just hitting a ball with a club.” Allow me to challenge that theory of thought.

Before I even stand over the ball, there are several thoughts racing through my head: What is the yardage to the pin? Will this certain club carry the distance? How strong is the wind? Do I need to take a full swing. Will any type of shot-shape (left-to-right/right-to-left trajectory) be needed? If I don’t hit my shot, where is there room for error? Will I need the ball to spin?

These are all questions that I need to consider before choosing a club and before I stand over the ball. Once my club is selected, there are tons of reminders I need to tell myself as I go through my pre-shot routine – Pick your target and line up on the ball. Make sure the ball positioning in my stance is correct (With every club, the ball is positioned differently).

I remind myself that I do not need to swing hard, and the last thing I tell myself is to “stare down the back of the ball.” All of that is the pre-shot routine. Now it is up to me, the mechanics of my swing, and trusting myself to do what is needed.

Take the club back and not up. Keep my left arm straight. Maintain my head level. Keep my head down at impact on the ball. Turn my hands over. Make sure my bellybutton is pointing where I want it to go in my follow-through. Then, I prepare to do it all over again for the next shot.

Still think golf is as easy as “just hitting a ball with a club?”


I go through my pre-shot routine and find the yardage for my next shot as I take shelter from the rain. Photo by Christian Grady.

I have also used golf in life lessons. In golf, you have a main objective – get the ball into the hole with as few strokes as possible. Everybody has their own strategy and path about how to do that.

For some, it may be covering as much yardage as possible on your first shot so you are close for your second shot. Others may get uncomfortable being too close where they don’t know how to hit their next shot, so they hit their first shot shorter to give them more room to hit their next shot. Others may not hit their first shot and are left trying to recover. The end result will ultimately end with the ball at the bottom of the cup.

This is also true in life. There is more than one way to get the ball in the cup. There is more than one way to achieve your goals in life. Some may have a straight forward approach to their goal with few bumps in the road, while others may detour to achieve their goals. Sometimes we have mishits in life, and our next shot – our next step – is a recovery, but it is necessary to ultimately get to our goal.

Why am I writing this? I am writing this because I am a golf nut. My apartment is filled with golf balls, clubs, bags, apparel, and golf magazines. I work at a golf course, where I my apartment is, and it is also where I play. I can honestly say that I live golf.

My major is sports administration. I love sports, but have often been at a loss with what career path I specifically want to take. I believe I can turn my passion for golf into a career.

I love spending time on the course and being outside. Although the game may be frustrating at times, nothing beats being outside and enjoying the landscape of a golf course (for me at least). This is why I want my future to be around golf. I want to do something I am passionate in and enjoy.

I think it would be amazing to design golf courses, to make your own golf course take on a new form of art, which I think is amazing. Maybe I could work for Golf Digest or Golf Magazine writing columns on the latest trends in the sport.


Sketches of a golf course I have made in my free time. Photo by Sean Gillen.

The options for my career path are endless, but with my love for the game and the passion and enthusiasm I have, I know my calling is in the golf industry. It would be great to return home to Florida, find work there and be close to my family.

I am eager for what the future holds and look forward to being a part of the golf industry and community. And maybe there is somebody out there who, like me, is unsure what they would like to do as a career.

Consider your passions and even your hobbies. You may find out that your hobby could lead to a potential career path.

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