When you’re born in Minnesota, your default sport is hockey.
It is what it is.
But, I was a bit of an outlier, I guess.
I fell in love with golf.
Minnesota isn’t the most supportive state when it comes to advancing your golf game. Why? Well, because the winters are cold and brutal.
Unfortunately, there was just no way I could play all year long unless I wanted to trudge through three feet of snow in 10-degree weather.
As a result, I also played hockey. But in all honesty, it was mostly to work on my golf swing. As I found out, there are a ton of similarities. Who would have guessed, huh?
But the problem of not being able to play golf all year long obviously remained. And it’s hard to get really good at something if you’re restricted to go after it half of the year.
So, one day, after one of my dad’s business trips, our family decided to change things up.
It was after my dad’s trip to Arizona that my parents got an idea. Why not live in Minnesota during the summer, and Arizona during the winter?
The living situation also made sense for my golf game.
As I got older, it became apparent that I had the skills to play golf long-term. But, again, to reach that potential, I needed to be in a place I could play year-round.
My sisters were immediately on board. Like I said earlier, winters in Minnesota are long! And brutally cold. They loved the idea of escaping those.
So, as a family, we started this life of going back and forth. I know it seems kind of weird, but it worked for us.
Our family tried all sorts of different living arrangements to find the one that worked for everyone. What was most important to us was that we were all together.
And we realized that pretty quickly too.
One year, for example, my dad and I tried living in Texas. I attended a golf academy, and things were going pretty smoothly.
At the end of the day, though, we just couldn’t be away from my mom and sisters for too long.
Ultimately, we all knew that going back and forth between Minnesota and Arizona was the best option.
We spent every summer in Minnesota. Then, at the beginning of August, we’d pack our things and move to Arizona for the school year.
This living arrangement allowed me to golf all year long. And, because of that, I was able to hone my skills., which lead to some fantastic opportunities.
In 2017, I represented Team U.S.A. at the Toyota Junior World Cup in Japan. Being a part of that team was one of the most unreal moments of my life.
Surrounded by some of the top golfers in the entire world, I just had to play my game. But, because of a hip injury, it wasn’t easy.
Pretty much every time I swung a club, I could feel my hip pop out of its socket.
This was the opportunity of a lifetime, though, and I wasn’t going to let a hip injury slow me down. Whatever it took to help my team win, I was going to do it.
For me, that meant sticking to my specialty – the short game.
And, that week, my game was good. No, it was great, actually.
I felt like every time my club struck the ball, it was going to do what I wanted.
We ended up having a lot of success there. Not only did I win individually, but we also won as a team.
After the World Cup ended, we received our medals. Together we stood on the podium with the national anthem playing in the background, and I got chills throughout my entire body.
Nearly three years have passed since, and I still get chills when I think about standing up there with my team.
The World Cup was a direct result of all the sacrifices my family made for my golf career, and all the hard work we put in.
But, you don’t create moments like this by solely relying on your talent.
It’s a direct result of hard work and commitment.
Not everyone loves practice, but I had a knack for working on ways to improve my skills. Wherever I was, I’d constantly do different drills to get better.
My personal favorite was this “Around the World” drill. I’d lay out five or six different balls anywhere on the green and try to make each shot in one round.
Another staple of my practice routine was bunker shots. I loved to hit bunker shots. I still do, to be honest.
When I was younger, I’d grab a big bucket of balls, and just dump them all over the bunker.
Once I finished hitting them all, my dad usually thought I was ready to leave. But almost every time, I’d collect them all and do it again.
In Puerto Rico in 2016, I realized for the first time how valuable all my practice was.
I participated in the Puerto Rico Junior Open.
To this day, I played some of the best golf of my life there. After winning the Junior Open, I earned a spot in the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open.
Me. A 16-year old kid.
My whole family came down, and we stayed at the resort with all the pros. I idolized so many of these players for the longest time of my life, and now I was competing against them.
The feeling was surreal.
During a practice round, I was paired up with Aaron Baddeley. Learning from a pro with so much experience and success was an opportunity of a lifetime.
Despite all the laughs and fun, I was there to compete.
The event took the top 70 players after the first round. I knew I needed to step up on the 18th hole to have a shot at making it.
Right on the brink of the cutoff, I knew I had to sink my putt. It was a 20-footer.
The moment I hit the ball, it rolled in slow motion.
It had the power. It had the line. And it went in.
I thought I had done it. I was a 16-year old moving onto the 2nd round in a PGA event. Wow.
But, soon enough, I learned I tied for 71st. One stroke away from finishing in the top 70.
I kept refreshing the PGA app on my phone, hoping something would change.
I know I’ll get back there one day. But, in that moment, it was devastiting.
Golf is my passion. And I cherish every chance I have to play it.
And right now, I cherish every moment at the University of Alabama.
It’s the perfect environment for me to sharpen my skills further, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity.