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A SwingThought TOUR Q&A With Ryan Sullivan

The Golf Coaches Association of America, in cooperation with its long-time corporate partner, the SwingThought TOUR, will feature a monthly Q&A with former collegians who are currently playing or have played on the SwingThought TOUR. Long considered the premier developmental tour in the United States, thousands of former college players have started their professional careers there. More than 250 SwingThought TOUR alumni have or continue to play on the PGA TOUR.

This month we spoke with Ryan Sullivan, who played collegiately at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Q: You played collegiately at the North Carolina - Wilmington – what were some of your best experiences as a college golfer?

UNCW was such a cool place to attend college and I learned so much on and off the golf course! From playing an event in Kauai, Hawaii and experiencing all the island has to offer to competing in the NCAA regional at the highly acclaimed University of Yale's collegiate course my junior year, I was fortunate to have so many great memorable experiences.

Q: What about your experience playing in college do you think helped you as you became a professional golfer?

Absolutely! I don't think the collegiate route is for everyone nor is it a necessity to become a successful pro golfer; however, it was imperative for my journey as it provided me with the foundation on how to become self-reliant and regimented when it comes to time management and building a strong work ethic. I learned how to be efficient with my time and balance my studies with golf.

Q: Are there some things about professional golf that you find similar to college golf? Are there also some differences that stick out?

I definitely draw from my college days even now at the high professional level in terms of weight training, physical/mental stamina on a 36 hole US Open sectional day and/or grinding out a tough round. At the same token, I've grown so much over the past few years in my overall development as a professional golfer that sometimes it feels like I'm a completely different person in regards to my quality of ball striking, course management, experience gained from having my card and playing in a major.

Q: You played in the 2013 US Open at Merion. What was it like standing on the first tee of a Major Championship?

To be honest, I was probably more nervous teeing off on Tuesday playing with Previous World #1 Luke Donald and Scott Piercy than I was on Thursday evening...I sign boy'd for Luke back in 2003 at the then Chrysler Classic in Greensboro, NC and ten years later I'm pegging it with him in a Major with 40,000 plus people watching, pretty surreal.

Q: Were there any surreal moments during the week?

The aforementioned story...but also, I didn't bring my best stuff with me that week and I found myself in a conundrum on Friday afternoon, tenth hole. I clipped a tree branch off the tee and my ball found the concessions stand area amongst a herd of spectators. After surveying my ball and getting the crowd to stop trying to hand me beers, I decided to try and pull off a "hero" shot straight up over the concession tent/trees blind shot to a narrow green...I'd be lying if I said I wasn't extremely nervous but I somehow managed to pull of the shot and that still frame made the cover of the Philadelphia Inquirer the next morning!

Q: What did you learn from the experience at a US Open?

Playing at such a high level is a total ice breaker in that afterwards I gained confidence in my abilities to go out and perform especially when the crowds aren't so massive...the more reps you get playing in big tour events, the more comfortable you'll get in those high pressure-filled environments.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of playing professional golf?

I have learned to embrace the many good players have given up on their dream for the sole reason of dis-liking the travel requirements. I have mentally been able to adjust and find enjoyment in venturing out to new places and living out of a suitcase for the time being.

Q: What are your earliest memories of playing golf?

When I was six years old (1995) I made a hole-in-one in a million dollar shootout back in Clemmons, North Carolina @ Tanglewood Park hosted by Sagebrush Steakhouse...after successfully qualifying for the semifinals portion, myself and 19 grown men all attempted to hit a 130 yard shot, closest to the pin to advance to the Million dollar attempt...well, I wasn't taken seriously with my blonde bowl cut 3"8 90 lb frame until I belted my cut-down three wood in the hole and made them realize I wasn't just a cute kid that could swing a club. Even though I didn't make another hole-in-one and win the Million dollars, I garnered plenty of media attention from that ace and ignited my own personal love affair for the game.

Q: At what point did you realize you wanted to play golf in college?

I knew from an early age I was gifted athletically...I was either going to be a collegiate/pro soccer, baseball or golfer. At the age of 13 I decided to put all the focus on my golf and become the best I can be. I feel like it was good for me to have a balanced upbringing with different sports on my palette, it was important not to get burned out.

Q: What interests do you have outside of golf?

I enjoy running/working out especially when I'm by myself on the road. I'll try to find trails and cool spots to get a jog in. I have a lot of friends out here on tour and it feels like a fraternity of sorts, so we spend a lot of time together venturing out, going to concerts, movies, dinner, etc. Obviously we want to beat each others' brains out on the course but when it's after hours, we do a good job of keeping it friendly. I'm also a pretty good poker player but it requires a lot of time, patience and money and I'm probably better off staying out of the casinos. The expenses I've accrued as a pro golfer are penal enough, the last thing I need to do is pump more money towards the affluent gaming industry!