An Interview With SwingThought TOUR Member Shea Sylvester
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 Shea Sylvester, who was an All-American playing at Lee University.
Q. When did you first start playing golf?
I hit my first golf ball when I was 6 years old. My parents were not big into golf, but occasionally they would take my older brother out to the public double-decker driving range to hit a bucket. I begged my parents to let me go with them one day, and they were a bit hesitant because I was a pretty hyper kid at that age. They agreed to let me follow along and ‘watch’. Eventually I couldn’t sit still any longer and asked to hit one. They shrugged their shoulders and told me to have at it. Next they saw me settle down like never before, looked where I wanted the ball to go, got lined up, and struck the ball on the first swing. After that day it was tough to keep me away from the golf course.
Q. Did you play other sports growing up? If so how do you think that impacted your golf game?
As a kid I played soccer, baseball, basketball, and for one middle school season pretended I had the slightest idea what I was doing on a football field. I liked baseball a good bit more than soccer, but didn’t really get attached to either one of them. I loved everything about basketball though. It was a tough decision in 7th grade to turn down traveling with a basketball team so that I could have more time to practice golf. I really do miss competing in team sports. As far as impacting my golf, I think the time I spent in the driveway using our basketball goal, or just throwing the baseball around in the yard helped me to develop the feel in my hands that I would use in golf around the greens. Team sports also taught me about what it means to be a good competitor.
Q: At what point did you know you wanted to play golf in college?
I can’t think of a particular time when I decided I wanted to play in college, I just remember thinking I wanted to play in golf tournaments for as long as I possibly could. College golf ended up being way more than just a means to play tournaments. I wouldn’t trade any experience for the time I got to spend with my teammates and coaches at Lee U.
Q: You were an All-American playing at Lee University. What is something people may not know about Division II golf?
Division II golf has some serious talent at the top, and I was fortunate enough to play on a consistently highly ranked team. It makes a big difference when you are always around golfers that are locked in and determined to get better. When I showed up my freshman year, the seniors on the team were a good bit better than me, so I was always pushing to try and catch up to them. The teams we normally competed against were pretty stout too; there was always motivation to prepare well for the next event.
Q: What did you enjoy most about playing golf as part of a team?
The workouts. Haha nahh, definitely the feeling of satisfaction you get from working towards a common goal as a team, and the feeling of having a close fam squad around you at all times. Winning the NCCAA national championship in Panama City Beach my freshman year is the easy frontrunner for best week of my life, the team dynamic adds a lot more fun to golf.
Q: What are some of your fondest memories while being on the SwingThought Tour?
Shooting 9 under in the first round of my 2nd tournament as a professional was something that kind of surprised me. I have seen myself as more of a steady type, hardly ever shooting above 73 but hardly ever below 68. That round showed me that I can actually go low, and that professional golf brought something out in me that I hadn’t experienced before. I have a lot of great memories from the events I played this year on the SwingThought Tour, it’s a fun environment and the events are very well run in all aspects. Meeting guys who are dirty at golf that you aspire to be like is cool too.
Q: What is your favorite part of life as a professional golfer?
The support I have received from my friends and family has been huge. I have received a lot of great help from those around me, whether it be my swing coach, college coach, former teammates, caddies, my parents, etc. The feeling of having a ‘team’ on my side is my favorite part about it. Playing golf for money is a little fun also.
Q: What is the best piece of golf advice you have been given?
Putt to the picture in your head. Advice from a Tiger Woods DVD I watched several times as a kid. Those words helped me to develop my mental visualization skills and ability to react to a visual picture. Over time I used the ‘putt to the picture’ concept in my short game and full swing, and it has really helped me to get away from thinking about my stroke/swing. Tiger is that dude.
Q: Do you have a strict practice routine before a competitive round, or do you make changes?
I have always changed things around, it’s a little bit different every tournament. I think its best to just do whatever you need to get your body loose, and don’t pay too much attention to what the ball is doing before the round. It will go straight when you get into competition mode, just get your blood flowing, muscles warm, and breathing slowed down. Getting a good nights sleep is also a huge priority when it comes to pre tournament round routine.
Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not playing professional golf?
That’s a great question. I’d probably be touring with a relatively unknown folk band and on the side be a ‘professional poker player’ that loses money.