My faith and my relationship with Jesus has become one of - if not the most - important parts of my life and my journey as a professional golfer over the last few years. I find strength, guidance, peace, and hope in messages of the Scriptures. In this post, I want to take a few minutes to share my testimony and talk about some of the ways that surrendering my life to Jesus has fundamentally changed me.
To understand my journey, I have to take you back to the beginning. I was raised in the Catholic Church, and while my experience wasn’t bad in any way, I also never felt like I connected to God. My family went to church on Sunday, and Christmas Eve, and I even went to Saturday school to learn more about the Bible. I was baptized as a baby. I attended weddings and funerals in my church. In practice, I was a Catholic. But any true believer knows that no act can replace the feeling of being truly connected to Him.
When I was old enough to think for myself, I decided that I was a doubter. After all, how could some all-powerful man in the sky have sovereignty over my life and everything else in the universe? So for a long time, I drifted through life with a very undefined relationship with any higher power.
Fast forward to my sophomore year of college, when I hit rock bottom. I felt lost, I wasn’t amounting to much as a golfer, my grades were suffering, I wasn’t much of a socialite - I was broken.
I will never forget the night that I acknowledged God for the first time as a free thinking adult. All of the stressors came to a point, and I crumbled under the weight of everything I was experiencing. It was sometime in late October, so the evenings in Lakeland, Florida were just starting to cool down. I decided to go for a walk to clear my head. As I wandered around Florida Southern’s campus in the dark, I thought about all of the things that were causing me stress. My mind jumped from one thing to another until I sat down and looked up at the sky. It was a clear night, and just dark enough that I could see a few stars. And I felt COMPELLED to pray.
I have to imagine that my prayer went something like this - “Hey, God. Been awhile. I know I haven’t talked to you much, or really at all, but I don’t know what to do. I could really use some help.” And then I probably laughed at myself for talking to some imaginary ghost in the sky and walked home.
In hindsight, I think I was a little more like Nicodemus, the disciple who first came to Jesus in the dark because he was afraid of acknowledging Him in the light. (The Scriptures juxtapose light and darkness as the embodiment of clarity and sight versus obscurity and confusion)
And here’s the crazy part - the very next day, things started getting better. Little by little, all of the things weighing me down felt a little less heavy, like Jesus was taking the weight onto His own shoulders in my place. Sound familiar, Christians? In just the same way He put the cross on His back and became the substitutionary atonement for the sin of man, He takes the burden off of our shoulders every day.
And the better things became, the more I prayed. And the more I prayed, the better things got.
Now keep in mind, this all happened before I was a believer. I was just some kid with his back to the wall who grew up Catholic. But the cycle continued. There are some details that I am going to keep to myself in this story, but the end result is a follower of Jesus Christ who wholly believes that His sacrifice counted for me and who calls Him Lord openly.
That’s all well and good, but that’s only the beginning of the story. I was a believer, but I had no idea what that actually meant. Later that year, I went and bought my very own Bible, and I started trying to figure it out. I’m going to skip a lot of the theatrics and get straight to some of the most profound takeaways my faith has given me over the last 5 years.
Jesus is always with me
I am one of those people that tends to feel very alone when things aren’t going well. I shut down, push people away, and close myself off from the world. When I didn’t have Jesus, that was a pretty heavy burden to bear. But with Jesus, I am never truly alone.
I am a sinner
I’m human, after all. Jesus was sent to die on the cross as an atonement for all sin, past and future. This has a couple of implications. When I sin, I can be at peace knowing that I am already forgiven. God is a loving Father who wants the best for His children,
Jesus is NOT a hall pass to sin. Human nature is to sin. Temptation is powerful, life is messy, and Jesus is the only one who ever lived a perfect life. But to knowingly and willingly sin with Jesus as a scapegoat in your mind is to deny Him. The goal is to live a moral life knowing that I am going to slip up along the way, and when I do, I am forgiven.
Nothing is impossible with faith
As a Christian, I’m taught by the story of Peter and John healing the lame man at the steps of the temple, and the story of Peter walking on water with Jesus (anyone who didn’t know that was part of the story?) that it is not enough to simply ask God to do things for us. It is by stepping out in faith, and being the vessel through which God can work, that miracles are performed. Prayer is the call to God to use us, but we must take the first step to allow him to do so. Once we do, anything is possible.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life
This one is a direct quote from Scripture.
Jesus is the way to heaven. The only way.
No matter what I believed before, Jesus is, and always has been, the truth.
I was born spiritually dead. Jesus gives life where none existed before.
Intentions are worthless in the Kingdom
Intention without action is a good way to never make progress. That applies to both our earthly lives and our eternity. Taking ownership and taking action is the first step to changing our circumstances.
Not too long ago, I was a begrudging, bitter person who had a hard time forgiving others or myself. As I strive in discipleship to be more like Jesus, I realize that forgiveness is a fundamental characteristic of who He is. I mean, Jesus was literally nailed to the cross with Roman soldiers casting lots for his garment (a fulfillment of a prophecy of Isaiah) when he said “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) He is in the process of being executed by the most painful and inhumane method ever invented, and he is asking for the forgiveness of those responsible for his position. If he can do that, I can forgive the guy in the group behind me for hitting into me.
I am still very early on my path as a Christian, and I have so much to learn. I am striving every day to be more like my Lord, Jesus Christ. The last 5 years have shown me so much and brought me so much closer to Him.
Having a relationship with God doesn’t mean life is easier. There are still the same challenges. In fact, in this day and this culture, walking with Jesus is as hard as it’s ever been. But if you truly believe, He shoulders the burden enough for you to keep pace.
My faith has been slowly growing for years now. In the last 8 months, my eyes have been opened to so much with the help of the Church of Eleven22 in Jacksonville Beach. I attended their Thursday night service right up until I moved to Naples, and I have been listening to every sermon through their app since. I encourage anyone, whether you are a believer, curious about Jesus, or a doubter, to listen to the message they have to share.
In my mind, this blog post is the most important thing I have every written. Remember, intentions are worthless. Saying you are a believer is a kind of intention. Sharing that belief and carrying the Scripture to the ends of the earth - just like Jesus told his Apostles they would - is that first step in faith that allows God to do his work. If anyone wants to have a conversation about Jesus with me, or if you want to share your own stories, or even ask me questions, please reach out. I cannot describe the weight that is lifted off of your heart when you get saved, and anyone who has experienced that knows what I am talking about.
This is my first attempt at sharing my faith and hopefully starting a conversation about Jesus. I hope I reach at least one person’s heart. I’m praying for every single one of you. God Bless.
When I started college, I decided to declare as a Business Administration major. It would offer me a wide range of courses, and who knows, I may even learn a useful thing or two along the way. Boy, I had no idea just how right I was.
When you watch golf on TV, all you see is guys with a lot of talent playing the game they love. occasionally, if a journeyman or a young guy is doing well, you may hears bits and pieces of his story. What most people are blissfully unaware of is the intense, encompassing business side of professional golf.
It’s not just budgeting, understanding your finances, and playing golf all day, every day. Every professional golfer is the founder, president, and CEO of his own company. So what does that entail? In this post, I want to shed a light on some of the aspects of professional golf that caught me off guard when I was first getting started.
When you are a junior or college golfer, most of the planning, executing, and expenses are covered by someone you rely on to be your leader. Whether that’s mom and dad, a coach, mentor, or someone else, most players only have to worry about playing golf all the way up until they graduate college. The day you graduate and decide that professional golf is the next step, you are thrown off the proverbial deep end.
What does your tournament schedule look like? Coach isn’t going to take care of that anymore, and as an individual, you aren’t invited to events in your conference. It’s a free for all. The first step is to do the research. What tournaments are available to you? What are the dates? What are the entry deadlines? I hope you have your yearly planner out for this part, because there are a LOT of options that often overlap one another.
Have your tournament schedule set? Good, now lets figure out the cost. For each tournament you just put into your handy dandy planner, there are a variety of questions to answer. What is the entry fee? These are typically anywhere from $250 for the one day and lower level 2 day events, to well over $1000 for some of the bigger mini tours. Bigger entry fees typically means bigger purses, too.
What about housing arrangements? If you’re lucky, you have a friend or colleague with an open couch. If not, time to start sifting through hotels and AirBnB to find the best deal. How about travel? Do you have to fly? If so, what is the cost of a round trip and a rental car? Driving? Track that mileage so you can write it off on your taxes at the end of the year!
Ok, so you’ve made it to the tournament’s home city, now how about food? McDonald’s every night isn’t exactly great preparation to perform at a high level, so you’d better figure out some better alternatives in the area. Not to mention expenses at the golf course. Yardage books typically run about $25, and unless its a Tour sanctioned event, you’d better believe that practice round is going to cost you.
All in, each tournament is going to run the bill up anywhere from $1500-$2500. Some people are fortunate to have family, friends, or others financially supporting them (I’m just a little envious of those people). For those of us who are self-funded, the next aspect of our lives is the part time job that is going to pay for those tournament expenses.
Here is where we start killing multiple birds with one stone. The most popular jobs for starting out professional golfers tend to be cart attendants and caddies at local golf courses. Typically, with a little bit of communication with the higher ups at the course, employment comes with the perk of practice privileges - if you’re lucky, without restrictions on the times and days. Now you have a job, a place to practice and an idea of how much money to put aside so that you can actually play the tournaments on your calendar.
Next, we’re going to test your motivation and time management skills. For reference, there are 168 hours in a week. Let’s say your part time job is 3 days a week, and each shift is 8 hours. That’s 24 hours of work each week. As an athlete, you’re going to want to shoot for at least 7 hours of sleep each night. There’s another 49 hours gone. Consider miscellaneous time like driving to and from work/practice, eating meals, having your morning coffee, and other things like that to be about 2.5 hours per day. That’s another 15 hours. One day a week, the golf course is likely closed for maintenance. You can use that day for laundry, errands, and rest. There’s another 17 hours (24 minus your 7 hours of sleep that day). Currently, with no nonsense like watching TV or posting your latest instagram hit, you have 63 hours left in your week to practice, work out, and otherwise enjoy your life. For me, a good week of working on myself as a golfer includes about 40 hours of practice, and another 5 or so of workouts. That seems doable, right? That leaves 18 hours of free time throughout the week! But what have we not included in this breakdown? Time spent with family, friends, significant others. Time spent on hobbies - which you probably won’t have until you make it to the tour, sorry - and watching TV, playing video games, or reading. And did I forget to mention that a lot of that practice time will be after a long shift at work, when you’re already tired and feel like taking a nap?
There just aren’t enough hours in the week to chase your dream and live a normal life. So that begs the question.
How bad do you want it?
There are so many other things I could speak to that play a role in the life of a starting professional golfer. At the end of the day, what’s important to know is that this life is so much more than just learning to make as many birdies as possible. It is, at its core, business. Time management, scheduling, budgeting, planning, organizing, communications, financial planning and management, and execution all play a part in the success of the operation that is the professional golfer.
My business degree from Florida Southern College was never intended to help me start a business. I always wanted to be a professional golfer. What I didn’t know when I was 18 was that being a professional golfer IS starting a business. I’ve learned so much over the last 2 years, and I know I have a lot more to learn. As the founder, president, and CEO of Michael VanDerLaan, Professional Golfer, the one thing I continue to lean on is this; the deeper I get into this venture, the more I realize there is nothing else I’d rather be doing.
I want it, bad.
Professional golf is a lifelong journey, full of pitfalls, learning experiences, and more than its share of moments of pure joy. When I decided to go all in on my professional golf career, I knew it would be hard. I knew that success would be far from a linear path, and that I would have to break down everything I think I know about myself and the game in order to put it back together in a way that made me a better player.
Last week, I competed at 1st Stage of Q School for the Korn Ferry Tour. It was my first try at the grueling series of tournaments that make up the most direct path to the Tour, and in hindsight I don’t think I was fully prepared.
I shot 72-75 in the first 2 rounds. At 3 over par, I was in yet another self-dug hole that I would have to find a way to climb out of. The afternoon after I finished that second round was a difficult one, but also maybe the most important growing opportunity I will ever encounter. It was also the perfect example of why golf really is a team sport, even if the rest of the team can’t help me hit the shots.
As with Pre-Qualifying, my dad caddied for me at first stage (and he was a trooper lugging my sticks around a hilly, 8000 yard golf course). After I shot 75 he got real with me. I have all the tools to play world class golf. I’ve known that for a while. And he’s told me in the past that my mind, my mental game, was always going to be my biggest obstacle; the tallest hurdle that, if I could get over it, I might just have a shot. I won’t share the details of that afternoon, because I went to a dark place. But by the time I went to bed that night, I had a different goal in mind.
I was going to flatline for the rest of the week.
I have a brain that responds well to catchy taglines. “Iron Sharpens Iron.” “Sacrifice or Regret.” Those are the things that keep me moving forward. On Wednesday night, “Flatline” was the newest addition to my bank of motivation. The idea was to have zero reactions. Whether I holed out from the fairway, or spun a wedge off the front of the green; made 4 birdies in a row or was over par early, there would be no wasted energy.
The thing is, I’m a closet perfectionist. Accepting less than perfect performance has always been a challenge.
I was successful in playing like that for the whole round on Thursday. Low and behold, a 6 birdie 67 was my reward. That was eye-opening. I felt like the same player, and the only difference was that I didn’t let my mind become an obstacle.
On Friday, I took a step backwards on the front 9. I knew I was playing near the cutline, and I let that pressure impact my mindset. It wasn’t extreme, but it was enough that I found myself making 4 bogeys and shooting 38. On the way to the 10th tee, dad reminded me of what we were trying to do. “Play the game. Flatline.”
The result? Flawless golf. 2 birdies and 6 pars on holes 10-17, and I was back to 2 under par for the tournament. In my head, the cut was most likely going to be -5, but -4 might just have a chance. 18 is a 470 yard, uphill par 4. And all I could think was “2 good shots.”
There was no pressure. There was no stress. There was just me, and my goal. I was flatlining.
I hit a perfect drive. High fade right into the middle of the fairway. 144 yards, uphill, to a pin cut just on top of the false front for the second shot. And all my focus was on putting the damn thing in the hole.
The shot came off exactly how I wanted it to. Dead straight, knockdown 9 iron. Right at the hole. The ball landed 2 feet short of the hole and stuck where it landed. So close. I tapped in for birdie and finished the tournament at 3 under par, -6 in my last 36 holes.
I ended up finishing 2 shots off the cutline, which stung, but in the span of 48 hours from Wednesday afternoon to Friday afternoon, I felt like I had learned how to harness the power of my mind, and redirect all of the emotional energy that comes with being me into deepening my focus.
Yeah, I failed. I missed my goal. I’ll have to wait a whole year to play Q School again. But I failed up in a big way. The next 11.5 months are about learning how to flatline every single day. How to take the emotional energy that bubbles up during a round of golf, harness it, and use it as an ally. And that is worth so much more in the grand scheme of my life and career than any week I have ever had on the golf course.
I was right back to work, deeper into it than ever, on Saturday morning. I’m smarter now. I know I have it. The next opportunity isn’t going to be left up to chance, and I can’t wait to get back out there.
Over the course of the last 2 years, I’ve been on a journey to discover who I am and what I need in regards to my goals and aspirations as a professional golfer.
For what felt like a moment in time, I was an MBA Candidate at Florida Southern College, my alma mater.
Then I was a caddy at Streamsong Resort. That was a fun gig, but good lord was it hard on my body.
After that, I spent some time at home before working as an Assistant Golf Professional. Easier on the body, not so great for the mind. Standing behind a desk, answering phones, and helping other people with their golf game just made me wish that I could be out practicing and playing.
Most recently, I was a cart attendant and outside operations director at a well known course in Florida. That’s where it finally clicked.
I’m not in golf for the business, or the networking, or the playing cool courses. I’m here to be a professional golfer. And not just that, I want to be the best darn professional golfer in the world.
So what does that mean? Well, it means no more half-baked lifestyle of working all day and fitting my practice into the remaining time. It means sacrificing some of the fringe luxuries of the life I’ve been living, and redirecting my energy to the goals I set out to achieve.
It means going all in.
So here we are. I’m 24 years old, I know more about health and fitness, golf, mental health, and myself than I ever have. I have loving parents behind me (shoutout to dad for caddying during Q School). I have a brother who has been my role model my whole life, who is so open to sharing his experience. I have friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and even total strangers who reach out to express their support and let me know that they are watching. And I want to make you all proud.
But most importantly, I want to make myself proud. And I have high standards.
I’m working to be a better Christian, to deepen my relationship with God. I’m prioritizing things that will help me grow my potential as a golfer, like my fitness and my mental health. I’m doing the little things that make the big difference in the long run.
This isn’t just another job to me. It isn’t some venture that is either going to succeed or fail. I’m not here for the experience, and to see what happens.
This is my life. And I just woke up. This is a journey with only one destination, and I am going to do whatever it takes to get there. No more loitering, no more drifting through and getting by. No more listening to praise that makes men complacent.
I’m ready for the next step, and I know that because I’m all in. Who wants to come with me?
Welcome back inside the ropes of my personal journey to PGA Tour Membership! It's been a while since I have given y'all an update on what's been going on in my life, and today is a great day to jump back in. For those who have been following for a while, thank you for sticking around. And for those who are new here, I'm so excited to have you along for the ride!
As of Saturday, August 28, 2021, I resigned my position at Sawgrass Country Club. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as both a cart attendant and Director of Outside Operations at a club with such a rich history and wonderful membership. But turning 24, and trying to work a full time job while working towards the PGA Tour was eye opening. To do both is simply not possible, so I had to make a decision. In the end, I have decided to move back home with my parents and dedicate my time to becoming the best golfer I can be!
So much has happened since my last update. I have experiences both wonderful successes that brought incredible happiness, and my share of struggles and heartbreak. I collected my first win as a professional golfer at the NFPGA Northern Chapter Championship. I took a life changing road trip out to Colorado that helped me realize how lucky I am to be a professional golfer - and how much 17 hour car rides suck. Through all of it, I have begun to rediscover my relationship with a God who has kept my head above water even in the darkest times, and learned so much about my identity both as a person and an athlete.
Most recently, I successfully navigated Pre-Qualifying for the Korn Ferry Tour’s Q School tournament, and will be continuing that campaign in the coming weeks. This is bound to be a wild ride full of incredible highs and deep lows, but the end result will be exactly as it was always intended.
For those who are new here - my goal with this blog is to both provide updates into my world, through my eyes, as well as helping you to get to know me better. I don’t put on a mask when I write for this blog. This is raw, unfiltered, authentically me. I encourage you to get into contact with me, either by leaving comments on these posts or through the “Contact” page, if you are interested in taking an even deeper dive into what it means to be Michael VanDerLaan.
It’s a new chapter in my life and career, and I can’t wait to share it with you all! Now let’s go get a PGA Tour Card.
A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I enjoy writing poetry. I have no formal education in poetry, and frankly it’s not usually very good, but for me it is one of the purest and most natural ways to put my emotions into words. I have always been a good writer. Something about putting a pen to paper and letting the words flow out of me has always made sense.
I wrote in my last post about how social media and the internet have become a proverbial highlight reel, in which we try to make ourselves look as successful and happy as possible, even if we’re miserable. I think it’s time for a change. It’s time to be more open, more brutally honest about who we are.
With that in mind, I decided I wanted to give you all a sample of the kind of poetry I write. It’s very simple, and maybe not so elegant, but it’s me. No filters, no highlight reel; just me. This poem came out of a day when I was appreciating on a very deep level how much my family means to me, and I started to think about what I wished they knew in that very moment. I hope you enjoy it.
If I don’t wake up, if God decides I’m done;
If my war ends, all the battles lost and won.
Tell my mom I love her, tell her I’m ok,
That it’s all thanks to her I never lost my way.
Make sure to tell my dad I was his biggest fan
That my admiration wasn’t just written in the sand.
And when my brother cries, give him a hug for me.
Tell him I’ll be watching, knowing he’ll succeed.
My sister might try to say she doesn’t miss me much.
Just sit and be there for her, the way I always was.
I have some friends that kept me grounded in my life,
Please check in on them at least once or twice.
If this is the last time I close my eyes on my war
My only regret will be
I didn’t say
“I love you”
To my mom, my dad, John, and Julia; I am who I am because of the support you four give me. I hope you realize this is not me expressing any kind of sadness. I love you all so much, and I know I don’t say it enough, but I hope this has helped convey that you all have meant more to me than I can ever truly express. I can’t wait to make you proud.
Let’s talk about what no one wants to talk about. We live in a world of highlights. This isn’t news; social media is a life highlight reel. In my mind, we are at a tipping point. We as a society get so caught up in how great all of our friends are doing, that we forget to be present for our own lives. We set unrealistic expectations for our every day, and we begin to spiral.
I learned through a lot of hard lessons the difference between happiness and joy. We always talk about being happy. Happiness, I have come to realize, is rooted in results. We are happy when we win a competition, or get a promotion, or close a deal. We drive ourselves mad chasing happiness. And all the while we are comparing ourselves to that unrealistic expectation.
Joy, on the other hand, exists in everything. That feeling of pure bliss that happens when we get lost in a moment. It can be found in anything. I feel this when I look at the stars on a clear night. I forget everything, and I just feel joy. There is no result, no finish line that brings about joy. It’s as simple as slowing down and remembering how amazing the mundane truly is.
But why am I writing about all of this? This is, after all, a blog about my life as a professional golfer. Golf is a sport that demands excellence of the mind. A prerequisite to playing golf at a high level is to be at peace with oneself, and constantly chasing happiness destroys that peace. My whole life, I chased happiness in the form of winning tournaments. Anything short of winning was a failure, and failures are never fun. In the years I played with this mindset, the intensity that resulted took a toll on me. I was short-tempered, perfectionistic, and all together unhappy.
My sophomore year of college, I began having anxiety attacks. The first time, I didn’t know what was happening. I’ll never forget, I was sitting in class and I suddenly couldn’t breathe. Thankfully, I had the sense to walk out of the room and find a place where I could be alone, because the next 5 minutes were some of the worst of my life. I felt like I was drowning. I felt trapped, and helpless, and terrified. And then it was over, and I felt silly. At that point in my life, I didn’t understand what my mind was trying to tell me, so I didn’t make a change in my life.
The 2 years that followed, my anxiety got progressively worse, and to compound that, I began to lose my love for golf. I was still playing for the win, for the happiness. The result was a spiral that was driving me towards constant doubt, fear of the following day, and a paralyzing feeling that everything I had worked for was slipping away from me. It was terrifying.
It is because of the way that I was brought out of this spiral and put back on the path to where I want to go that I am writing this post. All that time when I was struggling, I was keeping the struggle to myself. I didn’t want anyone, even those closest to me, to know that I was hurting. The human mind is resilient, and can handle a huge amount of stress, but it still has a boiling point. So when I broke down and began to open up to my parents, it began to lift a huge burden from my life.
The hardest thing when it comes to talking about anxiety, and all of the pain and sadness I was feeling, is starting. Once I started, it was like I let momentum carry me the rest of the way. Fast forward 8 months and I am doing better than I have in years. I am enjoying golf more than I ever have, I feel vibrant and authentic again, and I smile a whole lot more. And I haven’t had an anxiety attack in that entire 8 months. All because I reached my breaking point and started talking.
I have found my joy. It's taken me a long time to find who I am and figure out how I want to chase this dream. My whole life, I was told to enjoy the journey (shoutout The Golf Performance Center), but I didn't understand what that meant until I was at my rock bottom. When I stopped chasing results and started to enjoy the journey again, that was when my joy started to come back. It has been the most amazing 8 months of finding peace in everything I do, and I am so grateful for everyone who has helped me to reach this point.
My intention with this article is not to raise sympathy, or change peoples’ perspective on me in any way. My hope is that there is one person out there who is afraid to open up, and reads this. I think I am a very strong person. I handle adversity with poise and I don’t like to appear weak. And that’s why I didn’t say anything for 2 years. Please, if you’re reading this and you’re hiding your pain, stop. Find someone you trust and tell them. Tell them all of it. It may just save your life.
P.S. – If anyone who reads this is holding something inside, and doesn’t have anyone to talk to, feel free to reach out to me. I keep my contact information off of this website for privacy purposes, but my Contact form is open to anyone. We’re all human, and we’re meant to do this life together. Don’t do it alone.
2020 has been a crazy year. For me, it started in Lakeland, was driven back to Connecticut by COVID, and landed me in Philadelphia. For those that aren't aware, I spent June through October working as an assistant golf professional at Sunnybrook Golf Club in Plymouth Meeting, PA. My experience was, for lack of a better term, life changing.
My life has been all about golf for as long as I can remember. Practice, play, workout, eat, sleep, repeat. That's about it. My role at Sunnybrook gave me a new perspective on life, and showed me what I am capable of.
For starters, this was my first job. Sure, I worked as a caddy previously, but that didn't come with the kind of responsibility and expectation that becoming an assistant professional did. I went from carrying bags and cracking jokes to planning and executing 100 player events.
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade a day at Sunnybrook for anything. It's simply amazing to me how much things changed in such a short period of time. When I left Lakeland in the middle of March, I was a very one dimensional person. I had no experience with creating connections with anyone other than the other athletes at my school. When I arrived at Sunnybrook my very first day, my job was simple; stand in front of the Pro Shop and introduce myself to anyone and everyone who came walking up. That was a long (but great) day.
Through the next 4 months, I learned new skills in communication. I was forced to re-evaluate the way that I interact with people. I learned to face problems head on and never shy away from a challenge. Much of this I already had some experience with, but this new lifestyle I was living took it to a whole new level.
I was thrust into a world I didn't feel comfortable in. And I learned to get comfortable. I was taught to be responsible, proactive, and inquisitive in a way that I had quite honestly forgotten. These values have already changed my life and made me feel more ready to face the next chapter, and I am so excited to continue to grow in my new home in Atlantic Beach, FL.
And of course, I can't forget about the friendships I made while at Sunnybrook. They started with just the professional staff, but before long I developed connections with other people at the club. From the kitchen staff to the membership, Sunnybrook felt more like a family than a job to me.
So this post is a thank you to all of the people that made my first year at Sunnybrook a great experience. Thank you for challenging me, for showing me there's more to life than just hitting a little white ball. Thank you for supporting me, and reminding me that life is a team sport. You all made me realize just how close I am to having everything I have ever wanted, and I am so grateful to each and every one of you. While this is my goodbye, it is only for now. I will be back, one way or another. A piece of me will always be loyal to Sunnybrook, the place where I finally grew up.
Welcome to the new and improved official website of Michael VanDerLaan. During the last few weeks, I have been hard at work, revamping and updating all of the information you find here and creating a place that is all things Michael the professional golfer.
For those of you that have been following me for years, welcome back. For those of you who are new to the community and to the team, thanks for coming on board! I am at the beginning of a very exciting chapter in my life that I am so excited to share with everyone. Now that the sports world is starting to come out of its COVID hibernation, I am getting ready to restart my chase for a PGA Tour card.
Since it’s been a while, let me fill everyone in on what’s been happening in my life. Following my victory at the NCAA Division 2 National Championship in 2019, I turned pro. My early days as a professional golfer were met with some success, and I immediately realized that I was doing exactly what I was always meant to do. That was a little over a year ago. In that span, I moved to Florida, began playing a heavier tournament schedule, and knocking on the door to earn my first start on the Korn Ferry Tour. And then COVID swept the globe.
In March I moved back home with my parents. I spent 3 months at home, practicing a bit but more often resting and letting my body heal. During my time in Florida, when I was doubling as both a player and a caddy at Streamsong Resort, I developed a number of minor injuries that required some time and attention. By the time I left home again in June, I was healed up and ready to go.
On June 13th, I began working as an assistant golf professional at Sunnybrook Golf Club in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. I am still at Sunnybrook now, wrapping up my last few weeks before I head back down to Florida for the winter. At Sunnybrook, I have had the chance to work alongside some wonderful people. I have made new friends, and learned a lot about the golf industry and myself. The whole experience has really helped me to grow.
At the end of October, I will be moving to Jacksonville to work on my game throughout the winter. I will be living with my best friend, Hannah Berman, and basing out of Sawgrass Country Club. It is a 27 hole championship golf facility that hosted the Players before TPC Sawgrass was built.
Moving forward, I will be providing periodic updates to keep you all informed about my life and what I am doing to move toward my goals. If you are interested in becoming a more active member of my team, I am always looking for partners to share my journey. You can find my GoFundMe page through the “Fundraising” tab in the menu, or send me a message via the “Contact” section.
Thanks for following along and supporting my journey, it’s going to be a wild ride!
Michael VanDerLaan is a professional golfer from Southbury, Connecticut. He is currently competing on mini tours throughout the United States and chasing his goal of being the world's number 1 ranked golfer. Michael currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida.