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.
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.