June 2007

Outside the Ropes with D.J. Trahan

Author: Paul deVere

Golf is a numbers game. So let’s start with the big one: 17.16 million. That’s the National Golf Foundation’s estimate of how many male golfers there are in the U.S. today. Next is 150. That’s the number of golfers who carry the PGA Tour “card.” Now consider the fact that about 20 percent of those 150 golfers are from other countries. That means that only about .000007 percent of U.S. male golfers have earned the right to carry “the card.” D.J. Trahan is one of them.

The above numbers are intended to be mind-boggling, to give a sense of the almost insurmountable odds of playing on the PGA Tour, the world of golf’s greatest stage. To reach that level of play is truly a mark of great talent and perseverance. For D.J. Trahan, it is a dream come true.

Flashback, April, 1989: Harbour Town locker room. A slender, curly-headed eight-year-old kid, eyes the size of silver dollars, watches the likes of Payne Stewart (who would win that year) and defending champ, Greg Norman, stroll by. A few of the pros give him a pat on the head. The kid, unlike other kids, can be there because his dad, Don Trahan, is director of instruction at Harbour Town Golf Links. The kid, of course, is D.J. Trahan, who has been playing golf since he could, and since Harbour Town became his “backyard” for seven years.

“Hilton Head was such a great place to grow up in and play golf. There were so many courses we could play,” Trahan said. While baseball also held his interest at the time, golf eventually held sway.

“I’ve always been such a big fan of the game. When I was growing up, it [playing on the Tour] was my dream. That dream was highly enhanced by the fact that the Heritage was here every year and that was our spring break.” said Trahan. “We spent the whole week watching the pros come though. In the back of my head, that’s when I knew what I wanted—seeing the pros during the Heritage. That’s what really spurred me on.”

Flashback: South Carolina General Assembly, 114th Session, 2001-2002. D.J. Trahan will finish up his final year at Clemson University. But before he goes, he gets a nice little present. It begins, “To Commend D.J. Trahan for His Outstanding Achievements, Both on the Golf Course and in the Classroom, While Attending Clemson University and to Congratulate Him on Winning the 2002 Ben Hogan Award…” The commendation goes on to list a few other achievements, like winning the 2000 Public Links Championship, earning him a spot in the 2001 Masters. Others include: setting 15 school records at Clemson, being named Top Amateur Player in the World by Golfweek magazine, participating on the 2001 Walker Cup team, and playing in the 2002 World Amateur Team Championship.

All these accolades, all this accomplishment, might beg the question: How much of an influence did teaching pro, Don Trahan, have on son D.J.? His answer is one of the reasons D.J. Trahan has such a large and loyal following during the Verizon Heritage.

“It was great for me, because I had that leadership role around me all the time. I didn’t have to travel to see a coach or see some random person I didn’t know. I’m very fortunate in that respect, and it made things just that much easier. And it was good because I was never pressured, just supported,” said D.J.

“That’s what I tell parents. Don’t ever ride your kids just because you think there’s a chance you might have a star athlete. Just guide them; don’t direct them,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of kids get away from their sport because the fun factor goes right out the door. Play starts to seem like work. Most 10-, 11-, 12-year-olds don’t want to feel that way, especially from their parents. The kids become very disinterested. My dad was there to teach me and support me, but he never pressured me,” Trahan explained.

Flashback, October 1, 2006. D.J. Trahan wins the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, his first PGA Tour victory. While the television cameras were pointed at the World Golf Championships, Trahan goes wire-to-wire and wins on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff. He earns $560,000 and a two-year exemption to play on the Tour. He keeps his job.

“It was fantastic. To me it was a great affirmation,” said Trahan. “I knew I could do it. I’ve won at every level I’ve ever played. Now I have won at this level. I tee it up every week with the goal of winning, which I think you should do” he continued. “Winning was huge for me, because I went out and proved to myself that the game is there. I just have to go out and do it. When you believe in yourself, that’s when things like that can happen.”

Flash forward: Advance to tomorrow’s champions. “I tell them to respect the game and just have fun. Sometimes it can be hard to have fun, because this is such a difficult game and can be frustrating. But if you’re young and truly passionate and your dream is the same as mine, you just have to keep believing in yourself, working hard and having fun,” Trahan said. “I think the best way to become a great player is to be disciplined, but enjoy it as well, whether it’s playing with a bunch of other kids or just thinking up games to play.”

D.J. Trahan: professional golfer and still a disciplined dreamer. He’s enough to make any parents proud.

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