Thursday, June 13, 2013

What The US Open At Merion Teaches You About Your Sports Career

The US Open teed off from Merion Golf Club this morning with the players taking on an incredibly unique golf course far as US Open golf course standards go.  However, the uniqueness of Merion is not unlike the unique journey of a career in sports.  The pros may be teeing off for one of the PGA Tour's four majors, Tiger Woods for his 15th, but we are just teeing off on life in the sports industry.  Merion is playing just under 7,000 yards, 6,996 yards this week to be exact, the first US Open under the 7,000 yard mark since 2004.  The course, just like your career, is not without its twists and turns, zigs and zags, uphills and downhills.

Playing at the US Open begins at the practice range which is locate about a mile up the road from the first tee.  The range is so close, yet so far away from the action and a feeling not unlike the feeling of beginning your college career as a freshman in sport management.  Swing by swing, class by class, you get closer and closer to moving up to the big time.

Stepping up onto the first tee, the golfers are faced with the beauty and blank canvas to write their own championship script before being quickly met by a dog-leg right which is their first venture into the unseen.  Moving quickly, it is onto the straight shots on holes two and three and four.  Five is the longest (628 yards on Wednesday) and narrowest test yet.  They may seem simple, but if played too loosely, the narrow, long fairways can get even the best of them.  The professionals in golf and the sports industry alike must always be on their toes.  There is no such thing as too careful.

Over to number six, the round takes a complete turnaround onto number seven and it is right back into the meat of the course.  A short par-4 and a long par-3 and the first half of the round is done.  It seemed so straightforward, so short.  Where did it all go?  The whole front nine was a battle with perfection, though.  If perfection slips away, it is an uphill (literally) battle with narrow fairways, impossibly thick rough, and be damned if there are no puddles this week.  There will always be bumps in the road to perfection, but the key is to keep your eye on the prize.

Merion can eat you up, just like the sports industry.

After the turn, the 303 yard par-4 is up first.  A tantalizing high risk, high reward hole, all options and their consequences must be weighed carefully.  You can take the risk but remember the next two holes are both par-4s as well with the 11th a little longer and the 12th a little longer yet.  The road just keeps getting longer, the test ever-harder.  Each step takes its own special planning, but planning for the future is imperative.

A breather, finally.  The 13th hole is a slam dunk.  Playing at 115 yards during Wednesday's practice round, it is a hole that seems manageable for even the most amateur of golfers.  Not all of the work is professional level.  Sometimes your job may require something that you feel above.  Just because the job is simple does not mean you skip it.  You knock it as close to the hole as possible and perfect it.

(A hole-by-hole look at Merion Golf Club.)

The tee shot on 14 is tight with the next tee shot on 15 even tighter, only a couple of feet between a perfect lie in the fairway and an out-of-bounds penalty.  It will take some maneuvering, but the challenge is welcomed.  Testing those skills that you know lie deep down but are not always needed feels good, even if you and your team are teetering dangerously close to danger.  Every once in a while, it is good to toe that line.

From here on into the clubhouse, it is recommended to take in the scenery.  The 16th and 17th hole show glimpses of Merion's history-rich past with the exposed rock of the old quarry.  The mammoth grandstand on 17 surely cannot be ignored either.  Hear the roar, and feel the energy.  You have made it this far, it is time to start appreciating what you have done.

Standing on the 18th tee, it is tunnel vision down the long, straight fairway.  The picturesque 18th grandstand with its massive American flag loom in the distance as the finish line at the end of the 521 yard par-4 homestretch.  While on your way towards the green, don't forget to stop and notice the plaque commemorating Ben Hogan's famous 1-iron shot in the 1950 US Open.  Take it in, just like you would your own accomplishments and honors.

Once up on the green, take a look at the crowd and take a look at the guys that you played with.  Soak it in.  Take mental pictures to carry with you to the next stage of your career or your life.  These are the people that you shared that incredible journey with.

Now knock down that final putt, there's another group coming up right behind you.


Kevin Rossi is a pre-junior Drexel Sport Management major with a minor in Communications. Kevin has worked at Double Eagle Golf where he is now Social Media Coordinator and Comcast-Spectacor as their market research intern. Since joining the SMTSU, Kevin has worked his way up the ladder to Vice President. Currently, Kevin is a staff writer for, and he has joined Temple University Athletics Communications for co-op this spring/summer.  Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

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