TJ Sullivan GOLFTEC - Oak Brook
TJ is a PGA Master Professional in Teaching and Coaching. He recently made the 2019/2020 Golf Digest Best Teachers in the State list. A two time Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year Nominee and has taught over 21,000 lessons in 13 years with GOLFTEC. He also is a six time Outstanding Achievement in Instruction Award winner and a Coastal Carolina University PGM Alumni.
How old were you when you got started in golf and what eventually pulled you into becoming a golf professional?
The first time I remember playing golf was with my dad around 1994, I was 11 or 12 at the time and we lived near Oakville, Ontario. I remember playing a par 3 from around 150 yards and hitting 5-wood over water. I still have the scorecard of my first round. It was around that time, and many times after, I fell in love with the game. I had a lot of mentors through my career, and they all said you have to love what you do. To me, folding shirts, answering phones, or tucking tags didn’t fill that void. However, watching some of my earliest students hit the ball more solid than they ever had brought a joy I could only get through them.
What are 2 trends in golf that you’re excited about?
I’m really excited to see the impact that the new wave of PGA Tour players have on the game. Between Collin Morikawa and Bryon DeChambeau (the two most recent major winners), along with Matthew Wolff and Victor Hovland to name a few, the future of the game is looking very bright. I’m looking forward to the next wave of junior golfers swinging like Bryson or Wolff as they did with Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy.
I’m also looking forward to seeing the major improvements statistics bring to the game. Long gone are the days of keeping track of how many fairways and greens you hit on the scorecard like I did in the early 2000’s. Now the every day golfer will have access to proximity to the hole, strokes gained, driving distance. Technology has a huge impact on this, but specifically in the statistical analysis sector of technology.
What sets you apart from other golf professionals?
Teaching is all I do. I’ve been a full-time teacher/coach for 14 years and I’ve given over 20,000 golf lessons while managing a team of up to 6 other teachers. I was also recently added to the Golf Digest Top Teachers in the State list. Last year I obtained my Master PGA Professional in Teaching and Coaching status. I was the 3rd youngest PGA Member to accomplish this and the youngest in the state of Illinois.
Not only am I passionate about helping people get better at the game, I’m also passionate about how people learn. I’ve done a lot of research on how people learn to help my students improve their games faster.
What has been your most challenging experience with a student and how did you handle it? How did you overcome it?
Far and away the most challenging experience I think we all have had to deal with was the global pandemic this year in COVID19. This obviously wasn’t a situation with just one student, but all of them. With GOLFTECs support, we were able to do virtual lessons from home and constantly stay in contact with our students. We had zoom lessons and even did voice over video feedback for players who were able to submit their swings online. We set a goal of speaking with all of our students at least twice while our location was closed. This made the transition to come back quite a bit easier, while still trying to find a new normal.
Any advice for someone considering pursuing a career as a golf teaching professional?
First I would say you have to love it, and not just golf, but you have to love the process of getting better. In addition to that, I’ll say, “Never stop learning.” No matter who you are, or what you have done, there is probably someone out there doing it better. Learn from them, don’t be afraid of them. Find the best instructors in your area and ask them to take a lesson. Or just ask to watch them teach for a morning or a whole day. There is a lot you can learn by just watching, then, most importantly, ask questions. Golf instruction is a relationship business and you will create and maintain relationships for the rest of your life through this wonderful game.
Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
Thanks for this opportunity!