Many of us dressed up as professional athletes on Career Day in second grade, enticed by the fame, riches and, most of all, the sheer appeal of doing what you love each and every day. Yet by the time college graduation rolls around, this dream is no longer in the cards for most of us. But it was for Cody Semmelrock ’14 and Dylan Dethier ’14.
“All around us, kids were applying to grad school, interviewing with consulting firms or getting jobs on Wall Street, but somehow none of these seemed quite right for us,” Semmelrock said. “Before long, we were looking into careers that our seven-year-old selves would have chosen,” added Dethier.
Following extremely successful seasons on the Eph men’s golf team and after receiving their diplomas in June, Dethier and Semmelrock decided to follow their childhood dreams to try to make it as professional athletes, a daunting task in the cutthroat and competitive world of professional golf. Although most of us only know the PGA Tour with the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson, there are scores of other tours that serve as the minor leagues of the PGA. These mini-tours are where Dethier and Semmelrock started their quest to make it to the “big leagues,” winding their way through New England, up to Canada and back down in a whirlwind first leg of their journey.
With each tournament having a significant entry fee and most prize money awarded only to the top few finishers, these professional golf mini-tours are essentially gambling events. Making ends meet while maintaining top form has been tough for the pair, but “there have been tons of encouraging moments during our project so far,” Semmelrock said. “Unlike [Dethier] and myself, most of these guys are either chiseled veterans or Div. I college phenoms, all with substantial golf pedigrees. At Williams, we always placed our experience, academic and otherwise, above our golf development, so it has been exciting to see that in our short period of time solely focusing on golf, we have been able to compete with everyone out there.”
Chronicling their story on the self-deprecating, but aptly named blog, The Long Shot Tour, Dethier and Semmelrock have found themselves in the mix at many competitive tournaments so far. Notably, Semmelrock has qualified for and played in two PGA Tour Canada events while Dethier has garnered two top-15 finishes at professional tournaments around New England. The taste of success has left them yearning for more as the pair continues to trek around the Northeast.
Scraping by with precious savings and accumulated prize money has taught the college friends a great deal. “The hardest moments tend to come on the car rides back home after events. Even on days where you play very well, one shot can cost you a lot,” Semmelrock noted. “The difference between everyone out here is so marginal that one mistake can separate you from as much as a third of the field. So learning how to cope with both one mistake on a good day, and a lot of mistakes on a bad day has been one of the biggest adjustments.”
For example, in the Providence Open in July, Dethier three-putted his 35th hole, but finished an impressive three strokes under par in the two-day event. While the person who finished at four-under made $700, Dethier took home $0.
Dethier and Semmelrock were quick to note that life on the road is not very glamorous. “We do a lot of charting to get a feel for what to expect in the following days, as well as the more exciting scavenging for food, cheap lodging and WiFi (when in Canada),” the duo told the Record. “One of our lasting impressions from the summer is how lonely of a lifestyle it can be for many of these mini-tour players. We feel very fortunate to each have a partner in crime for this project.”
As the Northeast summer comes to a close, Dethier and Semmelrock plan to head south for the winter, hopefully with a stop in Williamstown for Homecoming, as they continue to practice for and play in more events. “Our eyes are set on Qualifying School for both the Latin American and Canadian Tours,” the duo said. “Good showings there will grant us either full or conditional status and bring us one step closer to playing on the PGA Tour.” A long shot, indeed, but neither Dethier nor Semmelrock are going to stop dreaming anytime soon.