Vermont Open Golfer Swings a Mighty Pen

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 6/22/2016 12:15:34 AM
Modified: 6/22/2016 12:15:38 AM

Fairlee — For every player in the Jeff Julian Memorial Vermont Open, there’s an interesting story, but it’s a safe bet Dylan Dethier, of Williamstown, Mass., has a few more in his bag than most.

Don’t believe it? Check out 18 In America, the book Dethier wrote about the gap year he spent driving 38,000 miles to play golf in all 48 contiguous states before matriculating at Williams College. Subtitled A Young Golfer’s Epic Journey to Find the Essence of the Game, the book hit the shelves just over two years ago.

“Golf has this reputation as an elitist, exclusive, country club sport, which is why my parents raised me to be kind of skeptical of the sport and some of the things that surround it,” said Dethier, who followed Monday’s 73 with a 74 in the second round at Lake Morey to miss the cut by two strokes. “I wanted to see if there was another, more inclusive side to it.”

To that end, he loaded his clubs, his clothes, a sleeping bag and a laptop into his 2002 Subaru Outback and set off on Sept. 1, 2010.

“I was a small-town, New England kid and before I spent four more years in the town where I had grown up, I wanted to get out, to explore, and to travel,” he said. “I didn’t have much in the way of savings, but I had a little bit. I wanted to do something having to do with sports, something to do with travel, something I could do some writing about, cataloging my experiences.”

Rather than plot a strict day-by-day schedule, Dethier essentially drew a circle on the map and set off.

“Counter-clockwise was pretty much all I decided,” he said. “I would go across the north in the fall, hit the West Coast and then be down south in the winter.”

Given his curiosity about golf’s place in society, Dethier elected to drop in on all manner of golf clubs.

“I didn’t want to play all the best courses,” he said. “I wanted to take back roads, look people in the eye, meet them and learn a little about where they are from. To see where golf fits into America, I wanted to play the worst municipal courses and the best, most exclusive private courses.”

And he did.

“I got to play some really good ones, some major championship courses,” he said. “I played Pebble. I got to play Merion, Oak Hill, Valhalla, Sawgrass. Those were really cool places, but I kind of knew that those would be cool going in.

“Some of the coolest places I played were places where I didn’t know there would be much golf at all, never mind really good, really cool golf.”

One of the public layouts that he will never forget is Bully Pulpit Golf Course in Medora, N.D.

“It’s on the edge of the Badlands and the head pro was wearing jeans, a cutoff T-shirt and cowboy hat,” Dethier said. “But it was an incredible golf course. You would climb up into the mountains for the 14th hole and be hitting like 150 yards down hill in a 40-mph wind with the Badlands all around you.”

Dethier will admit that by the end of his odyssey, the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and travel routine got old — he often slept in his car with an axe under his seat just in case — but he never tired of the golf piece. Not that it was particularly good for his swing.

“I spent a lot of time in my car,” he said in a masterful understatement. “I would sort of roll out of my car and onto the first tee. It definitely didn’t do anything good for my back. Or my nutrition.”

Still, when the trip was over, he enjoyed a successful career at Williams. He captained the Ephs as a senior, earned All-Region honors and was named a Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholar.

“We had a good team and I had a few solid years at Williams,” Dethier said. “Then I decided to make the foolish leap to the pros. I jumped into the deep end.”

The game that took him around the country as an amateur has done the same thing and more since he turned professional two years ago. In Lompoc, Calif., last spring, he birdied two of the last three holes at Q-school to earn status on the Canadian Tour. Not surprisingly, his time north of the border is another story.

“I got into a bunch of events because I earned conditional status, but I missed every cut until the last event of the season,” he said with a laugh. “At first I missed cuts by a bunch. Then I missed cuts by a little less. Then I missed them by just a couple.

“Then, the last week in Nova Scotia, I was right around the cut line with four holes to play the second day. I birdied three of them, so all of a sudden instead of being on the cut line, I was in maybe fourth place or something.”

Dethier struggled in the third round, but his 69-67-77-68 in the Cape Breton Open enabled him to tie for 40th place and collect his first Canadian loonies.

The day will come, he knows, when he’ll either have to start earning his keep on this side of the border or hang it up. How long he’ll give it, he can’t say.

“Everyone I talk to says to make sure you don’t leave early,” he said. “It’s not a race. I do have a sense that there are other things that I could be doing.

“The world of mini tour golf and low-level golf is pretty fascinating and I’m taking a lot of notes. There’s a bleakness in it, but also the possibility in it. Some of the guys you are playing with are going to be the next ones out there. You just don’t know who they are. I am collecting a lot of good stories.”

And writing his own.

Figuratively and literally.

Divots: Dethier played on 140 courses during his year on the road. His next stop is Monday qualifying for the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia. … Leading the Vermont Open heading into the final round is University of Cincinnati player Spencer Mellon, 24, who followed his opening 66 with a 67. Rich Berberian, Jr., the 2012 Vermont champion, shot 70 in the second round after opening with a 64 and is one shot back. Former PGA touring pro Jumbo Elliott and Rutland Country Club’s Jesse Larson are tied for third, two strokes off the pace. … The final group will go off at 11:12 a.m. today. … The winner will take home $7,000.

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