Reluctant Star on the Rise at Q-School|
Winter Garden, Fla. -- Dan Olsen lists his most memorable golf moment as the first time he made a birdie. He was 12-years-old and he did so by holing out a 5-iron. Without a doubt, it was an unforgettable moment in the early stages of a blossoming career.
But he lied. Not about the accomplishment but about it being the most memorable. You see, Mr. Olsen is Mr. 3-1-3. And unless you live anywhere but Michigan you likely have no clue what Mr. 3-1-3 means.
Trailing by four shots with three holes remaining in the 1992 Michigan Tournament of Champions, Olsen closed birdie, ace, birdie to win the event by one. Mr. 3-1-3.
"It wasn't that big of a tournament but it was pretty amazing," he said.
Spend time with Olsen and you realize why he doesn't mention his miraculous victory as his most memorable golf moment. He honestly doesn't like the attention. Shies away from it. Figures if he listed the feat on the biography sheet it would spark interest.
"If I play good enough, everyone will know," Olsen said matter-of-factly.
Everyone at Orange County National is starting to catch on. A third-round 66 vaulted Olsen into a tie for 15th place Dec. 5 at PGA Tour Q-School. The first 31 holes Olsen played over the first two days were less than spectacular. He then made 10 birdies in the next 14 holes to sprint up the leaderboard. Olsen, 36, closed his second round with four birdies on the final five holes, then opened his third round with six birdies on the outward nine holes.
"Right now it's easy," Olsen said. "If there was a betting window, I'd go bet a load."
His confidence shouldn't be mistaken for cockiness. He's brutally honest, almost to a fault. He's good, he knows it but doesn't want others to know it until he's completed his ultimate goal.
Olsen is, if nothing else, a breath of fresh air and his story, one he doesn't like to discuss at length, is a refreshing one. He played college golf at Indiana University and was a stud for the Hoosiers for four years (Olsen recruited and brought PGA champion Shaun Micheel to the school) before pursuing a professional career.
If there is such a thing as the School of Hard Knocks then this guy should have graduated as the valedictorian. Since turning pro in 1990, Olsen has played in two PGA Tour events (he played in one as an amateur in 1989) and ten Nationwide Tour events. The 1991 Buick Open, Olsen's first Tour event, set him back a few months after playing a practice round with Nick Faldo.
"He was so good," Olsen said. "I knew I couldn't beat him if he gave me two shots a side. It ruined me until I finally worked to get better. I'd like to have him now."
His second, and to this point, last, PGA Tour event was the 1994 Buick Open in which he was paired with a rookie named Jim Furyk. (Ask Olsen to describe Furyk's swing of nearly 10 years ago.)
Playing in high-profile tour events was never a big deal to Olsen. He preferred to stay at home in Columbus, Ohio, save money, work on his game and spend time with wife Margarita and 4-year-old daughter Isabella. He'd rather find a local skins game to earn a few bucks than spend money to travel, risk missing a cut and not earn a paycheck.
"For years it was hard for him to scramble to earn enough money to play," said John Yarbrough, Olsen's caddie and swing coach.
Over the last 13 years Olsen has played every mini-tour you can imagine and worked every job you can imagine. He's helped build houses, worked on asphalt crews during heated Midwest summers, was a roofer and even sold Christmas trees. "I was good at it. Douglas firs are the best," he said.
Olsen has been to PGA Tour Q-School 10 times, advanced to second stage four times (twice missing by a shot) and this is his first trip to the final stage. Now that he's here, Olsen appears ready to take advantage of the opportunity.
"I've seen a lot of players," Yarbrough said. "And when he's striking the ball well he is, he's as good as anyone in the top 20."
Three more rounds at Orange County National and Olsen will be able to prove himself against the top 20 whenever he feels like it. If he does, you get the feeling he'll be one who truly appreciates what he's accomplished. Perhaps he'll need to update that bio sheet again with a new most memorable golf moment.
"If I get to the PGA Tour I'm not going to want to leave," Olsen said. "If I get there, they better move over and watch out."