A New Category On The Horizon
Oct. 12, 2000
|Sport: Men's Golf
Hometown: Fort Worth, TX
High School: Trinity Valley
'I really should have fit into that category,' says Stanford senior golfer Eric Dahlberg.
The category Dahlberg is referring to is one that so many aspiring athletes fall into - wanting to participate in intercollegiate athletics at a high level but seemingly not having the skills to do so.
Dahlberg's road to Stanford was much different than many of the school's highly recruited athletes.
'I wasn't recruited, I walked on,' recalls Dahlberg. 'I was not a good golfer in high school. I don't know how else to put that. I really had no business playing college golf at Stanford.'
Dahlberg didn't even begin playing golf competitively until he was a 14-year-old freshman at tiny Trinity Valley High School in Fort Worth, Texas, where Dahlberg was one of only 63 students in his graduating class.
'No one starts out good at golf,' Dahlberg admits. 'No one is a natural golfer. I was just as bad as everyone else.'
After constantly improving in his first couple years of prep golf, Dahlberg soon realized he wasn't so bad anymore. He began to think that maybe he at least had business playing collegiate golf at some level.
Dahlberg considered going to an Ivy League school, where he could pursue his strong academic interests and earn a spot on a Division I collegiate golf team.
A trip to California during spring break of his junior year changed his mind. Dahlberg and his father, Peter, decided to visit Pomona-Pitzer, a small Division III school in Southern California.
'My dad said, 'Well, if we're going out to California, we might as well go visit Stanford.'
Eric's response... 'Come on Dad, I can't get into Stanford, and I definitely can't play golf there.'
Still, Dahlberg thought about his father's comments and decided to write former Stanford head coach Wally Goodwin, who retired after the 1999-2000 season, to ask the coach for just five minutes of time out of his busy schedule.
Those five minutes turned into a three-hour conversation.
'We couldn't believe it,' Dahlberg remembers. 'He had no idea how bad I was. But, he was very encouraging and supporting. I remember walking out of his office looking at my dad and thinking, 'Wow, that went a lot better than we thought it would.''
'I remember after I came back from my trip thinking, 'Gosh, I really shouldn't have gone there, because now I love it, and I'm not going to be able to get in. I'm going to be really disappointed that I didn't get to go to Stanford.''
Amazingly, Dahlberg was able to get into Stanford even after his application was originally deferred.
'Wally said, 'If you can get into school here, you can be on the golf team,'' Dahlberg recalls. 'I think that's sort of been his attitude and philosophy. He's always had a really big team. He realized that the people who were going to get into school at Stanford were hard-workers and dedicated, and that it might work out. For a lot of guys, it doesn't, but for me it has worked out pretty well.'
Things didn't work out immediately for Dahlberg at Stanford, at least in terms of golf. He did earn a spot on the team as a freshman but played in only three tournaments. Then, something happened the summer between his freshman and sophomore years. Exactly what happened Dahlberg doesn't know, but things just kind of clicked.
'I don't know what happened,' Dahlberg honestly admits. 'I went to Michigan and worked as a golf instructor that summer and really didn't play that much golf. I kind of goofed off all summer. I had the summer of my life, but I wasn't competing and playing tournaments and practicing that hard.'
Dahlberg returned to The Farm after his self-described 'goof off' summer and played in all 13 regular season tournaments as a sophomore. He then emerged as one of the Cardinal's top golfers last season in his junior campaign. Dahlberg was the team's top finisher at the 2000 Pac-10 Championships, shooting an even-par 286 over four rounds. His 73.45 season stroke average ranked second on the team behind Dusty Brett, the squad's only senior.
|Team captain as a senior ... Tied for 10th and was Stanford's top finisher at the Husky Classic last month, tying a career-best by shooting 68 in the second round of the event ... Ranked second on the club with a 73.45 stroke average last season ... Stanford's top finisher at the 2000 Pac-10 Championships with an even-par four-round total of 286 ... A two-time First Team All-Academic Pac-10 choice.|
This year, Dahlberg is the club's captain and top returner. He has already turned in a Top 10 performance at the Husky Invitational in late September, tying his career-low by shooting a 68 in the second round of the event. The 2000-2001 version of the Cardinal is an experienced group with four seniors. Brett was the only loss from last year's team, which finished ranked #21 in the nation by MasterCard and placed tied for 10th in the NCAA Western Regionals.
Regardless of how the Stanford golf team fares this season, the economics major feels that Stanford has prepared him for the next step in his life - the business world. Dahlberg's busy schedule this fall has included golf, classes and corporate recruiting. He hopes to begin his professional life by getting into management consulting.
And what about professional golf? Dahlberg ended with a collegiate golf career at Stanford due to some very unusual circumstances but doesn't see the same thing happening again.
'I don't like the lifestyle,' responded Dahlberg when asked about the possibility of playing golf for a living. 'I'm not sure if I like golf that much to be honest. It's not something I want to spend my whole life doing. I'm looking forward to taking a little break from it after the NCAA's, hanging up my clubs for a while and doing something else. I'm the type of person who doesn't like to keep my hands in lots of different things. I like to do a small number of things, and then invest a lot of time, energy and effort into them. I don't think I can keep playing golf and commit as much of myself to my job as I'll want to, which is fine.'
There is always still business golf. Dahlberg may hit the links a few times in the business world but insists he is not looking forward to it.
'I figure there is going to be a lot of business golf, but I'll just have to grin and bear that,' states Dahlberg with a lack of enthusiasm. 'It definitely won't be any fun. I don't like the hit and giggle thing. I play golf for the competition. I love the game. I play it to compete. I don't play a lot of social golf. That's just not me.'
Dahlberg hopes that a lack of practice will keep his natural competitive fires under control at least enough to not interfere with his business endeavors.
'If my boss wants me to go play with him some weekend, I'll go play with him,' says Dahlberg. 'I definitely won't have any mercy. But, at the same time I probably won't be very competitive, because I wouldn't have been practicing and giving golf everything I have. Business excites me, and it's kind of what turns on my jets.'
If Dahlberg returns even some of what Stanford has given him to the business world, he shouldn't have much trouble leaving competitive golf behind and fitting into a new category.
by Kyle McRae