In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Tyler Koivisto reflects on his former career as a teacher in the States, cold Minnesota winters with very little golfing action and winning in his very first Official World Golf Ranking event.
There are a lot of guys who get it done in a lot of different ways and I guess that's the beauty of the game. I've always felt like an underdog.
We didn't grow up with a lot of the resources other golfers might have had. For example, I wasn't able to travel all over the country and play as I have four siblings so that made it difficult. I'm from a very happy family, but we didn't have that opportunity to travel. So I feel like it's my duty to dig it out of the dirt a little bit and say 'hey, I can do what you guys are doing and make it to the top as well.'
I always feel like I can keep getting better. But when the temperature was 40 below zero during a Minnesota winter it made it a little harder.
I taught for three years in a small District School in Minnesota - Monticello School. One year I taught third grade and then I spent two years teaching fourth grade. I love teaching and that's what I studied at university. I was very passionate about getting better at that every day and being there for my students and my colleagues. That's what I was focussed on for three years and golf was mainly for fun. I'd play in the summer but nothing major.
I had a good opportunity a couple of years ago in 2018 to try and give golf a go full time. Some people believed in my ability and helped me try and express my dream about playing at the top level. I got some financial assistance, which is what everyone needs at the start because travel is expensive, entry fees to mini tours are expensive and it all adds up.
I went to St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. I had a reasonably successful time there, but I didn't play a lot of the events. I didn’t really play in the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) events, so I never played against the big talent and big schools. I only played at my little nine-hole course before then, so I never had much attraction to try and go to a bigger school. I was lucky enough to play there and managed to get better as the years went on.
Going from teaching to golf was a big change as they’re clearly very different careers. You think about a million things every day while you're teaching. You've got 30 kids in your classroom hanging on your every decision, which can be very exhausting. I went from that to trying to get my body in shape or wondering how I get my short game dialled in. You have a little less to think about playing golf - they're two different worlds.
I think teaching can be very self-focussed like golf, though. You can give as much as you want. If you're not a strong person or not able to be a leader for your students, then you're not going to be a very effective teacher. I guess golf could be considered similar. Golf is intrinsically motivated so it's very similar. You have to think ‘I've got to do this to get better and be able to compete.’
The work ethic and patience from teaching transcends into golf. They're both very humbling, but I’d say golf especially so. You could have one week where you win, then the next week you miss the cut and you don't feel like you've touched a golf club before in your life.
Teaching is the same in a way. You can only control so much and you have to have patience for your students. In golf you must have patience and humility for yourself. You're not going to be the best every week and you have to accept it. It's a matter of trying to get better every week and grind your way through it.
Tom Lehman has offered me a lot of advice, as he is from Minnesota too, which has really inspired me to try and be the best golfer I can be. It’s nice to be able to pick the brain of a former World Number One and he actually text me after my win at the Northern Ireland Open on the Challenge Tour, so it’s cool to think he’s keeping an eye on my results.
I got confirmation that I’d made it into the Northern Ireland Open on the Saturday evening. I booked a flight on the Sunday, left that afternoon out of Chicago and then got to the course Monday morning. I was jet lagged so I just came and walked around before playing a practice round on the Tuesday and Wednesday.
From there, I had a really good week of course.
I'd never played an event with OWGR status. This was my first as I'd only played mini tour stuff before, so they didn't count. I knew that just one week, one chance, could change my life, so I wanted to take advantage of it. And I did, by winning the event at Galgorm Castle Golf Club.
I was welcomed in Northern Ireland with open arms. The same goes for this week. Seeing a lot of the volunteers that were here the other week is great. I had a great scorer that week in Ivor Bolton. He's a great guy and I was able to distract myself with him a bit throughout the week and really pick his brain. He was a gentleman and was fun to talk to. He really taught me a lot about the local culture and the history in the area. Just when I needed to get a little distraction, he was there.
All the support from my friends, family, college and high school coaches was great. It made it all the more worthwhile.
Playing in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this week is huge. There are so many big names that have won this event and it's really inspiring to be able to say I'm playing in the Irish Open, where greats have won in the past. But at the end of the day, you have to hit the ball off the first tee and focus.
It's very cool to be here with the likes of the Open Champion Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington who is Europe's Ryder Cup Captain and a three-time Major winner. Just playing with the calibre of these players and knowing you've earned your chance to have one start on this stage is incredible and I can't wait to see what I can build from here.
I've been building to this but a lot has changed in my life. I have somewhat of a schedule now and I can plan three events in a row, then take a week off or whatever it might be. I need to learn how to handle playing week in, week out and realise just how important off days are.