John Sawin ’07, at the U.S. Amateur qualifier in Elverson, Pa., July 16. (Courtesy the Golf Association of Philadelphia)
John Sawin ’07, at the U.S. Amateur qualifier in Elverson, Pa., July 16. (Courtesy the Golf Association of Philadelphia)

Last year, John Sawin ’07 was working 80 to 90 hours a week in an investment banking job in California, using whatever free time he had to play golf, a sport he’s loved since childhood and excelled in at Princeton. He managed to play well enough to earn a spot in the U.S. Amateur Championship — his first USGA qualification after a dozen years of trying — and later won the Stocker Cup Invitational, a top amateur tournament in Northern California.

With his game reaching a new peak, Sawin made the bold decision to leave his job as a vice president at Barclays Capital and spend a year competing in amateur golf events around the country.

“I wanted to see how good I could get,” Sawin told PAW. “What would happen if I spent all my time playing, and preparing to play, competitive golf?”

What has been a rewarding experience got even better last week as Sawin qualified for two national championships in the span of six days: He shared medalist honors at the U.S. Amateur qualifier at Stonewall in Elverson, Pa., July 16, and gained entry to the U.S. Mid-Amateur, for players age 25 and older, in a July 21 qualifier at Huntingdon Valley (Pa.) Country Club. (Michael Davis, an incoming Princeton freshman, caddied for Sawin in the latter event.)

Sawin notes that it’s not uncommon for golfers to peak in their 30s (he’s 28). For his recent improvement, he gives partial credit to fitness, flexibility, and nutrition. But more than anything, he said, maturity in the mental aspects of the game has given him an edge.

Having time to work on his game also helps. Sawin said that his work in finance has been both demanding and rewarding, and he’s given plenty of thought to his next career move during his travels, which have already included a dozen tournament stops in eight different states. But for now, he is concentrating on the two big events on his calendar (the U.S. Amateur will be played Aug. 11-17 at Atlanta Athletic Club, and the U.S. Mid-Amateur will be played Sept. 6-11 at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa.).

“It’s beyond what I could have hoped for,” Sawin said. “Before the qualifiers, [this year] was worth it. After, I’m over the moon.”