For golfer John Sawin ’07, the opening round at the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in September was a slog. After trying to straighten out his irons all day, he hit what felt like a solid shot on the 18th hole, only to watch the ball carom off the side of the green into a patch of calf-high fescue. From there, he lobbed a soft wedge into the greenside rough. Finally, he chipped his fourth shot downhill and watched with a half-smile as the ball rolled into the cup for par — a slim consolation at the end of a 7-over-par round.
“Sometimes you’re feeling it, and sometimes you’re not,” he said afterward, putting the day firmly in the latter category. “But I’m having fun with it, regardless.”
Sawin was nearing the end of a season-long journey through some of the most prestigious tournaments in amateur golf, and by nearly every measure, it had been a success. During one 15-day span in July, he won the Pennsylvania Amateur and qualified for two national championships, the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Mid-Amateur (for players age 25 and older). Will Green, the Princeton men’s golf coach, was duly impressed. “To be as consistently competitive as he’s been, this entire year, is remarkable,” Green said.
A three-time All-Ivy player at Princeton, Sawin worked in investment banking for nearly seven years before leaving his job at Barclays in Menlo Park, Calif., to test his game at 20 events in nine states over the course of eight months. He’ll wrap up his travels in late October and begin planning his next career move.
Taking a hiatus between jobs is not uncommon in the 90-hour-week world of banking, but Sawin worried about how his friends and colleagues would view his trip. He wondered if he’d be seen as cavalier or less than appreciative of the job he’d had. The response, he says, has been overwhelmingly positive. Friends and family have offered frequent encouragement, and Sawin has returned the favor with messages and blog posts from the road.
When Sawin reflects on the year, he highlights a few favorite tournaments, but his thoughts quickly drift away from the golf course to the things he’s been able to enjoy between stops: friends’ weddings; Reunions; the Princeton graduation of his sister, Alex ’14; and dinners at home with his parents. When he was working, Sawin says, he canceled more vacations than he took. This year, he’s found a new balance in his life, temporarily at least. Add that to the list of victories.