(February 25, 2022) – Long drives are paramount to success in the modern golf game. However, the ability to drive it long isn’t only crucial to success on the course, it is also vital off the course as well.
Long drives are crucial on the course to go low but it is the long off the course drives that are almost as important. Whether it is the constant drive to improve and reach your full potential or the long drives between each event – drive is essential to success.
Brian Carlson has that drive. The Madison native turned professional in 2018 and has been traveling around North America chasing his PGA Tour dreams ever since. Mini tours, the Mackenzie Tour, the Forme Tour, just to name a few of the stops on his journey through the professional golf ranks.
The drive to the top for the 25-year-old began when his father William took him to Clinton Country Club, where they were members, to play for the first time when he was 4-years-old. “Apparently the first time I played I saw the tee markers with golf balls on top of them and I tried to hit the golf ball on the marker,” Carlson recalled. “After that I fell in love with the game.”
By the time Carlson was 10 he had started competing in Connecticut Section PGA nine-hole events and he hasn’t stopped competing since.
“I’ve always wanted to play golf,” said Carlson who also played baseball and skied competitively. “Beginning when I was 10-years-old my dad would drop me off at the golf course on his way to work at 7:30 a.m. and I had nothing else to do but play golf.”
Carlson’s game steadily improved and it wasn’t long before he realized that he was better than the majority of his peers. “When I was younger there were these junior clinics that we had and my ability to hit a golf ball was just a little bit better than some of the other kids in the clinic.”
That was the first time Carlson realized he had game. A few years later in 2012, Carlson fired an 8-under 64 tying the course record at Clinton CC and it was at that moment he knew he had the ability to go low and play at a higher level.
2012 was also the year that he won the first of his two consecutive New England Junior Amateur titles. Carlson overcame a first round 78 at Taconic Golf Club to earn a spot in a playoff, which he eventually won by besting teammate Eddie Hall.
“After my first round in 2012 I remember that I just fought my way back into the lead and it gave me some confidence going forward. If you have a bad round you aren’t out of it. It taught me to be a competitive and gritty player and I don’t really give up.”
One year later Carlson repeated at Connecticut National Golf Club closing with a stellar 3-under 68 to finish the tournament 4-under.
Carlson’s success at the New England Junior Amateur was only a small part of the success he had throughout his junior career. A star for Daniel Hand High School, Carlson medaled twice at the SCC championship and helped his team to the 2013 Division II state championship. He also shined in American Junior Golf Association events most notably winning the 2012 Killington Junior Golf Championship. All the while his stock continued to rise, reaching No. 21 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings. Major college coaches took notice as well but it was the allure of Big Ten golf, the academics, family atmosphere, and golf facilities that led Carlson to Purdue University.
“I went there because their course and those facilities would prepare me for professional golf and take me to the next level.”
Once Carlson stepped foot on the sprawling campus with more than 40,000 undergrads Carlson began his “up and down college career.”
During his freshman year, Carlson played in 31 competitive rounds with his best finish coming at the Desert Mountain Intercollegiate where he finished ninth. But it was also a year where he faced some mental hurdles.
“Going from junior golf to college golf is a whole different ball game. I had some swing yips and mental yip issues. There is a lot more thinking involved.”
Eventually, Carlson overcame those hurdles and set the building blocks for the remainder of his college career in place.
“I got that all squared away and then sophomore year I won my first event and that really proved to myself that I can really compete at a higher level,” continued Carlson who earned All-Big Ten second team honors as a sophomore. “I was starting to doubt myself a little bit but that win built a lot of inner confidence.”
Despite the strong sophomore season, Carlson struggled again as a junior before turning his game around for his senior campaign which included his second career win at the John Hayt Invitational.
“I worked really hard and got through some hurdles over the summer after my junior year and then I went out and won a tournament in the spring of my final year and really became a senior on my team and helped my team out.”
Following the strong close to his Purdue career Carlson joined the Dakotas Tour, made some money and then headed to Florida to set up residence in Jupiter. Once his home base was established Carlson began caddying at the Dye Preserve while still continuing to work on his game. The consistent drive to get better paid off and in short order, he had qualified for the 2019 Mackenzie Tour season.
Once on tour, Carlson made a quick splash. In just his second event Carlson fired a 10-under 60 in the second round of the Canada Life Open which propelled him into a T2 finish. It was the first of two top-10s finishes throughout the season that helped elevate him to a 16th place finish on the money list and a spot in the second stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School. Carlson was in position to advance to the final stage before slipping up down the stretch. Despite faltering late Carlson finished the year confident with what was coming.
Then came Covid-19 and the golf calendar was thrown into disarray. After months of not knowing what his 2021 season would look like Carlson was able to cobble together a schedule playing the Local iQ Series. The Local iQ was a one-off eight tournament schedule that provided a place for Mackenzie Tour, Latin American Tour, and PGA Tour China players to compete.
Carlson had a strong season finishing 17th on the money list but the Covid disruption caused the delegation process to fall apart forcing Carlson to extend his personal timeline and adjust his golf goals. Slowly the delegation process began to return to form and in 2021 Carlson played on the newly created Forme Tour making seven of eight cuts to finish 15th on the money list. Once again Carlson returned to the second stage of Korn Ferry Q-School and for a second time he fell just short of advancing to the final stage of qualifying.
“I’ve been very consistent with my play but my biggest flaw is that I am finishing the same way in Korn Ferry Q-School. I need to stay more in the present tense rather than focusing on the result and as a result, I didn’t have the result that I wanted. It is a really tricky thing but trying to stay in the present tense is a very hard thing to do and I think that is what the best players in the world are able to do.”
The long winding road of professional golf has had its up and downs for Carlson but he continues to push forward one drive at a time. That drive will continue in 2022 with nothing but the open road of possibility in front.
About the Connecticut State Golf Association
The Connecticut State Golf Association functions as an extension of the USGA and provides stewardship for amateur golf in Connecticut. Founded in 1899, it is the country’s oldest state golf association and conducts over 60 Championships, Qualifiers, and One Day Tournaments throughout the year.