August 21, 2019

U.S. Marine walks on golf team after five year hiatus

Mike Guthrie spent five years in the U.S. Marine Corps before becoming a walk-on Webster golfer last fall. Guthrie did not play any golf  in the military until two months before his enlistment ended.

Guthrie sent an email to Golf Head Coach Andrew Belsky about joining the team the week after getting back home. Belsky let him on the team before seeing him ever swing a club.

“When I met with Mike, it was obvious that he is a driven young man,” Belsky said. “He’s a hard worker and he has also had a lot more life experience than other members of the team.”

Belsky said he let Guthrie join the team after only meeting with him because of his time in the Marine Corps. Belsky said he owed the opportunity to Guthrie to work on his game after putting college on halt to serve his country.

Finding his swing

Guthrie played his last round of high school golf in May 2013. Now a 23-year-old freshman, Guthrie is the oldest member of Webster’s nine-person golf team.

Guthrie said getting his swing back posed a challenge for him.

“It’s not exactly like riding a bike but it felt good just playing again,” Guthrie said. “It was like learning how to walk in some cases.”

Guthrie shot a 262 for 54 holes at the TaylorMade / Adidas Intercollegiate on March 12 in Dataw Island, South Carolina.

Belsky said walk-on players usually don’t last long on the team, but Guthrie earned his spot by working harder than was necessary.

Guthrie, Belsky said, took on a leadership role with the maturity he brought to the team. Guthrie holds the bottom spot on Webster’s golf team, but Belsky said his teammates still respect him as a leader.

Belsky described Guthrie’s motivation as one of his best traits as a player and a person. Earlier this spring, Belsky realized how much Guthrie wanted to get better because of how many times he visited the driving range.

“Somebody would say to him ‘Oh, we saw you here earlier today,’” Belsky said. “And I realized Mike went and hit balls this morning and then he’s come back this afternoon for official practice.”

Teammate Mitchell Vetter said he wondered how old Guthrie was when he joined the team. Vetter said even though Guthrie was the oldest, he came off as quiet and reserved.

Guthrie became an asset to the team after feeling welcomed according to Vetter.

“As a walk-on, Mike takes pride in his position on the team and is very thankful,” Vetter said. “He makes himself better by studying other players on the team like myself.”

Vetter said it’s not hard to tell Guthrie is the most disciplined player due to his military background.

Post-military life

Guthrie started college at Webster in August 2018, one month after his enlistment ended. Guthrie said adjusting to citizen life after being in the military was not easy for him.

Life without the military, Guthrie said, felt much slower.

“You’re on a roller coaster and then you’re getting off,” Guthrie said. “You went from hunting human beings to going to math class.”

Guthrie is a secondary education major with a minor in history. He said he never planned on making the military his career.

Guthrie said the GI Bill, which provides educational assistance to veterans, made his education at Webster possible. He receives a monthly stipend from the military as well to pay for living expenses.

Guthrie said he would wake up at 5 a.m. to start his day while in the military. Now he starts his day a couple hours later with golf practice. Guthrie said it took some time to adjust to the changes but he eventually caught on to the routine of being a college student.

Guthrie added that playing golf for Webster helped him stay busy, something he became used to in the military. Golf allowed Guthrie to fill more hours of his day and not have much downtime.

Belsky, who started his 15th year as head golf coach last fall, said Guthrie will have to work hard over the next three years to move up in the rankings. He said he hopes for Guthrie to hold a top-five spot on Webster’s team by the time he starts his senior year. The top five players on the team compete for official scores at tournaments.

Webster Golf will play in the Illinois Wesleyan Spring Invitational on April 5 in Normal, Illinois. The team has two tournaments left before the SLIAC championship on April 23 in Peoria, Illinois.

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