Chip Sullivan buoyed by return to Sunriver
By John Kim, Coordinating Producer
Chip Sullivan may be the PGA Director of Golf at Hanging Rock Golf Club in Salem, Virginia -- but some of his greatest and most significant life memories have occurred a continent away in Sunriver, Oregon.
In 2001, Sunriver Resort hosted the PGA Professional National Championship, where Sullivan missed earning by a single shot one of the coveted 20 spots in the PGA Championship reserved for PGA Professionals. In 2007, Sullivan enjoyed perhaps his finest golf moment -- and one of his greatest life moments -- when he won a runaway victory at the same event when it returned to the Central Oregon paradise of Sunriver. And now in 2013, Sullivan returns to Sunriver once again for the PGA Professional National Championship -- full of hope and memories and a chance to apply some learnings his life experiences have taught him in the years since.
"How can my expectations be anything other than to try and win again," Sullivan told PGA.com prior to leaving for Sunriver. "Obviously, you try to make the cut (no easy task as only top 70 and ties make the final two rounds) and then you set your sights on the top 20 and a spot in the PGA Championship -- but of course, your goal as a competitor is to win. I'd also love to do all I can to make the PGA Cup team (the PGA Professional version of the Ryder Cup, matching a USA squad against a team from Great Britain & Ireland), my good friend Allen Wronowski will be captain and playing for him and my country in England later this year would be remarkable."
Sullivan will draw on memories -- some great, some bittersweet -- in his return to Sunriver.
"Having my family with me to enjoy the victory was priceless," Sullivan recalls. "Having my father-in-law/best friend on my bag made it even that much more special. We spent our time balancing golf with all of the amazing amenities of the resort and surrounding areas. The week was filled with horseback riding, fishing, hiking, exploring lava tubes; it was, in a word, 'perfect.'"
Sullivan's life, by his own admission, has not been "perfect" since his 2007 victory. He was diagnosed with hemochromatosis in early 2007 -- a hereditary blood disorder that claimed his sister's life in 2004 and has forced Sullivan to continously wear an insulin pump and glucose monitor. Side effects from his illness came to a head during last year's PGA PNC when he suffered a sugar crash during the final round. Sullivan is also at a new course in the Roanoke Valley area after leaving a club that had been home for many years. And most notably, his strongest forms of support from 2007 will not be with him this go around at Sunriver.
"This is the first time in several years I have not had my family by my side at the PGA PNC," he noted. "Both times we've come to Sunriver, my family has been with me. Kari's father Tom (Hall), who was also my caddie -- and was always our sidekick on the road since we were married in 1996 -- was a very important part of not only my personal life, but my professional life. Tom passed away in August of 2011 in our home, a severely traumatic event that we are still reeling and recovering from. He could always calm me down and say the right things to get my back on my game. He could read me, knew when I needed encouragement or a kick in the pants or just to be quiet.
"For every hole at Sunriver, I can tell you a story that Tom and I discussed while walking the fairways in 2007. He will be heavy on my heart this week. And part of our recovery as a family has been keeping the kids engaged and active throughout the summer. Kari and I just didn't think it would be right if we were both 2,600 miles away from them at this time."
Sullivan says he feels ready to put forth a strong effort. As the 2012 PGA Mid-Atlantic Player of the Year, and coming off a good showing in a recent Web.com event, Sullivan's game seems to be in fine shape. He cites gratitude for the owners of Hanging Rock Golf Club, full confidence in the staff and the love of his family as reasons his mental game should be focused and sharp as well.
"You can't scrape it around out there (Sunriver Resorts two courses -- Crosswater Club and Meadows Golf Course) and think you're going to score well," he said. "You have to go into the event having confidence in your shot-making skills. It can be cold, the winds are usually a factor and the high elevation there requires a lot of trust in your game."
Sullivan knows well the value of a good mindset. He's rented a house with some good friends and fellow competitors from the Mid-Atlantic PGA Section and is excited to see many old friends from around the country and from The PGA of America.
"These folks have become a family to our family and I know they will keep me in good spirits," Sullivan said. "I know that Tom (his former caddie/best friend/father-in-law) will be there, everyday from tee to green, in spirit. As for everything else, I just want to play golf and play well."
If there's ever a special place for Chip Sullivan to have a magical week -- he's teeing it up there now.