Mike Pickett's first passion has always been golf. As Director of Golf and Member Relations at StoneWater Golf Club in Highland Heights, Ohio, Pickett has had the opportunity to fulfill his dream of becoming a PGA Professional.
And that's given him the opportunity to explore another passion: art. Specifically, the art of pumpkin carving. And he has taken what historically has been a rudimentary skill — cut out a few holes for eyes, a nose and a mouth — to unimaginable levels.
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"I was always artistic," Pickett said. "I could draw fairly well, but I never really took it seriously. Some of my projects in middle school and high school in art class were submitted for contests, but I really didn’t care about it that much.
"At the same time, Halloween was my favorite holiday, so the two kind of went hand in hand. I enjoyed carving pumpkins and doing other things, and about six or seven years ago, I learned how to carve a face onto a pumpkin and I got better and better. That’s how it originated."
His art has to be seen to be appreciated. And it's all done freehand, with the exception of lettering and logos, which he stencils onto the pumpkin before getting to work.
It takes him between 40 and 75 minutes to carve a pumpkin once he has the idea for it, and he estimates he's done more than 1,000 in the past five years alone.
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"Any kind of faces, I look at a picture and just carve it," Pickett said. "The lightest parts are me carving most or all of the pumpkin, and the darkest parts are just leaving the skin."
With all the time and energy required to complete one, it's no surprise the native of Stow, Ohio, has gone from using real pumpkins to artificial ones.
"I used to carve on real pumpkins and it’s just so much work and so much time put into it — and it was just going to end up rotting," he said. "So I use artificial foam pumpkins and they last forever. People send me photos of their kids and pets. I’ve carved bikes, cars, you name it."
If you can imagine it, there's a good chance Pickett can carve it on a pumpkin.
Pickett has started his own company — Illuminated Carves — and sells his works of art all over the country. He'll even take custom orders if the client is willing to send a digital image. He's also branched out from doing just pumpkin carvings. His shadowbox carvings are suitable for framing, so you can keep them up all year long.
His two favorites? He's done a Joker from "The Dark Knight" that's particularly impressive. And his bald eagle with the U.S. flag in the background is another outstanding work of art.
So is there anything that translates over from art to golf?
"Some of my friends like to bust my chops about one thing," Pickett said. "Generally people who are artistic are usually good putters. Well, I can read a green better than anyone. I just can’t hit the line. I’m fantastic at reading the green, but you’d think I’d be a better putter than I am. I’m just very streaky."
Pickett also his artistic ability allows him to teach students without having to rely on video imaging.
"I like to be able to have the student be able to feel what I’m trying to have them do," Pickett said. "The other reason I don’t is because visually, I can see something very small in their swing without it. It’s just the way I’ve been taught and the way I teach."
Pickett grew up playing a number of sports — including basketball and track — but he admits golf has always been his passion.
"I loved it," he said. "Even in high school, I already knew I wanted to be a golf professional, and I focused every part of my education on that.
"I didn’t play golf at Kent State — I tried to play basketball — but still knew I wanted to be a golf professional and majored in sports management. At the same time, I got an assistant golf professional’s job, so I was going to school and working at the same time."
While working at Cumberland Trail in Columbus, Pickett rekindled his interest in art. And now after three years at StoneWater, he's able to combine both passions into something amazing, particularly this time of the year.