Game Changers

How Pain Gave Caleb Hung Perspective, Newfound Love for a Career in Golf

By Caleb Hung, PGA
Published on

Caleb Hung, PGA, is spreading his love for golf as a Recruiting & Member Engagement Specialist for the PGA of America.

I remember it was a good day — an otherwise ordinary day, but good nonetheless.

I had just returned from playing in a two-day tournament with a couple of fellow PGA Professionals from our club, and we were all back to work, enjoying the sunshine and crisp fall air. I was walking back from the parking lot after helping Mrs. Lindsey with her clubs when, suddenly, things got very weird.
I took refuge in the office, lights off and door closed. I thought to myself, “Am I having a migraine? Is this what a migraine feels like?” I had never had one before, only hearing that they were a nuisance and could be, at times, debilitating. After about 15 minutes, I finally decided to take my co-workers’ advice and head home for the day.

I made the 30-minute drive home with what felt like one eye open and cursing every red light I encountered, all the while rubbing my head in hopes that the pain would subside. I crawled up my staircase, made a detour at the bathroom for some Advil, and then collapsed into bed. My head was pounding, but I reassured myself that all would be well.

I can sleep this off,” I thought. “I’ll be okay.”

Spoiler: I was wrong, and I was most certainly not okay. I woke up multiple times throughout the night, feeling nauseous while simultaneously shivering and sweating.

The next morning came in agonizingly slow fashion, and relief was still nowhere to be found. After suffering 15 hours of the worst head pain I had ever felt (I know, I waited a long time; I’m stubborn), I finally decided to seek medical attention. My first stop was to a local pharmacy clinic, where I was ready to chew, swallow or inject whatever medication they were willing to prescribe. During the appointment, I recapped the past day and outlined all the symptoms I had been experiencing — and the clinician could only give me a wide-eyed stare.

“You need to see a doctor,” he said.

In my head I mutter, “I thought that’s what I was doing…is this guy not a doctor?

“You need to go to the emergency room immediately,” he said.

I slumped my way out of the building and back to my car, where I Google-mapped “emergency room” to locate the nearest hospital. I was admitted not too long after arrival (honestly, I was surprised that it didn’t take longer), and eventually the nursing staff took me in for an MRI.

“You have a brain bleed,” said the real doctor, after reviewing my results. “We need to run some more tests, but you’ll have to stay with us for a little while.”

I would go on to spend seven days in the hospital, where I had a couple of procedures to evaluate the extent of the bleed, lots of monitoring and neurological exams, and plenty of Dilaudid (also known as morphine). At the end of it all, the diagnosis was “Acute Non-Traumatic Subarachnoid Hemorrhage.”

“What the heck does that mean?”

Short answer: Blood got into my brain from a malformed vein (that’s what caused the incredibly painful headache), and then the vein resolved itself. No surgery needed, no therapy or other medications; the doctor just told me to go home and take it easy for a month.

When I asked what caused this and whether it would happen again, the doctor said, “We’re not positive about the cause; it’s typically something you’re just born with. It’s unlikely to reoccur, and for most, this is a one-time-only thing.”

Promising news, but surely there was a catch. I asked if there was anything I needed to start doing differently, like any dramatic health or lifestyle changes I would have to make, and the doctor confidently told me, “No, patients rarely, if ever, experience any further issues. Just go about your normal life, you’ll be fine.”

I thought, “Thanks, doc…but really, that’s it? I just spent a full week in the hospital for a headache? Most expensive headache ever!

Some time passed and I was eventually back to work at the club, back to regular routines and familiar activities. While comforting in a way, this return-to-normalcy also felt somehow different.

Over time, I found myself thinking about my role and searching for more meaning in my day-to-day work. The business of golf isn’t always a walk in the park; the industry is certainly fun, but not without its unique challenges. In my personal experience, I’ve endured plenty of tough times, long days and thankless tasks yet have also felt great joy, made incredible friendships, and had unforgettable experiences.
Caleb Hung with Kendall Murphy, PGA, Courtney Trimble and Mackenzie Mack, PGA, during a career exploration panel at the 2023 PGA Show.
Caleb Hung with Kendall Murphy, PGA, Courtney Trimble and Mackenzie Mack, PGA, during a career exploration panel at the 2023 PGA Show.
This unexpected health ordeal didn’t suddenly make me a “new person” by any means, but it did give me a new perspective on consciously identifying my passions and paying more attention to things in my life that make me happy, like golf. Quite simply, I love the game, and I love sharing that with others.

I had taught my fair share of lessons over the years, and I knew teaching full-time wasn’t the joy I was looking for (sometimes, the best part of a junior lesson was giving the kid back to their parents). It took a while, but retracing my steps and thinking back to how I got started helped give me some clarity. A big reason why I began working in golf was because I had some great instructors that gave me free lessons, free range balls and free rounds when I was a kid. They took me to tournaments, taught me things you probably shouldn’t teach kids, and eventually gave me a job. These instructors were all PGA Professionals and I have always remembered what they did for me when I was growing up.

Fast forward to now, where I find myself in a unique position to influence the future of the Association. As a Recruiting and Member Engagement Specialist, I am responsible for ushering in new individuals to become future PGA Members. It sounds fancy (maybe), but how I go about it is actually pretty straightforward: I make a conscious effort to focus on the positives within our industry, and share my joyful experiences that have come from the game of golf.
As a Member Engagement & Recruiting Specialist, Hung is responsible for shedding light on the different careers people can have in golf, and through PGA Membership.
As a Member Engagement & Recruiting Specialist, Hung is responsible for shedding light on the different careers people can have in golf, and through PGA Membership.
When I think back to my time in the hospital and my subsequent career change, I sometimes feel like a cliche, and I hate cliches. It wasn’t a life-or-death situation, and I wasn’t hanging on by a thread. All in all, I came through pretty unscathed and for that, I’m grateful — but cliche or not, my big takeaway from all of it was the realization that finding your passion and actively doing what you love is a non-negotiable.

And for me, that’s working in golf.

Caleb Hung, PGA, is a Recruiting & Member Engagement Specialist for the PGA of America.

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