Local golfer overcomes obstacles to chase major championship

Sunday , August 03, 2014 - 3:18 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

At age 40, Dustin Volk admits he won’t be one of the young guys gunning for the PGA Championship title this week at the esteemed Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.

But who cares if Justin Spieth is 21, Rory McIlroy is 25 or Jason Day is 26, Volk says; once you’re on the tee box Thursday for that first shot, nobody cares how old you are or what you went through to get there. Although, Volk certainly had his obstacles — including a personal battle with severe dyslexia — to overcome to get to be where he is now — the head golf professional at Valley View golf course in Layton.

And the icing on the cake now is none other than qualifying to play in the PGA’s national championship.

“Sometime I look at life as a series of doors that open for you,” Volk said pondering about the choices he made in his life that shaped how he became the golf professional, the husband and father, and the player he is today. “The doors we choose along the way, certainly help shape who we are … I think.”

One of those doors includes following in the shadows of his father Wayne, who was head golf professional at Hubbard Golf Course on Hill Air Force Base, for nearly 40 years. Almost every day, Dustin begged to be out on the course with his dad.

A favorite family story is about how when Dustin was 10 years old he was involved in a school play in which the kids were asked what they wanted to become when they grew up.

“As all the children stood on the stage, with parents and grandparents in the audience, each child came forward — with the strumming beat of ukeleles — and shouted out his or her career ambition,” shared Dustin’s wife Anne in a bio submitted to the PGA Tour prior to the tournament. “‘I’m going to be a doctor,’ shouted one student. ‘I’m going to be a teacher,’ said the next. On it went until it came to Dustin’s turn. He stepped forward proudly and hollered, ‘I’m going to be a pro golfer!’

“A wave of chuckles swept over the crowd and he slid back, a bit surprised and embarrassed by the reaction,” the bio continued. “After all, he was only being honest.

“The same program was presented three additional times, allowing children on stage opportunities to tease Dustin about his ‘wild dream’ statement. … When it came his turn to speak in the final performance … under the peer pressure Dustin said — with little conviction and less enthusiasm — ‘I’m going to be a doctor.’ In reality, it sounded a bit more like ‘Fine! I’ll be a stinkin’ doctor, if that will make you happy!”

The story would become one that helped formulate Dustin’s determination, to battle through his challenges in school to one day become a graduate of Weber State University, then a head golf professional at Valley View. Included in that struggle was fighting past severe dyslexia.

“As one year after another proved futile in advancing through (dyslexia) with the use of the resource programs (in elementary school), which only seemed to make matters worse,” according to what was written in the bio. “Dustin’s parents decided to remove him from the resource programs and let him do the best he could in the mainstream along with other students.

“One teacher, displeased that Dustin was removed from the programs, predicted he would eventually become a school drop out and painted a dismal picture of his future. … It was also noted upon leaving the sixth grade that Dustin’s reading ability was among the lowest, if not the lowest, of anyone who was leaving elementary school and about to enter junior high and high school.”

But golf was always Dustin’s solace. He spent hours after school, and entire days during the summer, on the practice range honing his skills. In the hours he couldn’t get to the course, he would spend chipping on the small course he had built in the backyard of family’s house in Syracuse.

By the seventh and eighth grade — with the help of more in-depth and discreet school resource programs — Dustin’s grades improved. Once in high school he tired out for and made the golf team at Clearfield, where he had to maintain a solid GPA in order to stay on the team.

“(As he became) a better student, he regained an improved sense of worth, realizing what he lacked in reading abilities did not define him,” the bio said.

Dustin’s ability on the golf course during high school, along with his improved grades, earned him an athletic scholarship to Weber State.

However, that too hit a road bump.

“The NCAA first determined that (Dustin’s records) were unacceptable, since they had listed the many resource classes he had taken during high school,” according to the bio. “With that shattering news his chance to play college golf seemed to be vanishing before it had even begun and he was cut from the WSU golf team.

“… Dustin owes a large debt of gratitude for those who took up his case (both educators and administrators who helped validate his course work to the NCAA) and helped to turn around the judgement of the NCAA, thus allowing him to play college golf and eventually graduate with a degree in technical sales in 2002.”

During his years at Weber State, Dustin, who had worked at Davis Park golf course in Fruit Heights on the maintenance crew and as a starter, was promoted to Assistant Golf Professional there. From that promotion, Dustin was able to qualify for the PGM (golf management) program and work toward PGA membership.

In 2011, Dustin stepped into that most recent door of life and was named to what he calls his dream job — head pro at Valley View.

Dustin never chased a career as a touring pro on the PGA Tour, he never even went to Q-school; that was never his desire. He wanted to become a Golf Professional.

“I’m a club pro,” Volk said. Work come first. Golf comes second. I don’t play for a living. I play for fun, luckily for me.”

Dustin said his goal this week is to make the cut as a club pro, and to beat all of the other club pros. “I think that is realistic.

“I’m almost 41. If I was to win the tournament, who wouldn’t go out and chase it for a bunch of years? But I’ve got a great job,” Volk said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a series of articles to feature Valley View head golf professional Dustin Volk, who earned a spot in this year’s PGA Championship, one of the four ‘majors’ on the PGA Tour. The Standard-Examiner will follow Volk for the next week at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., site of the tournament. Keep track of the coverage at www.standard.net and updates on Twitter at @bbingham or @standardex or @standardexsport, as well as on Facebook.

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