Ethan Castle: 18 Holes of Life

Professional Golfer Profile:

Name: Ethan Castle

Company: Ethan Castle Golf

Location: Scottsdale, AZ

Website: www.ethancastlegolf.com

Ethan Castle is the epitome of G&E Magazine. I could not have asked for a better person to feature in my first article and to convey the purpose of this publication. Ethan’s journey with professional golf demonstrates many of the lessons that any dedicated player endures while pursuing this sport. These trials and tribulations are what entrepreneurs around the world will face while working relentlessly toward turning a passion into a career. Ethan Castle’s story is the journey of an underdog who, in spite of a late start to the game, relentlessly works toward the pinnacle of the competitive golf world.

A few years ago, when I was attending the University of South Carolina, I had the great opportunity of crossing paths with, my now good friend, Ethan Castle. Within a few minutes of meeting, I discovered that he was chasing professional golf at the ripe age of 21, a mere two years after picking up the game. I was immediately intrigued by the fact that although experience was against him, he wanted to play on the PGA Tour. His passion was inspiring to 19-year-old me, as I was interested in the same goal. I, too, had picked up the game later in life but wanted to take a stab at the professional golf arena. Ethan was symbolic of a possible dream, and he became a mentor and a friend from then on. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals is a vital component of success, I would later learn.

With his college days behind him, Ethan has now been playing professionally for three years, and he has much to show for it. He is currently ranked in the top ten of the Pepsi Tour’s Money List, has played on the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica, and is preparing to attend Q-School for the Web.com Tour. In his short time as a golfer, he has made immense achievements, which can be attributed to his incredible work ethic and his positive outlook. These qualities will help pave the way for Ethan’s future successes in professional golf.

In this interview, Ethan divulges lessons that anyone chasing an entrepreneurial pursuit will inevitably learn. He reveals the joys, triumphs, and adversities that go into creating your own business, which is, in a sense, what professional golf is. It is essential to learn to stay focused on your end goal and not allow a bad break or two to result in discouragement. Ethan stresses that it takes dedication to a process of improvement and trust that it will pay off in due course. Most importantly, he describes the patience, the time, and the incredible amount of behind-the-scenes hard work required to fulfill your aspirations to the fullest.

These lessons, together, are what Ethan refers to as the “18 Holes of Life.” This phrase resonated with me as both an entrepreneur and a passionate golfer, and I am sure it will also speak to others of the same mindset.

“To me, it is the perfect game. It’s 18 Holes of Life. That’s one of my favorite sayings. You have these moments of stress. You have these moments of this absolute perfect calm, where nothing can go wrong. You have great moments of excitement, and you have moments of sorrow.”

These are just a few of the many wise words of the young but journeyed Ethan Castle. Here’s what he had to say:

G&E: Ethan! It’s great to have you as our first interview for G&E. Welcome. I think you have an amazing story with golf, and I am excited to dive into it.

Ethan Castle: Thanks for having me man. I am excited to get started.

G&E: Me too! To kick things off, I wanted to start talking about how golf came into your life?

Ethan Castle: As you know, I picked up golf a little later than most in this profession. I started playing golf my sophomore year of college. Before that, I played baseball for the first 20 years of my life. My dad got us into the game when we were very young, and I ended up having seven shoulder surgeries between 18 and 21.

G&E: Seven shoulder injuries. Wow. Were you originally planning to play college baseball right?

Ethan Castle: I was initially going to go to Kansas state and walk on, but got hurt, and ended up going to Colorado state and playing there for a year. I had another injury after my freshman year and needed another surgery.

G&E: Is this around the time you decided to hang up the cleats?

Ethan Castle: Yeah, I decided it was time to change direction. I was not doing well in school, like really bad (laugh). I had no purpose. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or where I was going to do it. Then my brother, Wes, had started to play. He began to screw around with golf a bit.

G&E: Your brother was an athlete right?

Ethan Castle: Wes played D1 baseball, and he was the one who introduced me to the game. I was talking to him one day, and he brought up the idea that I should start playing golf. He thought I should just start going to the golf course every day as something productive to do.

G&E: Do you think golf got you back on track?

Ethan Castle: Absolutely! It sounds like an exaggeration, but the game has turned my life around multiple times. If I were ever not doing well, I would go to the golf course for 6, 7, 8 hours, and it kept me occupied. It turned into something I really, really love to do. In school, it kept me in check. I wanted to play golf, but I need to do well in school. It kept me doing everything I needed to do.

G&E: That’s awesome! So around your freshman year of college is when you started playing?

Ethan Castle: Yeah, I started playing late. It was my freshman summer transitioning into sophomore fall, and I was able to get good quick.

G&E: How quickly were you able to start shooting in the 70’s?

Ethan Castle: Playing tournament golf is way different than going out and playing with your buddies, but within the first four months, I went from shooting in the high 90s to low 80s. It came to me. I understood how to do it a little bit.

By the time I was trying to transfer from Colorado State to the University of South Carolina, which was around sophomore year, I was starting to shoot in the 70s. So I guess within a year I went from a 90’s shooter to shooting in the 70s.

G&E: When did you decide to take the leap and make it a career?

Ethan Castle: When I first started, I never thought I was going to do it for a living. I would probably say when I turned 21; the idea came to my mind. I would come back to Colorado in the summer time and began shooting under par. My family and friends were saying, “Why don’t you try and do this.” I finally got talked into it and decided; you know what, screw it! I’ll give it a go.

I played one season as an amateur, on what was then the Hooters Tour. Right after I graduated, I turned pro. I didn’t make anything that first five or six months. I mean, I made nothing. I had more success playing, at first, as an amateur.

G&E: Do you think you had more success as an amateur because there was no money on the line?

Ethan Castle: Absolutely.

G&E: In what way?

Ethan Castle: The expectations changed. When you’re an amateur, you know you’re not going to win anything when it comes to money. You’re just playing to play, and it’s a different experience. I would just free-wheel it. If I played good, great, but if I didn’t, it didn’t matter. Then I turned pro, and all of a sudden entry fees went up. I am not in school anymore, so this is what I am doing full time. You start telling people, your family and your loved ones, that this is what you’re doing, and you’re trying to make a living doing it.

Every time I would miss a cut, it would start to weigh on me a little bit more. I remember thinking to myself; I am 0 for 1, 0 for 2, 0 for 3 (laughs). The pressure starts building, and it just got to the point where I was playing the worst I could play. I was playing awful for a solid six-month period. I would play decent for a little bit but then go into these bad stretches again.

G&E: It sounds to me like you were pressing, trying to force success?

Ethan Castle: Yeah. After I had graduated, I played that summer and fall on what was then, the NGA Tour. I remember one event I went out there, and the first day I shot a 73. The next day, I got it to 2 under at one point and remember thinking to myself, alright this is going to be my big break, this is it, my breakthrough (laughs)… and then the wheels would fall off. That’s just how it went a little while.

G&E: How did you learn to deal with that pressure, and turn it around. You are now top 10 on the Pepsi Tour’s money list this season.

Ethan Castle: Time. That is a common question people ask me. What changed? It was time. It takes a while to mature. What was different for me, compared to many others that I was competing against, was I never played much tournament golf, especially at a high level. I have played with guys that have played in the Masters, who have won the U.S. Am. I look at them and am like wow, you played in the Masters. It was kind of daunting at the start. A buddy of mine, Matt Bryant, talked to me and explained how to PLAY golf. That didn’t resonate with me until a year or two into it, and it was all about how to score, how to play, and how to not worry about all the obstacles that golf gives you. The biggest aspect, though, was maturing as a player.

Ethan Castle_Pepsi Tour

G&E: Understanding the game and how it works.

Ethan Castle: Exactly. One of the things that affected me for a while was that I got to the point that I felt like a bad person if I wasn’t playing good golf. Playing professionally was what I was trying to do, and I felt like I was wasting time, money and all this other stuff. A friend of mine had to remind me that, no matter what happens, you’re still a good person. I don’t want this to sound the wrong way, but not caring as much has been a huge, huge thing for me. Not always feeling like there was a reason that I played good or reason I played badly. I’ve gotten to the point where I go out there, and I play good, then that’s great, and if I play bad then whatever. Life goes on. You’re just going to go out there, peg it tomorrow, and you’re going to play and do everything in your power to do your best.

G&E: Sounds like a great mindset that took you some time to learn.

Ethan Castle: It did, and in addition to that, one of the biggest things I learned is finding the right people to surround yourself with, in golf, and in life. Especially in golf. It is a critical aspect of it. That’s coaches and other players. Being someone who started late, I can accept I don’t know as much as these other guys, so I ask questions. Ask everybody, anybody, who has been there how they did it. What do they do differently, or a tip they can give you. The golf community, in particular with the players, is a small little bubble that loves helping each other out.

I’m out there on the Pepsi Tour, talking to guys, and some will be like, “four years ago I was on the PGA Tour.” You talk to those guys and ask, whats the difference? What do you need to do? When I first started, I imagined that everyone out there was perfect. They didn’t do these things that I was doing. Then you start to realize that’s not true.

G&E: It sounds like, after talking to guys who have played at higher levels, a significant realization for you is that no one’s game is perfect. You’re talking about accepting your swing, your overall game, and not pursuing this “perfect swing” everyone wants so bad.

Ethan Castle: It’s funny you mention that. I had a couple of years where I went through that. I would always think to myself, if the swing isn’t perfect, I couldn’t play good golf. But the swing is never going to be perfect. What I have found is I have my swing. The more I have owned my swing, the better I am playing. So many people get so caught up in the swing. I am an avid believer in the swing, I do believe you need certain aspects of it to play, but that does not mean anything when it comes to playing golf.

G&E: Sounds like a big discovery for you was knowing yourself and how you play?

Ethan Castle: Exactly. One of my buddies, who is one of the best players I have ever been around, spent an entire summer where he could barely hit the ball. I mean so bad. He still went out there and would find a way to shoot 69 every day. He knew how to score. He was like, “dude, I just choke it down and punch it.” He knew he couldn’t hit it at the moment, but he knew how to play golf.

Looping back to your original question on how I turned my golf game around. The big difference from who I was a year and a half ago, and really different two years ago, is I just play golf. I don’t try to fix my swing; I just play golf. I go out there, and I golf my ball the best I can.

Another major turn around for me was finding real belief in myself over any shot. If you don’t have that, then your going to have a tough go of it. I have gotten to the point now, where I don’t care if it’s a 285 yard three wood or a 100-yard wedge. I can hit that shot. You have to believe every time you step up to hit any shot, that you can hit that shot.

G&E: Do you think it took you a couple of years to find this true belief in yourself?

Ethan Castle: Absolutely. I believe that it came with watching and observing other players. It goes along with something my dad has always told me. If you don’t think you belong out there, then you are never going to be as successful as you want to be. For me, I had to make that decision that I am as good as these guys.

I remember I went out and played a tournament round, and I didn’t know who these guys were at the time. Their names were Parker McLachlin and Steele DeWald. They shoot 71, 72, and I shoot 67. We walk off the golf course, and we sit down and start talking. I find out that Steele played on Web.com Tour, and Parker played on the PGA Tour. I remember sitting there thinking to myself, “wow, these guys have played at much higher levels on a consistent basis, and I just beat them.” After that, I had a whole transition period where I started gaining confidence. It makes me believe that I have the ability to go where I want to go. I started thinking, I can beat this guy, and I can beat that guy, and I am better than this guy. I am not telling guys this (laughs), I know they can beat me on any given day, but I just had started to gain this mentality, and it freed me up.

As far as my success has gone, the major lessons I have learned is that it takes time. You need to play, and you’re going to learn and learn, and learn. I am still learning. Other than that, it was finding a quiet confidence. An inner belief within yourself that says “I can do this.”

G&E: It probably took you a couple of years to find it. It’s a journey.

Ethan Castle: Oh yeah, exactly. I’m telling you; I went through some points of depression this past year. I went down to Q-School playing the best golf of my life, and I put all this unnecessary pressure on myself. I was telling myself, this is it, this is huge, I need to do this. At the end of the day, though, it was four rounds of golf. If I played great, I was going to get my card, if I didn’t, it didn’t mean anything. It just meant I had to go through another year of grinding.

G&E: Which in a way your lucky to do, your playing golf every day.

Ethan Castle: Exactly, and I didn’t see it that way at the time. My whole existence just spun out of control, and I was miserable for a while. Honestly, I put down my sticks for a couple of months, reevaluated, and realize that this was the last thing I wanted to give up. It changed my perspective and brought me back to understanding how much I enjoy playing. Golf is the most humbling game. You can go out one day, and shoot 65, and the next day, shoot 85, and you feel like you’re the same guy. To me, it is the perfect game. It’s 18 holes of life. That’s one of my favorite sayings. You have these moments of stress. You have these moments of this absolute perfect calm where nothing can go wrong; you have great moments of excitement, and you have moments of sorrow. It’s up and down and the guys who maybe know how to control that better, or maybe the ones who embrace it a little better, are the people who separate themselves from everyone else.

G&E: Do you think golf has helped you grow as a person, beyond the game?

Ethan Castle: Oh yeah and especially playing as a professional. Everything in golf you have to earn. You’re not cashing in your checks if you don’t earn it. You’re not making a living, if you don’t win it. Either the ball goes in, or it doesn’t. It teaches you so much accountability. That’s the beautiful thing about playing at such a high level of an individual sport. You don’t have a teammate to pick you up. You don’t have a coach that is there all the time motivating you. You’re the only guy that can hit the shot. You’re the only guy who can make the putt. We all make excuses, but at the end of the day, it just comes down to you. It can be empowering, your so accountable.

I always used to try and find a reason, why this and why that, but it’s like, no dude, you just didn’t hit the shot. It’s not that you weren’t trying to hit the shot, it’s not that you were trying to miss the putt, you just didn’t make the putt. Then other times it’s like, yea dude, you made the putt, you made the putt! That’s the best part of it. It teaches you so much. I wish everyone could have the chance to play at a high level. You just learn so much about yourself.

If you want to have a long career paying, the sooner you understand that playing consistently solid and giving yourself an opportunity to win is what it’s about. Winning is accidental. It truly is. Winning is an accidental act.

G&E: I like that mindset a lot. Winning is an accident!

Ethan Castle: It truly is. It just happens. You go out there shoot 67, and it can happen. I didn’t mean to, I just went out and played my best and I won. That mindset helped my game progress in the right direction.

I remember a Pepsi Tour event I was playing in. I start off on the front nine shooting four under, and that’s on a golf course where the front nine is the hard nine. At that point I am thinking, I am going to take this deep. I end up getting to the 17th hole, and I am 2 over on the easier nine, and I feel like I am going backward. All of a sudden, I make a hole in one and a birdie back to back. Out of nowhere, I shot a seven under 65. Accident. At that point in the round, I felt like I was throwing away a great front nine, but once again this goes into the 18 holes of life. I am as low as I can be thinking I am playing absolutely terrible, throwing away a great opportunity. All of a sudden, I hit a perfect six iron that doesn’t leave the stick, bounces once and goes in the hole. You never know when something is going to turn around for you, so you keep grinding.

G&E: That’s an impressive example of being patient. That is such a key to playing consistent tournament golf. You need to stay patient because you never know what can happen.

Ethan Castle: I agree, learning to stay patient, no matter what was a significant change in my mental game. If you start off bogey, bogey, and you start pressing, then that’s when it gets ugly. If you just muddle along, and keep hitting shots, then that’s when something can happen or it’s not. If it doesn’t happen then who cares. You just didn’t have it that day. You know what, though you go about it the next day the same way, and when you are a good player, good things are going to happen. When you just hit the shot that makes you feel comfortable, you find a great balance. It’s a back right pin, and I am a drawer of the golf ball. Maybe I shouldn’t go after this flag. Hit it in the middle of the green, and maybe I drain a 20 footer.

Another great lesson that I have learned that changed how I played golf and goes hand in hand with staying patient is that I hate making bogeys way more than I like making birdies. Birdies are great, but bogeys will piss you off, especially stupid bogeys. It has taught me that par is a good score no matter what. I don’t care if you are playing the easiest golf course in America. If you shot even par, you played good. Might not have played good enough to win, or make the cut, but it’s never a bad score.

These lessons are all part of the process. The only way I have learned it is talking to other players that are better than me and have been there. You watch them play. I think everybody needs a mentor.

G&E: That was a question I wanted to ask you, have you had a select mentor during your career?

Ethan Castle: As far as the golf game goes, my buddy Matt Brian. He came out to AZ last summer, and I started playing a lot with him and watching him play. He played on a high school team in SC with Dustin Johnson, and Matt was the number one. He has been playing professionally for nine years now. I was lucky that the guy on the Pepsi Tour paired us up a lot. I watched him go out there for a two month period on the Pepsi Tour. He ALWAYS shot under par. He had one day where he played bad and shot 81 but the next day he was low for the tournament. As far as watching a guy and understanding how to score, he was a significant influence. I remember when he came down. I wasn’t shooting consistently in the 60’s then all of a sudden I was. I think that is a direct correlation.

G&E: It’s like when Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile. Before that, everyone thought it was impossible, then all of a sudden, people were achieving this feat all over the world.

Ethan Castle: I think what it showed me was that he made it look simple, and he did it in an easy way. I still go out there and will shoot 68 then a 75. The positive, though, is that I am getting part of this down. What I have done a better job with recently, is having tournaments where I will go 69-71-69. Being consistent. It was understanding that yesterday isn’t different than today. Just go out there and play your ball the best you can. The difference between last year was, I would get in that mode where I would begin thinking to myself that I can win this thing, and then I would implode (laughs). Learning not to worry about winning and just playing was a breakthrough. Matt was the one who taught me how actually to play. How to score, do what you need to do to make checks, and then next thing you know you gain momentum. It gives you a feeling that you can do this.

G&E: All of a sudden your winning.

Ethan Castle: Exactly. You start birdieing par 5’s every time, you start understanding the game, making checks, and eventually you’re having a superb year and great things are happening in your career.

G&E: It sounds like, especially in your career, that when times were tough, not quitting and pushing through a rough patch resulted in seeing some success and ultimately gaining momentum.

Ethan Castle: I have a good story that relates to that statement. A guy I worked with, Willy Hoffman, who has been coaching me, and I have to give him a lot of credit because he has helped make my swing more consistent. He uses the word consequent. You have to be consequent in your work. What that means is, if you draw a straight line on the ground, you need to stay on that line as long as you can. If you remain on that line, no matter what, you will get where you are going. You never quit. He coaches Bernhard Langer and has been since he was around ten years old. He would say that when Bernie started playing when he would win, the only thing that would drive him to win again, was that he wanted to win more. He always wanted to do more. He always wanted to win more. He always wanted to get better.

Willie was saying to me that I have enough talent to get to the PGA Tour. What is going to get me where I want to go, is I draw that line, and I stay on that line no matter what. Along that line, you keep learning and staying in your process of improvement, and you will get better.

G&E: Being 100% committed to your goals.

Ethan Castle: Yeah. It’s commitment to your work. It’s a commitment to your technique. It is what I have done, and honestly, it is becoming a lot easier to play better.

For example, just the other day I learned a new mental approach to putting that has done great things for my game. I was talking to this guy I played with recently, and we were talking about the method of putting. He introduced a new mindset to me, that you have to try and make everything. Sounds simple, but the best putters on the PGA tour try and make everything, no matter where it is. It’s more a mentality than it is a physical action. You hit the putt like your trying to make it, and be 100 percent committed to trying to make it. All of a sudden, I am making everything. Not worrying about my stroke but just wanting to make it. It makes everything simple.

I go back to this concept because I think it is so important, but always, always, try to learn. Always try and pick up something new because you never know when you are going to need it. That is just a huge aspect of golf and life.

G&E: I saw that you have started taking all these lessons you have learned and started a teaching business on the side as well?

Ethan Castle: I teach as much as I can. The beautiful thing is when you have learned a lot, I have started to build a technique behind how I believe golf should be played. Teaching is harder than playing (laughs) because not everyone learns the same way. I try and make golf as simple as I can. The whole goal I have when teaching someone is that I want you to be able to do this, I want it to be straightforward and easy. The biggest obstacle, though, is golf is not easy (laughs). People find that out quick and get frustrated very fast. It has helped me with my communication skills. I have to convey a message in a positive way and learn how people understand to process information. You have to learn how to say the same thing 100 different ways. It has helped me become a better player as well. Learning how to convey it to others has helped me build on things in my own game. It has made me more creative as a player.

G&E: That’s awesome! So you enjoy helping people get better?

Ethan Castle: I really enjoy seeing people get better. It is probably more enjoyable seeing some else improve than sometimes seeing myself improve. That is such a cool feeling. Knowing you have helped them get better.

G&E: That is great that you have found a passion for teaching!

Ethan, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. It has been amazing to hear about your incredible journey with golf.

Ethan Castle: Of course! I had a great time doing this as well.

 

 

 

 

 

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