Joel Thelen, a senior golf player, has been playing for Texas Wesleyan for two years and has made quite the impression on and off the course, tying a school record and swinging his way into plenty of other accomplishments.
Thelen said he will never forget the first time he swung a golf club at 12 years old.
“One Saturday morning, we were cleaning out our shed and I found my dad’s old golf clubs, and my dad showed me how to grip the club and swing,” Thelen said. “I spent the whole week hitting a plastic golf ball around the yard and taking divots out of our lawn.”
After that, his dad finally decided to take his whole family to the driving range, and Thelen loved it.
Thelen said in January 2005, at the age of 14, he finally saved up enough money to buy his own set of clubs.
“I went from playing golf only four to five times in my life, to now playing four or five rounds per month,” Thelen said. “By the end of that year, I shot a 74 from the blue tees at a local course.”
Thelen continued to play golf and be successful throughout his high school career.
“My senior year of high school we drove all the way to Orlando, Fla. for the International Junior Golf Tour Tournament of Champions,” Thelen said. “We didn’t have the money, but God provided it, and my dad took the time off work.”
After high school, Thelen made the transition to play golf in college.
Thelen found out half way through his sophomore year in college he was going to transfer to a new school.
“This was tough for me because I had already transferred from LeTourneau University to Louisiana Tech University after my freshman year, and now I would have to move a second year in a row,” Thelen said. “After I talked with at least a dozen coaches, visited Texas Wesleyan, and visited three other universities, every school had a lot of great things to offer.”
Thelen said one day early in the morning he prayed to God asking to make the decision clearer so he wouldn’t miss it.
“By 9 a.m. I got a call from coach Cornett saying that I could live on campus, and a call from Oklahoma City saying school was going to be a few thousand dollars more than we estimated,” Thelen said. “By 10 a.m. I was a Texas Wesleyan Ram.”
Texas Wesleyan attracted Thelen with the small class sizes along with the city of Fort Worth.
Throughout his life, Thelen said his dad and two big brothers have influenced him. His dad has always been his biggest supporter in life and in his golf game.
Thelen said he has also had great father figures who have mentored him in golf and in life. Some of his mentors have been Roy Pace, his swing coach since 2006, and Dick Williams, the founder and leader of the Arklatex Junior Golf Tour.
This tour was the exact tour where Thelen got his start shooting a 110 and two summers later slimming it down to a 69.
The Texas Wesleyan coaches have also been instrumental in his life. Thelen said these men have not only coached him on the course but have also helped him with his mental game as well as keeping a focus on the Bible.
Kevin Millikan, co-head golf coach and director of New Sports Program Development at Wesleyan, said Thelen has been a leader on and off the course.
“As an athlete, Joel has had one of the lower competitive scoring averages for the team over the last two seasons,” Millikan said. “As a student, he will earn All-American Scholar-Athlete while graduating with his bachelor’s degree this spring.”
Thelen’s major is finance and is set to graduate May 12, 2012, and Thelen currently holds a grade point average of 3.7.
Thelen said Cornett helped him tie the school record with lowest tournament score last year and helped him get over his mental blocks and reach his full potential.
Since playing golf, Thelen has won many awards. He won first place at the Longview City Championship in Longview, Texas.
He was runner-up at the NAIA National Championship Preview Oct. 2011 in Salem, Oregon. Thelen is the co-holder of the lowest tournament round with a score of 64 in April 2011.
One last accomplishment was runner-up at the Crown Colony Collegiate Open in January 2012 in Lufkin, Texas.
Not only has Thelen been working hard, but so has the men’s golf team overall.
“The team just resumed its practice and playing routine this past week,” Millikan said.”Over the course of the next few weeks we will be focusing on returning to the competitive schedule and determining the lineup for our first spring tournament in San Antonio.”
Thelen said the golf team has a lot of great guys on the team and they have a good chance of winning Nationals this year.
Oliviu Vasilca, senior computer information systems and business administration major, is a friend of Thelen’s.
“His latest accomplishments are absolutely astonishing with the hard work over all these years of practice are starting to pay off,” Vasilca said. “His success is increasing by every tournament and I am extremely proud of him and his achievements.”