David Byrne '10

David Byrne

Alumnus begins his quest as a professional golfer

From amateur golfer to UDM student-athlete to professional golfer, David Byrne ’10 is making strides in a game through exceptional skills, a grinding work ethic, steely determination and a bit of luck.

Byrne took his first swing at age 8 and got serious about the game as a teen. In the summertime, his mother Jody, a single parent, would often drop him off at a local golf course in the morning and pick him up at sunset. He would play with all age groups, from teens to retirees.

He always worked part time while his mom juggled several jobs to provide for their household and pay for golf. He never had a golf lesson growing up due to the cost. He was inspired to play the game by his uncle, Matt St. Louis, a good golfer himself.

Byrne made a hole-in-one at age 15. It was twilight and his group was playing a second round of nine holes. They couldn’t see his ball near the pin so they checked the hole, and there it was.

The native of Essex, Ontario, Canada caught the eye of Men’s Golf Coach Mark Engel and was recruited to UDM on a student-athlete scholarship in 2006. “Coach Engel gave me a great opportunity when I came to Detroit. I couldn’t have done it without a scholarship.”

On the Horizon Golf League, he made All Conference for four years and was Player of the Year his senior year. “My coach Luke LaFave (assistant UDM golf coach) is the main reason that I became a good player,” he said. “Being on the golf team was a great experience.“

While earning a history degree, Byrne forged a bond not only with students, coaches and teachers, but also with the people of Detroit.

“I think Detroit is one of the best cities in the world,” he said. “There is so much money, yet so much poverty. There is always something to do around campus or in downtown Detroit. I fell in love with the city and the people.”

On campus, he lived in the Shipel and West Quad dorms. “It was very convenient. I like the size of UDM— it was a good fit for me,” he said. “It was fun to be around other students who also had high goals: to get a degree and get a job.”

In July, he was catapulted into fame while playing on the Golf Channel’s Big Break Indian Wells tournament. Being on the show meant “going pro”—a declaration he made on Jan. 4, 2011. After 10 taped sessions of the show, surviving each round against stiff competition, he emerged the winner. Yet, for six months he couldn’t tell anyone that he had won—not even his mother, a former professional skater and his biggest cheerleader. People could only find out by watching the show, which began in May and ended in July.

Byrne won $70,000, a $10,000 shopping trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods, a round-trip for two to Indian Wells golf course resort and other prizes. The “big break” was an exemption to play in the PGA tournament at TPC Louisiana on April 26-29, 2012.

Now, Byrne is on a personal quest to find sponsors to cover the estimated $70,000 to $100,000 annual cost to launch his career. He is the one doing the asking. He wants potential sponsors to be able to talk directly to him and catch his enthusiasm. Meanwhile, two Windsor-area businessmen are covering his living expenses. Byrne moved to an apartment in Orlando in January and plays golf daily.

His typical game on a good day is 68 to 74; on a bad day, it’s 75 to 78, depending on the course and conditions. He favors his short game and is confident with his putter. His long game, he says, needs work. He sends a video of his swing via email, text or Twitter to LeFave, who is also his personal golf coach.

His goal seems simple, “I need to play well. I don’t need to beat all the golfers in the world; I just need to beat those that I’m playing against in a tournament.”

He favors a quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies.”

Once he is established as a pro golfer—which could take one year or a lot longer—he has a plan for his earnings. “I want to be able to support my mom, who has been so supportive of me,” he said.