Player’s Take: Justin Doeden

  • Justin Doeden played high school hockey before turning all his athletic focus to golf once got to college. (Courtesy of Justin Doeden)
    Justin Doeden played high school hockey before turning all his athletic focus to golf once got to college. (Courtesy of Justin Doeden)
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  • Justin Doeden began his college golf career at a small, Wisconsin school and had great success. That’s when his coach saw enough, stepped in and encouraged Doeden, a Minnesota native, . . . to transfer. Doeden credits his first college coach with helping him become the player he is today, facilitating his transfer to a bigger program where he could develop his game. The Mackenzie Tour veteran and the most recent LOCALiQ Series winner recently talked about, among other things, his high school hockey days, when he realized the NHL wasn’t in his future, why the first three events on the Mackenzie Tour schedule are his favorites and what his LOCALiQ Series victory in early October at the Classic at The Club at Weston Hills meant to him.

    When I first heard about the coronavirus affecting golf, I was in Hilton Head. When I heard the TOUR canceled THE PLAYERS (Championship), that was the big one for me. I was like, wow, this is pretty serious—this is a pretty big deal. A couple days later, the Masters got canceled. Right then and there I remember thinking, my life is going to be a little different moving forward.

    Almost immediately players started getting emails, which I really appreciated. That was something the Mackenzie Tour was very good at, keeping us informed.

    Knowing I probably wouldn’t be playing any competitive golf for a while, and with my family still in Minnesota, I did go home for probably two months. I hung out with them and hung out with some friends a little.

    Back then, and even today, we don’t know that much about COVID-19, so, obviously, you have to be careful what you do. I thought it was a good time to maybe put the clubs away for a while.

    I hung out with the family during that time. I don’t get to do that too much because I’m always travelling, so it was good to see my Mom and Dad and my sister, who is four years older than me.

    A recent photo of the Justin with his parents and sister. (Courtesy of Justin Doeden)

    Once the TOUR announced the LOCALiQ Series, I then came back down here to Hilton Head to start preparing.

    Before turning pro, I played four years of college golf, graduating from Minnesota. I did have a bit of a path before I ended up at the University of Minnesota. I went to Cardinal Stritch in Milwaukee for my first two years of college.

    Besides golf, I played hockey growing up. The coach at Minnesota wasn’t a big fan of that, and he wanted me to be all focused on one sport. I think that’s why he shied away from me a bit during recruiting. The coach at Cardinal Stritch, Tim Eckberg, had a start-up program at, obviously, a smaller school. He was all about all sports, and he didn’t mind that I was playing high school hockey.

    Doeden during his hockey days in high school. (Courtesy of Justin Doeden)

    I still talk to Coach Eckberg to this day, and he’s a part of everything I’m doing. He now is the head coach at Western Carolina University, and he’s probably the big reason I am where I’m at today. I won five of my first 15 events at Cardinal Stritch, and one day he said to me, “You’re better than this program. You have what it takes. Let’s get you to a bigger school.”

    How good is that? Coach was a big supporter. He’s a big reason why I did transfer, and he helped make it happen.

    Cardinal Stritch? Shoot, it was good for me. As a smaller school, I enjoyed it. Brown Deer Park (long-time home of the PGA TOUR’s Milwaukee tournament) was our home golf course. I mean, that’s where Tiger Woods’ played his first PGA TOUR event. We had a pretty good home golf course, a good golf team with an excellent coach, good buddies. It was a good place for me to work my butt off and get better.

    Doeden, third from left to right, during his days as a Cardinal Stritch. (Photo by Cardinal Stritch University)

    I can’t really point to one thing that told me I could make it as a professional golfer. I think it was a little bit of a mix of everything. I mean, you need results to tell you can do it. Obviously winning tournaments helps.

    Once I got to Cardinal Stritch, I told myself that I would try to outwork everybody. We had a simulator where we practiced. Obviously, in Wisconsin, it’s snowing up there maybe four or five months out of the year. We had an indoor facility, with a Trackman area, and I was in there maybe four to five hours a night, just hitting balls. I was the only one in there well into the evening. I still remember those nights.

    Growing up in Minnesota, I always wanted to be a Golden Gopher. I knew my family would be able to come and watch events. I felt coming back home would be a cool thing to do. But once I decided to transfer, and before I even got an offer from Minnesota, I went and toured Nova Southeastern University in Florida, which, at the time, was the top Division 2 school. I actually verbally committed to Nova Southeastern. But then Minnesota came to me and gave me an offer that I really couldn’t pass up, so that’s where I ended up going.

    Doeden competing as a Golden Gopher. (Photo by the University of Minnesota)

    I played hockey all the way through high school. I was a forward, a playmaker; played right wing and center. My school team, Lakeville South, which is about 30 minutes south of St. Paul, was great. We were definitely one of the top teams in the state, and high school hockey in Minnesota, as you know, is huge. We were a big school classification-wise, as big as the A’s could get.

    The biggest reason I didn’t pursue hockey any further than high school was that I played with some guys who were really, really talented. I don’t want to sound too big-headed, but I was probably a 2 or 3 handicap when it came to hockey. However, as soon as I played with those guys, I realized I probably wouldn’t go any further than maybe college hockey.

    I know a bunch of those buddies who are now in the NHL, so I’m glad I made the decision I did. Justin Kloos was in the Anaheim Ducks organization and is now playing in Russia. He was a teammate of mine. Pretty good, right?


    While I knew my limitations in hockey, I’ve never really had the thought in golf that I can’t do this. I’ve never had that, and I played college golf against and with some good players.

    I’m big music fan, and country is my No. 1. Luke Combs, for sure is my go-to guy, and Scotty McCreery was the last concert I saw, in Austin, Texas.

    I don’t mind a lot of music, but I’m not there with screamo or death metal. That would be my least favorite.

    If I’m eating a last meal, you can’t go wrong with some carbs. Let’s go with pasta—probably fettuccini Alfredo. I would also have some bread, a Caesar salad for sure, a nice glass of wine and a piece of cheesecake for dessert.

    One thing I love to do is travel. Like here in Hilton Head, I love checking out the beach. That’s what I liked so much about playing on the Mackenzie Tour. I love just seeing what’s out there in the cities I visited, and I love taking walks through each city.

    In Canada, I love the West Coast swing. We start off the year in Vancouver then go to Victoria and finish it off in Kelowna. It’s a treat, those first three events. You get a mix of things during those three weeks. In Vancouver you get a taste of city life. Then you go to Victoria, and there is the water, the beach. Then in Kelowna—I’m a wine guy—so there I can do a little wine tour. Those first three weeks are amazing.

    After my LOCALiQ Series win, I drove to Jacksonville from Fort Lauderdale. I didn’t want to drive the whole seven hours at once. I stopped and got a sandwich for dinner, and then had a steak with some friends once I was in Jacksonville. I drove home the next morning because I wanted to be home for my birthday.

    For my birthday, I went out with my sponsor and his wife, and we went out to dinner together. I had my first dirty martini, and we just celebrated.

    This win is No. 1 for me as far as accomplishments go. The fields out there on LOCALiQ are top-notch. Did I play perfect golf that week? I would say no. It is rewarding, though, knowing you can work your butt off, play in a tournament with a solid field and then do it and win when it matters. It’s exciting knowing what the future looks like.