U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
For Carroll, Golf and Engineering Are a Technically Perfect Combo July 15, 2018 | Springfield, N.J. By Stuart Hall

Tyler Carroll has an eye on college golf, and a career in engineering. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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If life is an intricate jigsaw puzzle of pursuits and experiences needing to be pieced together, then 18-year-old Tyler Carroll is off to a good start.

Here is the deal: Carroll’s passions, in no particular order, are golf, engineering and aeronautics. He’s also an Eagle Scout, so, suffice to say, he is good at problem solving.

In about a month’s time, Carroll, of Carlsbad, Calif., heads to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., and he has somehow managed to figure out how to continue doing the things in which most interested.

“I started looking at the school about 18 months ago,” said Carroll, who is playing in his first U.S. Junior Amateur this week at Baltusrol Golf Club. “What caught my attention is that it’s an aeronautical school. I always wanted to be an engineer, and Embry-Riddle was one of the few schools that would let me play golf and major in engineering.”

But who would have time to play competitive golf carrying a heavy academic workload that would also include minoring in unmanned aerial systems?

That is what some of the bigger schools wondered, but not Embry-Riddle, an NAIA school that won twice in 2017-18 and placed second at the California Pacific Conference Championship in April.

“Tyler will have plenty of company, because his teammates will have the same workload as him,” joked John Carroll, Tyler’s father.

Carroll, who competed in the inaugural Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club in 2015, has had to make a tough call before. Heading into the seventh grade, he knew that to be proficient in one of his two favorite sports – baseball being the other – he needed to make a choice. The seasons would overlap in high school, and he could continue to play both sports, but at what cost?

“I chose golf because I really enjoy the sport and I feel more connected with my family,” he said. “Golf is a big sport in my family.

“The main thing I like about golf right now, aside from the challenging part, is that I am able to play with my friends and I am able to enjoy that time. My high school coach for three years would take us to Monterey and we would play Poppy Hills (which is currently hosting the 70th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship) and all those courses. That is what kept me in golf, the whole experience of playing with my buddies and enjoying the course.”

Aeronautics, particularly droning, may be Carroll’s biggest passion. Both of Carroll’s grandfathers have backgrounds in the field – his maternal grandfather having been an aeronautical engineer; his paternal grandfather having been a Vietnam fighter pilot and later a commercial pilot.

“I had always been interested in remote-control things in general, and things that fly, but I really got into droning about four years ago,” said Carroll, who saved up enough money to purchase his first drone, a Blade 350 QX. “I was really excited about being able to put a camera on it and capture views from different perspectives and, at the time, the industry was still really new.

“I thought it would be awesome to get into that before it got huge. And I’m really glad I did.”

On one particular early flight, the $450 Blade drone lost connection with the transmitter and crashed into a neighborhood eucalyptus tree. Carroll later bought an aerial photography platform drone and recently finished building a first-person view (FPV) drone. The latest is similar to those showcased in the FPV Drone Racing League, where drones reach speeds of nearly 80 mph and are flown through vacant warehouses and stadiums.

“He has a mind for that,” John Carroll said. “I think it’s neat that he’s into it from the aspect that when something goes wrong, you have got to be able to troubleshoot. Those are all great things to have. When you’re playing a video game, you just sit there and you’re not troubleshooting. The game ends and you play it again. With droning, there is actual thinking involved and I think it’s a great hobby and great that it’s something he is interested in.”

What Carroll has yet to figure out is the end game beyond college. He doesn’t foresee a professional golf career, but will wait and let the next few years play out.

“I see myself doing something in an engineering field, but the drone industry is going to expand exponentially and I feel like there are going to be some applications where I might be useful,” he said.

Perhaps, his father suggested, a drone pilot for a major golf championship.

Another piece of the puzzle may just have been found.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA digital channels.

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