Free falling out of military planes at 18,000 feet or wearing an 80-pound bomb disposal suit during training exercises should make short putts seem like a piece of cake. Not exactly, says Tyler Gulliksen, who is playing in the 5th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball this week at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
“That’s what everyone says to me when they find out what where I work, but 3- and 4-footers are still pretty hard, especially out here at Bandon Dunes,” said Gulliksen, 32, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Unit (EOD). “When you exit an aircraft, you’re along for the ride. You have to think a little more when you’re playing golf. But I don’t know if that’s what people want to hear.”
No, they’d rather hear operational details from Gulliksen’s deployments to places such as West Africa and the Middle East, but he’s discreet about his day job.
“People will say, ‘Oh, it’s like The Hurt Locker (a 2008 Oscar-winning film about a fictional EOD team in Iraq),’” said Gulliksen. “Well no, it’s not like a Hollywood movie. Most of the time, I don’t describe what we do. I just try to be low key with it. I’m not trying to impress anyone with my job. It’s all about the people I work with. We know what we do and what we provide.”
Like high-level amateur golfers, EOD teams are part of a small, tight-knit community defined by rules, albeit ones with much more serious consequences.
“My senior chiefs always told me our rules are written in blood because someone who came before us died in a situation and allowed us to learn from that,” said Gulliksen. “We pride ourselves on knowing our craft. It’s like watching the PGA Tour guys – it’s their job and they take it very seriously. But we need to be knowledgeable and serious or else you will get someone killed in a heartbeat.”
Gulliksen will only admit to encountering a few sketchy situations during those deployments. “That’s when you rely on the team you’re with because when you look to the left and right, that’s all you have out there.”
This week, in a much friendlier environment at Bandon Dunes, he’s relying on partner Jack Townsend, a 16-year-old from San Diego who won the San Diego Junior Golf Association’s Sean O’Hair Heritage in March. The pair shot a 2-under 68 on Pacific Dunes during the first round of stroke play on Saturday.
Gulliksen says the age difference is not an issue.
“The kids these days, they’re always on Instagram and social media, so sometimes I don’t know where they are coming from,” he said. “But when it comes to golf with Jack, it’s like playing with a 40-year-old. His golf IQ is so high, which is fun to watch. He doesn’t even know how good he is, which is scary.”
Gulliksen’s parents introduced him to the game when he was 6. He played on the golf team at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Fla., where his teammates included future 2005 USA Walker Cup competitor and PGA Tour winner Matt Every.