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Hansen living out a dream; on PGA staff for the 2020 Ryder Cup

lakeland university graduate Austin Hansen puts on hole No. 4 of the Irish Course at Whistling Straits, during the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Championship 2016.

2015 Norway High School graduate Austin Hansen has been interested in golf since he was old enough to play it. The four -time Norway High School golf MVP went on to play collegiately at Lakeland University in Sheboygan, Wis. graduating in 2018.

Hansen, who is the son of Rick Hansen of Powers and Missy Dierkens-Spade of Vulcan, landed himself what most who follow golf would consider a dream job with the PGA. Hansen is the Corporate Services Coordinator for the 2020 Ryder Cup, which was postponed until Sept. 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event is to be held at Whistling Straights Golf Club in Kohler, Wis, near Sheboygan. One of the most picture perfect and scenic golf courses in the country; located along the shores of Lake Michigan.

I caught up with Hansen recently, and did a Q & A session with him via email.

Q: Now that the Ryder Cup is postponed to September of 2021, what will change, if anything, with your current daily routine/job? How will you and the rest of the crew continue to do what you have been doing?

Norway native Austin Hansen poses with The Wannamaker Trophy at the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club. St. Louis, MO. August 2018.

A: To date not much has changed with my role and we’ve been working steadily on preparing for September 2021. I’ll be here in Kohler until the end of October 2021 and then from there ideally I’ll move over to another PGA of America Championship such as the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship or one of the subsequent PGA Championship to be held in the next few years.

Q: Has it been a great experience for you to work in what’s essentially a dream job for you, being so close to home and even closer to Lakeland where you went to college and competed as a college athlete?

A: This Ryder Cup and opportunity for me has been one of the largest blessings of my life and the culmination of work put in behind the scenes. To put things into perspective, I lived for four months in summer 2017 in Charlotte, NC working on the 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow as an operations assistant. I was in that same role again in 2018 at our KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the 100th PGA Championship in St. Louis. While I missed most of those summers and being home in Upper Michigan, I wouldn’t trade those experiences and opportunities for anything. My family, and everything I acquired at Lakeland was so helpful in putting me into the position I am today. For me to grow-up playing at Oak Crest in Norway and learning the game of golf from my grandpa Ed Dierkens, to now going off and having played collegiate golf and work on some of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world — when you stop and think about it, there cannot be many people more fortunate or lucky than I have been in my short 23 years on Earth.

Q: Do you anticipate getting any type of temporary assignment at another PGA event or Major, to fill in the time in between now and the rescheduled weekend of the Ryder Cup?

A: No. While I have been working with the team here for the last 18+ months, it’s my goal to see this event through — it’s a large puzzle that I personally haven’t yet completed and want to see to the finish.

I’m so looking forward to seeing the fans come through the main entrance and that emotional moment of when a person first arrives onsite. I want to continue to serve our hospitality guests and satisfy their needs in the best way possible and make sure every detail is complete so that when they arrive, they have the greatest memories about their attendance at Whistling Straits and the Ryder Cup.

Q: What has been the most exciting part of your time working for the PGA thus far? An example: escorting Steve Stricker to Milwaukee to Miller Park, along with the Ryder Cup Trophy, summer of 2019.

A: I think the most exciting thing for me thus far is just thinking about how far we have come. Yes having the trophy at Miller Park was an incredible activation with our team, but I think back to my first week and months starting out.

My first week on the job was the week of my birthday in February 2019 and we had the Team USA Captains Announcement that week in Milwaukee at Fiserv Forum and also a meeting with our colleagues and friends at Kohler Co.

While I didn’t play a great role in planning out that exact day or week, it was incredible to see all the people that were involved and how the jumbo screen was programmed with Ryder Cup imagery. Immediately the whole state of Wisconsin and beyond seemed to rally around Captain Stricker and that was incredible to witness. At the same time having the privilege of meeting David Kohler (President and CEO of Kohler Co.) and his wife Nina, they were so nice to me, and David made it a point to shake my hand as the new person in the room. The same thing with our PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh at Bethpage Black in 2019 and the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. All incredible people I’ve had a chance to connect with which have led to humbling and surreal moments for someone such as myself. These are the things I’ll never forget and the memories I’ll have forever.

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