Garren Poirier has always been a little different, and it has little to do with his long sideburns and his eclectic lifestyle.
Perhaps it’s because he lived in five states and two foreign countries while growing up, thanks to a father who served in the U.S. Army for 23 years. Poirier’s father flew helicopters and later trained personnel how to fly small planes, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel before retiring in 1996.
Poirier has chosen to reside in the sleepy ski resort town of Killington, Vt., where in the summer he plays golf and shoots weddings for the photography business that he started eight years ago. When winter arrives and the town’s population soars from 1,800 to as high as 35,000, Poirier can be found tending bar at Charity’s Tavern Restaurant, snowboarding or skiing at one of New England’s largest and most popular resorts or playing hockey twice a week.
Asked if he would describe himself as a ski or golf bum, Poirier answered emphatically: golf bum.
No matter the description, Poirier, 32, definitely isn’t like most of his fellow competitors gathered at Galloway National Golf Club this week for the 10th USGA Men’s State Team Championship.
He’s not a 9-to-5 guy who pores over the Wall Street Journal every day. A jacket and tie? Poirier definitely prefers a t-shirt, jeans and flip-flops.
After graduating from Temple University, where Poirier played four seasons of Division I golf, he and a friend who didn’t play golf jumped into a van and drove 13,700 miles around the U.S. before the vehicle broke down four months later in Daytona Beach, Fla. They took a bus home to Cape Cod, where Poirier had graduated from high school and his parents had settled.
Poirier gave up on golf shortly after leaving Temple to see what else the world had to offer. He wanted to see national parks and travel to exotic locales such as Indonesia to gain perspective and find his true passion, which he did in Bali in 2004.
"I was burned out [on golf]," said Poirier about temporarily giving up on the game. "I had played a lot of golf. [So] I put my clubs away. My dad wasn’t too happy about it."
Poirier spent one year living with a sister in Nashville, Tenn., working in a bar to make money. He spent two years jumping between Killington (winter) and Cape Cod (summer) before finally deciding that the former was where he wanted to settle down.
The first person he met in town was his future wife, Robin.
Then he made that trip to Indonesia. At a friend’s suggestion, he bought a camera and fell in love with photography. On his own, he quickly learned some of the nuances of the vocation and upon returning to the U.S., opened his own business, where he now shoots between eight and 14 weddings a year. He also occasionally does commercial shoots for the Killington Resort. His wife works for a company called Snow Search, a ski and snowboard tour company.
"She’s a glorified concierge for Killington," said Poirier.
Poirier shoots weddings on the weekends and has time during the week for other endeavors.
In 2005, he picked up a golf club for the first time since his college days at Temple, where he had been a two-time All-Atlantic 10 Conference player. During a trip back to the Cape with a friend, he was invited to play golf, but Poirier had sold his clubs. He borrowed a set, and over the next few years, Poirier’s interest in the game was rekindled.
"It was a good challenge and something to work at," said Poirier.
By 2009, he was competing on the national level again. He qualified for match play at the 2009 and 2010 U.S. Amateur Public Links, and this summer, he won the Vermont Mid-Amateur, and finished second at the Vermont Amateur and New England Amateur.
Poirier had been an accomplished junior player in New England, where he spent his final two years of high school at Dennis-Yarmouth High on Cape Cod. He even qualified for the 1998 U.S. Junior Amateur at Conway Farms in suburban Chicago, where last week Poirier had a reunion with the Tom Fazio design when he competed in the U.S. Mid-Amateur, just missing making match play in a playoff.
Poirier is representing Vermont for a third time at the USGA Men’s State Team Championship, and he says this is the best team the state has fielded for this biennial competition that features 52 teams (all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) in a 3-count-2-scores format. Poirier, who opened with a 6-over 77 on Wednesday, is joined on the team by reigning Vermont Amateur champion Mike Stackus, a reinstated amateur and New York native who relocated to Vermont to work in fund-raising at Norwich University, and Devin Komline, a recent Augusta (Ga.) State graduate who is planning on turning pro later this year. Komline's 76 was the team's best score in the first round, while Stackus had a non-counting 78.
Playing in USGA championships also provides Poirier an opportunity to enjoy his other passion: travel.
Since his nomadic childhood, Poirier has enjoyed visiting new places. As a youngster, he played golf in Greece and on the historic courses of the Monterey Peninsula in California.
Since graduating from college, he has visited Europe and China. One year, he and his wife flew to British Columbia and skied at Whistler, then drove from western Canada to Las Vegas. Another year, they flew to Vegas and visited national parks and landmarks throughout the Southwest.
Between the hectic winter ski season and the busy summer wedding season, Poirier and his wife usually find a few weeks to get away. New Zealand is on Poirier’s bucket list.
"I’d love to spend about a month there," he said. "The terrain is just amazing. It’s just about having enough money to do it."
Plans are also in the works to visit Japan. One of Poirier’s four sisters recently moved north of Tokyo with her fiancé, Damien Brown, a professional basketball player. His sister found a job teaching English.
Poirier’s wife is from Westport, Mass., so they typically get back there once a year, and he still makes occasional pilgrimages to the Cape, although his parents have since moved to Tennessee to be closer to his oldest sister and her three children. Another sister lives in South Carolina with her boyfriend and newborn baby, while the youngest sister plays college basketball at St. Catherine College in Kentucky.
Poirier has set a goal of playing in a major championship. In June, he advanced to U.S. Open sectional qualifying at Canoe Brook in Summit, N.J., where he shot rounds of 73-75.
Winning a Mid-Amateur would fulfill that dream, as the champion traditionally receives a Masters invitation.
Flexible work hours allow Poirier to play or practice at least three times a week at Green Mountain National Golf Course, which is operated by the town of Killington.
"Weekends are busy for me, but I can edit any time of the day," said Poirier, who acts as his own photo editor. "I’m currently editing a wedding I shot last weekend in my hotel room [here at the State Team]."
With winter around the corner, Poirier is slowly wrapping up another golf season and preparing for the onslaught of skiers and snowboarders to Killington.
Golf clubs will be replaced by a snowboard and the camera by the shouted drink orders.
Garren Poirier wouldn’t have it any other way.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.