Coaching is All in the Family for Ellis
August 18, 2015 | Olympia Fields, Ill.
By Stuart Hall
Dan Ellis, the coach, would have had stern words for Dan Ellis, the player, during the U.S. Amateur Championship’s second round of stroke play on Tuesday.
“I would have said, calm down,” said Ellis, 26, of Lansing, Mich., who is Michigan State University’s assistant men’s golf coach.
After shooting a 2-under-par 68 in the first round of the U.S. Amateur on Monday, Ellis struggled to a 7-over 77 on Olympia Fields Country Club’s North Course. He finished at 5-over 145, outside the projected cutline.
"I struggled a little bit and made a bunch of bogeys,” he said, “but how can you hang your head when this experience is so much fun?"
Ellis was well-branded during his two-day walk around Olympia Fields, sporting a Spartan logo hat and shirt in the dark green and white school colors. His similarly colored bag featured “Spartans” down the side.
While Ellis is unsure how his playing in the 115th championship translates on the recruiting trail, the experience benefits him as he enters his second full year of coaching after a one-year stint in a similar position at Coastal Carolina University.
“From the perspective of coaching, I can better relate to our guys about how hard this game is and how difficult the arenas are,” Ellis said. “Plus you get feelings that you don’t get playing with your buddies."
When Ellis joined Michigan State’s staff in April, he was coming home. A native of Nagaunee, Mich., Ellis played collegiately for the Spartans. In his junior year, Ellis qualified for the 2012 NCAA Central Regional as an individual and he finished his MSU career 11th on the all-time stroke average list.
Golfers often get into the game because of their fathers, and Ellis was no different. But he took it a step further, following his father, Dean, into the golf coaching profession. The elder Ellis spent 20 years as the Northern Michigan University head golf coach and joined the South Dakota State University program as an assistant in 2014.
“It was one of those things that runs in the family and I didn't really know this was going to be my career path,” said Dan, whose twin brother, Dave, served as his caddie this week and is also an assistant coach at SDSU.
“I got done with college and wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but it was evident I didn’t want to [play professionally] after a while, so coaching was a good way to stay in the game. My dad and I bounce ideas about practice plans and recruits off each other, so he’s a cool resource to have.”
Another resource for Ellis is the experience of playing in his first USGA championship, something that is bound to serve him well in both his professional and personal golf worlds.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.