The U.S. Senior Open is full of talented players essentially on the downside of their careers. Matt Sughrue shows it’s open, too, to those who have turned what might have been a mid-life crisis into a mid-life reinvention.
“I felt that there was something more that I wanted to accomplish in life,” Sughrue said.
Qualifying for the Senior Open fits with that, because somehow as life got busier — a new marriage, a new career — Sughrue’s golf got better. He grew up in Bethesda and lives in Arlington, and he has played for years at the course of his childhood, Bethesda Country Club. He is in Omaha by virtue of the 66 he shot in a sectional qualifying tournament last month at Musket Ridge Golf Club in Myersville, Md.,three shots clear of the rest of the field.
“I think a lot of us think, ‘Oh, I’d like to do something different or follow other dreams,’ and it’s hard to do at a certain age,” said his wife of three years, Carolyn. “But what I love about him and have always admired about Matt is how he takes on challenges — like a career change, like competing at golf at a very high level. That’s just part of his DNA.
“And I also think he tends to do his best when he’s facing the greatest challenges. It’s almost a parallel — his golf and his career.”
After starting college at the University of North Carolina, where he played golf, and transferring to and graduating from the University of Maryland in 1983, Sughrue did the traditional-path-to-success thing: software business consultant, moved around, recruited by a national insurance broker, started own business in 1998, grew that business, etc.
But maybe five or six years into running his own agency, Sughrue started getting — what’s the word? Fidgety? Antsy? He had worked with addicts and alcoholics in the jail system in Alexandria. He was involved with the First Tee of Washington, D.C. — the local chapter of a national organization that provides life skills lessons through golf to mostly urban kids — as a board member and, eventually, member of the executive committee. As he mulled a change, he started talking to counseling professionals, who encouraged him. He began researching the path, took the GREs, and in 2008, enrolled in Virginia Tech’s Marriage and Family Therapy program at the school’s Fairfax campus.