For most of us, golf is an escape. An escape from work, daily stressors, or even an way to avoid the ole’ ball and chain for the afternoon. For one Osceola, Wisconsin native, the game of golf is still an escape, with one major difference: he’s living his dream of playing golf professionally.
Coming from a family of golfers, Charlie Danielson wasn’t even the most accomplished golfer in his own home. His sisters Lindsay and Casey each won four individual golf state championships. Lindsay went onto represent her home state and golf at the University of Wisconsin, while Casey packed her bags and played in sunny California at Stanford University. Casey now plays professionally traveling around the globe. Charlie won “only” two individual state championships and went on to play at perennial golf powerhouse, the University of Illinois. “Golf has been in my family ever since I was a little kid,” Danielson stated. “All the way through high school, both Lindsay and Casey had more success than I did, which pushed me.”
Although golf was in his veins, Danielson made sure to put in the hours on the course to earn his opportunity to play golf at the next level. “As a younger golfer, I didn’t spend much time in the weightroom – only a couple hours a week. I just wanted to play golf all the time and was fortunate to have a bunch of buddies who loved golf as well,” said the Wisconsin native. He notes that he typically played around 72 holes a week. Along with playing 72 holes a week, Charlie estimated he put in five hours a week on the range as well as six hours per week on the putting green working on his short game.
Although Charlie wasn’t the most decorated player coming out of high school, he more than proved his worth during his four years as a member of the Fighting Illini. Danielson earned PING All-American honors all four years in Champaign, Illinois (first team, 2016; second team, 2015; honorable mention, 2014; honorable mention, 2013). He was the first Illini golfer to be named as an All-American all four years in the programs prestigious history. During his senior season at Illinois, Danielson was named 2016 Big Ten Player of the Year, a Big Ten Medal of Honor, a member on the USA Arnold Palmer Cup Team, as well as a finalist for the Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year Award. Not too shabby. The decorated golfer reflected on those seasons by saying:
My four years at Illinois went by so fast. I had an amazing team – on and off the course. We were always competitive with one another, but we all were supportive at the same time. Playing for Coach Small was incredible, I was able to mature as a golfer and a person. He taught me the true essence of playing golf at a high level and I can’t thank him enough. I didn’t necessarily expect to be a four-time All American and bring in a bunch of accolades, but I knew if I bought into the culture at Illinois and worked my butt off, good things were going to happen.
Around Danielson’s junior year at the University of Illinois is when he realized that playing golf at the professional level was something that was within his grasp. He began playing professionally immediately out of college and began his play at the Northern Trust in New York City and had his “welcome to the pros” moment. “I remember being on the putting green with Ernie Els [and] Rory McIlroy before my round, which as a crazy experience.
After bouncing up and down between the PGA Tour, the Web.com Tour, and the Mackenzie Tour during his first two years as a pro, Danielson had surgery on a knee that he is currently rehabbing. Despite the injury, Danielson aspires to get onto the course sooner rather than later. “My main goal is to have full Web.com status by the end of 2019,” Danielson stated. “That would set me up to have a great chance at making the PGA Tour if I was to have a great year.
As skilled of a player as the two year professional is, he knows that the mental game is key to golf. “Mentality in golf is huge, [and] now that I am playing for a living, the stakes are much higher and it gets more competitive. I just have to trust the process and good golf will take care of the rest.” While at the University of Illinois, Danielson was able to sit down and talk with legendary sport psychologists, Bob Rotella and Jim Fannin, and pick their brains. He also relays that Coach Small, the head coach of the Fighting Illini, was a knowledgeable source of the mental game and made that area a point of emphasis during his time donning the urbana orange and navy blue.
What’s next for the young professional? In an article by Gary D’Amato with Wisconsin Golf in December, D’Amato states that he [Danielson] “hopes to be ready for the Mackenzie Tour qualifying tournament in March; [and] if not, Plan B would be to piece together a schedule with Monday qualifiers on the PGA and Web.com tours, mixed in with some Adams Tour starts and whatever else he can get in.”
As the 25-year old continues to rehabilitates his knee, expect a comeback from the big time golfer from tiny Osceola, Wisconsin in 2019. With hopes of putting his hometown on the map, his strong work ethic and demeanor to never settle should allow him to do just that.
Danielson was featured by Sports Illustrated as one of their Rising Stars in 2016: https://www.si.com/golf/video/2016/06/22/charlie-danielson-rising-stars-university-illinois