Being a lifelong golf fan and golfer myself, it was really a no brainer.

How many of you got into athletic training because of your love for a specific sport?

In the latest AT Spotlight, Tim Dunlavey, MS, ATC, CSCS, CES is living out his dream of working for the PGA. Sure, maybe his dream was playing for the PGA, but working as an AT is a close second!

Read below to learn what it takes to hack it with the world’s top professional golfers as Tim shares his schedule, his thoughts on the work environment, and a classic “best story” of nerves getting to him while working with Charley Hoffman.

Can you share the basics?

Tim Dunlavey, MS, ATC, CSCS, CES // University of Pittsburgh // Ohio State University for Grad school.

How did you get to where you are now?

It was a classic “not what you know, but who you know” situation. I had just finished my 8th year with Pitt football and I got a call out of the blue from a primary care physician based out of Columbus Ohio who was looking for an AT to join his team with the PGA Tour. I went to grad school at Ohio State and have connections there that were able to help open that door for me. Being a lifelong golf fan and golfer myself, it was really a no-brainer.  

Tell us a bit about your current position day to day:

We have a team of 3 ATs for the PGA tour and cover 25-27 events throughout the year. It sounds like a lot, and it is a lot of travel, but we have a good chunk of time off in the fall and winter. We also work out a rotation so that two of us are working an event and the other one is off, so we usually work 2-3 weeks and then have 1-2 weeks off. And it’s really great because when I’m off, I’m off. 

The week of the event we travel in on Monday and set up our trailer which has a couple pieces of cardio equipment, a folding squat rack, and some weights to help us make the most out of the space we have.

Tuesday we open and are available to anyone that is in the field. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are primarily guys coming in to get in workouts and might need something minor here and there.

Thursdays through Sundays we open two hours before the first tee time, so we need to be ready to go at 4:45am. These days are usually more dynamic warmups and functional screenings to help them get their body positioning where they want it for their swings. They leave the trailer and go right to the range to continue their warm up. We are also open after the rounds finish for any recovery or treatment.

Do you see many acute injuries?

We certainly get some acute injuries, but it is typically more chronic conditions due to the repetition of the swing. These guys generate so much power and the swing is so explosive that overuse injuries are more common.

What is something about this job that you didn’t expect coming into it?

Coming from collegiate athletics, I was involved in every aspect of a student athlete’s care from the time they arrived as a Freshman, until they graduated, and sometimes longer! From injury prevention to injury to treatment/rehab to return-to-play, I was overseeing and administering the entire course.

This role is unique in that all of these guys are independent contractors, so they have their own team managing a lot of their care. If they aren’t 100%, they are likely withdrawing from the event and going home so they can be better for the next tournament.

How big of a challenge or adjustment was that?

It hasn’t really been a challenge, it is actually kind of nice to not sit in a staff meeting on Monday mornings to talk about how we are going to manage workloads throughout the week to get people to play in the next game.

The biggest challenge is probably maintaining communication with their team at home to make sure we are all on the same page. And I would not even say that is a challenge, it’s just different than what I am used to coming from the collegiate setting.

What are some of your favorite parts of your position

Traveling to all of these different courses is amazing. I’m based out of upstate NY so for all of January and February I’m going to southern California, Florida and other warm weather areas to dodge the snow. 

Also, just being able to listen to these guys talk to each other and talk to me in an area that they can let their guard down a little bit. We have gone to great lengths to create a comfortable space away from the media and other distractions. Whether they are talking to each other about different nuances of the golf swing and how they approach certain situations, to just random banter about any subject under the sun, it’s great to be a part of that.

The other thing I will say is I have freedom to pursue other interests. I help out at a local community college during my down time and that has been such a rewarding experience.

I have also worked as an “ATC Spotter” for NFL games since they started having impartial medical professionals present in 2011 and it has been great to continue that. Those positions have come a long way since their inception and have improved the recognition of head injuries tremendously. It also helps me stay sharp and make those quick decisions in an exciting environment.

What is your favorite story

Charley Hoffman is one of the guys that uses our services both for workouts and for treatment. I’ve gotten to know him well and we’ve always talked about how I’d love to walk with a caddy, carry the bag during a practice round and learn what the caddies do. 

So finally one week it was a 9 hole pro am at the very flat Harbor Town course in Hilton Head and Charley said to meet Andy (his caddy) and I on the 10th tee and you can carry the bag. I grabbed the bag and walked the first hole with Andy explaining how they use the yardage book and pace off yardages. “Charley likes to know the yardage to the front, yardage to the flag and direction of the wind.” 

He showed me how to find a sprinkler head, pace it off, do the math and then determine the direction of the wind. Ok easy enough. He told me I had the next hole. I jump out ahead to find the nearest sprinkler, pace it off and start doing the math. I look at Charley and say, “OK 125 front, 134 to the pin and wind is in and off the left.” Charley, who’s one of the funniest and most sarcastic guys, just stares at me. So I repeat. “125 front. 134 pin. In and off the left.” He kept looking at me with a confused look. I start second guessing my math. 125 front! 134 pin! In and off the left!” Charley says, “yeah I need a club. You need to put the bag down!”

Oops! Andy never went over that part in the teaching. 

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