For most golfers, playing on the PGA Tour remains a far-fetched dream.
But for Oklahoma Christian University alumnus Rhein Gibson, this dream has become a reality.
Gibson secured his spot on the 2019-2020 PGA tour following a year competing in the Korn Ferry Tour. He played at Oklahoma Christian all four years of his college career, winning four individual titles.
Born in the city of Lismore,New South Wales, Australia, Gibson moved to the United States to get a degree and work on his golf game.
“I was never good enough to turn professional after high school, so the American college system was a great thing for me,” Gibson said. “It allowed me to not only grow as a person, but also develop my game. With the success I had in college, I would give [professional golf] a try and see. At worst, I had a backup plan of a finance degree that I could always use. That was important to me: graduate with a degree.”
Gibson said college golf took many of the responsibilities he faces now as a professional golfer away from the player, and it is the biggest distinction between the collegiate level and professional level.
“College golf was pretty easy in terms of never having to worry about travel, accommodation and food,” Gibson said. “From both an organizing standpoint, but also financially, once you turn professional all that is on the player. College was great because you had teammates and you felt you were playing for one another, but in reality, it is a very individual sport. Playing as a pro, it is on all you.”
As a professional, Gibson said the time away from home and the financial burden of supporting yourself year-round is the hardest part of playing professionally.
“I travel close to 40 weeks a year,” Gibson said. “It is definitely a sacrifice as you miss a lot. My wife Nancy works full-time and does not travel much, so it can be a strain that way. It can be very expensive too as you are basically backing yourself to play well and in turn make a nice living. Every week we face large expenses, and that can rack up quickly when you are not playing well and not making anything in return.”
Golf legend Jack Nicklaus has been quoted saying golf is 80% mental. Gibson says for him it is easy to get down mentally if he is not playing well, but he always tries to remember he cannot be at his best all the time.
“This game can drive you up the walls more often than not,” Gibson said. “It is very easy to get down on yourself. You simply can’t play good every week, so staying positive knowing good golf is coming is vital to playing professionally. Being able to turn it off and get away from golf is key. At the end of the day, there can be one winner each week. If you win once a year, you have had a great year.”
Gibson said he encourages those trying to reach the next level of play in any sport to reach out to people who are playing at the next level.
“Try and gain as much experience as you can and reach out to people in that field that have been successful post-college,” Gibson said. “I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of successful pros out at Oaktree National, which is where I play. Playing, practicing and simply asking questions has been great. You have to really want it. There are always people working just as hard, if not harder, so be willing to sacrifice some things in order to reach full potential.”
Gibson said he wants people to know as daunting as professional golf is he loves the process and where it has gotten him.
“Pro golf is tough; a lot of people see the lifestyle of a select few like Tiger and Rory McIlroy,” Gibson said. “It is not the most glamorous lifestyle, saving money where we can to make sure we can continue playing. But the rewards of good play and winning make all those sacrifices worth it. It is a grind that I will continue to do, and I simply love it.”