Ben Clymer never golfed much growing up in Bloomington.
He had his hockey commitments, of course, and found golf too expensive. Too time consuming. And plus: "When I did play, I'd shoot like 4 billion," he said.
But when Clymer turned pro in 1998 after one year of hockey with the Gophers he suddenly had the money and the free time in the summers to get serious about golf. He joined Olympic Hills in Eden Prairie. While playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning - winning a Stanley Cup in 2004 - he caught on at the same top-notch places in Florida as a then-unknown Zach Johnson.
Soon, Clymer was holding his own on the golf course.
"I got really golf-crazy," he said. "I really liked the philosophy of it all, just a total golf nerd."
Fast-forward to Tuesday at Montgomery National Golf Club. Clymer, now 39 and in the investment banking business (as well as a hockey analyst for Fox Sports North), entered one of 12 Minnesota Golf Association qualifying events for the 114th State Amateur Championship.
Despite "not knowing the course well at all" Clymer saved par out of the bunker with a 10-foot putt on the opening hole. He birdied the par-5 second hole and got to 2-under when his sand shot from a greenside bunker dropped for a birdie on No. 3.
"I started to think, 'This could be a pretty good day,'" Clymer said.
Clymer saved a few more pars, rolled a few more long putts and finished as co-medalist in the qualifier, carding a 4-under 68.
He missed a putt on 18 for a career-low score.
"Two," he said, interrupting his own thoughts on the last hole. "I actually missed two 8-footers in the round. But I got a few breaks and some putts definitely went in. Literally a week ago I didn't know where Montgomery was. So a 68? That happened because I had a lot of things go my way."
Clymer has qualified for the state amateur field before, most recently missing the cut at Medina in 2013.
But this summer's tournament is at Interlachen in Edina, a course Clymer said he respects and knows well.
He's got a different feeling this time around. It's taken some time but golf is in the foreground again. Clymer's friends and family are together at Hazeltine National, his home course. He takes clients out to the golf course. He recently worked with teaching pro Chris Baisch to switch from a draw to a cut.
"Once hockey ended golf served as a competitive outlet," he said. "I have four kids; this year is the first I'm getting back in it. I missed it. This week was a huge step for me just feeling comfortable again."