Golf lessons, a tsunami and finding one’s path in life were melded into an inspirational talk given to members of the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce at their meeting on Feb. 13.
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Provided by PGA teaching professional Will Robins, the golf pro described surviving a devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2004 while on his honeymoon.
Robins said the life-threatening event altered his perspective on life and the career path he subsequently pursued. He has since developed a golf academy based on his insights, insights which have produced amazing results for his clients.
The tsunami occurred on Dec. 26, 2004 after a 9.1 to 9.3 magnitude earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean. At the time, Robins and his new wife Amanda, were honeymooning on the island of Phuket, which is off the coast of Thailand. They were on the last day of their honeymoon in their hotel room when they started hearing people screaming and running.
Suddenly they were hit by a huge wave of water, Robins recalled. “We yelled to each other ‘I love you’ before being thrown into the dark.”
Amanda Robins said, “This is it, isn’t it?”
“No, this isn’t it,” Will Robins replied, amid the growing roar of the ocean.
Suddenly they were pulled under water and it was then that he began to think that maybe they were going to die after all. But after swirling around, he suddenly popped up in the middle of the ocean far from where his hotel was located. And next to him popped up Amanda. Both of them were injured but miraculously still alive. “I’m broken, I’m broken,” Amanda screamed as she tried to kick her legs in futility. Her pelvis had shattered while Will suffered a broken clavicle.
Robins said another miracle happened when a man by the name of Marcus Mellberg came by in a small boat. He pulled them out of the ocean and then spent five hours getting them loaded on the rescue boat even though his own mother, father, brother and sister were still missing.
“Marcus was a hero,” said Robins. “He took the opportunity to save our lives. Later he found each member of his family alive in the hospital.”
Robins said a larger rescue boat they boarded was loaded with injured passengers and by the time they reached the hospital around 10 p.m., it had run out of medication. Still they felt lucky to be alive, especially after they learned that anywhere between 230,000 to 250,000 people died in the earthquake and resulting tsunami.
However mixed in with their excitement of being alive was guilt at being among the survivors, and it made Robins realize that he wanted to live a better life.
“All of us go through tsunamis in our life,” he said, noting that when they got back from Thailand everything was up in the air because his wife, who is a teacher, was laid off from her job and with his injury, he didn’t know what career path he should pursue.
He thought about going back to playing golf professionally but struggled in tournaments, missing the cut more than once. As luck would have it, his wife’s friend offered him a job teaching at Empire Ranch golf course in Folsom. It was in the process of coaching people that he found out that what he really wanted to do was “help people find their own game.”
Will Robins said he did so by asking people what they hoped to get out of their golf lessons and then figuring out what to give them. He said taking that approach dramatically improved people’s scores, with clients dropping, on average, 11 strokes off their scores over a six- to 10-week period.
He began to think that maybe playing golf professionally wasn’t his path and that led to his decision to become a coach instead. He said that decision opened the way to all kinds of new opportunities and new people.
He said his Folsom-based academy — with a second location in Lincoln — has since grown tremendously, especially the program for junior golfers. When it started in 2009 they had no junior players. Now it has over 230. The program has also changed with more parents playing.
Robins said his wife is healthy again and just weeks away from delivering their first child, a girl. He wanted to name their child Marcus — after their hero — but his wife wouldn’t let him, he said with a smile.
Saying that it took the tsunami and four years to figure out the path he should be on, he encouraged others to find their own, noting that everyone goes through tsunamis having to do with families, children and health issues.
He said his story is a reminder that while at times people might not think the path they are following is very interesting, perhaps that’s the path they are meant to be on.
“All things go to plan, just not always my plan,” Robins concluded.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.