As a four-year varsity player, winner of three tournaments and two-time participant in the NCAA Division III Championships, A.J. Taylor has enjoyed an exciting and travel-heavy career as a member of the Linfield College men's golf team.
When deciding where to attend college as a senior at Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash., Taylor knew he wanted to continue competing in golf at the next level. Linfield, it turned out, was the perfect fit.
“I wanted to play golf in college, but Linfield gave me the opportunity to play all four years,” says Taylor. “I liked the smaller sized classrooms. When I came and visited, I liked the feel of the small school.”
As a freshman, Taylor was able to make the varsity team, traveling to each tournament, including the national championship at Grandover resort in Greensboro, N.C.
“It was just kind of intense and surreal, seeing all the top teams in the nation,” Taylor says of the big-time experience. “As a freshman I was nervous, but I played decently.”
At his first trip to the national tournament, Taylor shot an 11-over-par over the tournament's first two days, but Linfield was unable to survive the cut. As a sophomore, Taylor had another chance to golf in the national championship, but faced an even more difficult course at the El Campeon Golf Course near Orlando, Fla. He finished 20 strokes over par.
“My sophomore year I had some experience and did better than I did freshman year,” Taylor says. “Over my four years we've traveled a ton. It's been fun to be on the travel squad for my entire four-year career and travel to every tournament. We've been to Texas, California, Orlando, North Carolina -- and up and down the entire West Coast. It's been fun to experience the NCAA Tournament in other states.”
Wildcats coach Greg Copeland noticed Taylor's talent from the day he joined the team.
“A.J. was one of our best players coming in as a freshman,” says Copeland, looking back. “He's been a key part of our program all four years.”
Tommy Schmitz, another four-year golfer at Linfield, has enjoyed his time spent playing with Taylor.
“It's been solid. He's been a good four-year teammate,” Schmitz says. “We played in every tournament together freshman year and have been good buds since.”
Off the greens, Taylor has found his calling in the business department at Linfield, where he is currently completing requirements for a bachelor's degree in marketing. Along with golf, the business department was a major component of Taylor's decision to attend Linfield, providing him the direction he needs to move forward in the business community.
“Linfield has a good business program and has a great network of alumni that I can connect with,” he says. “Linfield has been able to give me contacts to internships in Seattle. My one internship I was able to do was a promotion and sales internship for Core Enterprises.”
A sports enthusiast in general, Taylor enjoys playing other sports in his spare time including baseball, basketball, ping-pong, bowling and pool.
“I played baseball for 17 years, up through my sophomore year of high school,” Taylor says. “So I love playing baseball still, I love playing sports.”
“Off the field, A.J. and I have similar interests,” Schmitz says. “We both like sports and like to just hang out.”
With golf as his primary athletic pursuit, Taylor has became a two-year team captain. He still takes the time to think back and speak with former teammates he played with as he came up through the Wildcat program, a practice that helps him and his team succeed. Alumni Alex Fitch '12 and Jason Erwin '12 have especially impacted Taylor's leadership style.
“Fitch taught me how to be the captain and leader of the team. He's given me ways to formulate practices, talk to younger guys and be a leader of the program,” Taylor says. “Erwin always had a fun time. Guys can get tight at tournaments, and Jason taught me how to relax everyone and make sure everyone was having fun.”
“A.J. sets a pretty good example,” Copeland notes. “He knows what it takes to prepare for tournaments. He's laid back and helps younger guys with their swings.”
“As a team captain, A.J. has done pretty good. He connects with everyone,” Schmitz says.
Heading into into the fall portion of his senior season, Taylor was hopeful of another successful year-round campaign. Injuries intervened, causing him to miss out on the fall tournaments. Taylor needed to recover from two slipped disks, sciatic nerve pain and a separated shoulder.
But with physical training continuing throughout the season, Taylor has been able to come back for his spring schedule, warding off lingering back issues that can have grave effect on a golfer's game.
Getting back into the groove this spring with a healthy Taylor in the lineup, the Wildcats have produced solid showings, placing among the top three teams in seven out of their 10 tournaments. With only the Northwest Conference Championships remaining, Taylor and the Wildcats intend to finish their season strong.
- Chris Haddeland ‘15