SUMPTER SMITH JNGB, Ala. --
Tech. Sgt. Stephen Standridge is a boom operator for the 117 Air Refueling Wing and has been in the National Guard since 2013. Before he was a boom operator refueling the world’s greatest air force he worked in the personnel office at the 117th Operations Group.
Standridge is also a seven-time U.S. Amateur Tour (USAM) golf winner, a cow farmer and a recently certified real-estate agent. Before his tour wins and paring down his score to a 2 handicap, he played in high school and at Northeast Mississippi Junior College.
Between golf, farming, and learning the ins and outs of the real-estate business, Standridge stays pretty busy but is fortunate to be able to have such a great job both inside and outside of the Air National Guard.
Q: What does it feel like to get back to the clubhouse and learn that you’ve won the tournament?
A: It’s really a pretty satisfying feeling, just sticking to the game plan I had the whole round, every hole, and it paying off. It gives me some confidence for what I need to do in future tournaments. Sticking to what I know and sticking to the strategy and knowing it pays off is a good feeling.
Q: Tell me about your most notable win?
A: A few weekends ago I went to a strategy I’ve never done before. The course was pretty tight off the tee box so I just stuck to an iron off the tee every hole. It really worked out for me keeping it in play and keeping it in the fairway. I think I missed one fairway out of the 36 holes. It really made a difference in me winning both days. It’s something I’ve never really done before, just keeping the driver in the bag and all of the big clubs out of my hand, just to keep the ball in play and not costing me shots hitting them out of bounds or in the hazard. I think that really stuck out to me because I’ve never done it before and it worked.
Q: That was all on your own?
A: Yeah, pretty much just traveling on my own. Every time I can get out there and compete when I have time on the weekends, I try to go anywhere that’s not too far away. It’s probably a four or five hour radius anywhere we play so it’s not too bad.
Q: Where all have you played?
A: Oh man, a ton of places. Anywhere from here to California really. I haven’t traveled much up the East Coast, but I’ve done a lot of playing out west and of course all over Alabama.
Q: What are your top three places to play?
A: The top three I’ve ever played was Torrey Pines in San Diego, then Hilton Head in South Carolina. My third would probably be TPC Scottsdale. Those would be my top three because they’re all PGA Tour which is just awesome to just get to play on the same course they’ve played and it’s just pretty cool to see how good those places are.
Q: Why did you join the National Guard?
A: I originally joined because I wanted to finish my schooling up and I wanted to get into something. I was really interested in the flying and I wanted to get into that, and that got me to where I am now as a boom operator. I didn’t initially start off as a boom operator, I learned of it through my last job before this, which was actually in the same building. I was personnel in ops, similar to a CSS admin. I just wanted to do something in the state and the local community. Knowing I could serve and still do something civilian side full time was awesome and I’m still doing both now. It worked out for me and I’m here for the long run. It’s the best of both worlds in my opinion.
Q: What’s your civilian job?
A: I do real-estate full time when I’m not here, and I do farming on my property. I have a bunch of cows that I take care of and do breeding and stuff like that and it’s a pretty good side hobby. That and golf takes up a pretty good amount of my time when I’m not selling houses and trying to do real-estate stuff.
Q: How would you recommend someone get to the point where they can play on the amateur tour?
A: Really it’s a good tour for any level player, just having the confidence in yourself to play against everybody else, people that you don’t know and being comfortable with it. It’s something I struggled with at first, I always liked playing competitive but it’s always just playing with people you don’t know. Golf is a head game and it got to me a lot at first and I just had to overcome that, get out of my head and have fun with it. Play like you’re playing on the weekend with your friends. I think if you play good consistently at any handicap you’re already at the right spot to be on that tour.
Q: So it’s not just one massive group that they just send out to play a tournament?
A: I mean it’s a big group but some of the higher handicaps don’t compete with the lower handicaps. That’s how they kind of make it fair. It makes it pretty competitive because you’re playing with someone with the same skill as you, where you could shoot the same score on any given day, so it makes it competitive and fun.
Q: Have you made any good friends since you’ve started the tour?
A: Yeah, I’ve made a lot of good buddies ever since it was the golf channel tour a few years ago. I’ve made a lot of friends that I still talk to and still play with today. A friend from here in maintenance actually plays on it a good bit with me. We try to play on it all the time together.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?
A: It’s the best of both worlds to me, being able to do this here and being able to golf, do my real-estate stuff and do all of that together. Not a lot of people are able to do both all the time and it’s a good blessing to be able to be a boom here, the best job I could ask for in my opinion, and be able to still balance real-estate stuff and golf and taking care of things at home and still being able to come here and do this that I love so much too.