For Steele DeWald, winning Provo Open is good, playing well is better
To talk to Steele DeWald is to talk to a seemingly contented man.
Winning the Provo Open golf tournament at East Bay over last weekend by a single stroke is enough to mellow out many people for a while. But DeWald, a professional golfer, teaching pro and property manager, isn’t about to hang his hat on that success, or place too much on his future results either.
He’s been down that road, and didn’t take to it. He’s done some living.
Over his 32 years, the Parkite has spent eight years as a pro golfer, changed his competitive mindset through the study of Buddhism, has run an Arizona nightclub and fallen backward into a spot on a reality TV show.
Now, DeWald says, he’s just happy to be in a good routine in Park City, where he runs his own property management company in the winter, and teaches golf at Jeremy Ranch and plays tournaments in the summer.
Getting to the good life has been a strange ride.
Links to the past
DeWald was born in Los Angeles and moved to Park City when he was six. He started playing golf at age 10, went through the Winter Sports School and competed as a ski racer until the age of 14, when he started focusing on golf with the Park City High School team.
“I don’t remember our exact results,” he said. “I don’t think we dominated like they do now.”
But he did well enough to get noticed by Arizona State University, for whom he competed at the varsity level for three years, appearing in 17 NCAA events. Notably, in his sophomore year he placed 60th in the 2007 Pac-10 conference championship in Walnut Creek, California.
After that came his eight years as a pro, though he doesn’t play up his results.
“I was pretty average at a pro level,” he said. “Just not very consistent.”
He mostly competed in state open tournaments in Utah, California and Colorado as well as in the Canadian Open for three years.
When he was 24, he was talking to two women at a bar when they started asking him “serious” questions about his personality and outlook on the world. They revealed that they worked for a reality TV show, and wanted him to come to casting. He went to an audition the next day but dismissed the encounter. A month later he received a call asking him to attend another series of interviews in Los Angeles – he was a finalist.
Before the interview, one of the recruiters he’d met in the bar asked – recommended – he act arrogant during his questioning, so he did just that.
“Which is not how I am habitually, but I guess they ate it up,” he said.
He earned a spot on “Love in the Wild,” a reality show produced by the team behind “Survivor” where 10 men and 10 women pair up to find their way through obstacles in the Central American countryside.
By his own admission, DeWald did not fare well.
“I was challenged in my jungle skills,” he said.
Ultimately, he said he left the show after producers said they would portray him as a womanizer if he didn’t pair up with a certain contestant. He complied, but the producers’ plan didn’t pan out, and he ultimately opted to leave the show rather than keep competing with the contestant he was with.
“I was just tired of it,” he said. “You’re with the same people and their (the producers’) goal is to take away everything from you that would keep you from talking to the other cast members.”
He said the best part about being on “Love in the Wild,” aside from participating in the challenges, which usually involved navigating beautiful landscapes, was coming back to America.
A few months after his return, he was caddying for former Utah Jazz player Deron Williams, who is a friend of DeWalds’, at the Tahoe Celebrity Golf Championship when another professional athlete approached: Aaron Rodgers.
“Love in the Wild” had just started airing.
“Deron is like ‘This is my caddy, Steele,’” DeWald remembers. “(Rodgers) looks at me and says ‘Dude, great call on Vanessa, that girl was crazy.’ He went off for three minutes on the first and second episode.”
Afterward, DeWald said the Green Bay Packers quarterback asked him for a selfie.
“He’s like, ‘Can I get a picture? My girlfriend is going to love this,’” DeWald said. “He was the biggest fan of the show.”
DeWald spent another four years as a professional golfer before quitting briefly to manage a nightclub in Scottsdale, Arizona, called Cake. He saw it as an opportunity to gain financial independence, but it wasn’t for him. Cake closed in 2017.
“I got out of that business quickly,” DeWald said.
It is forever branded with a 2.5/5 rating on Yelp.
Adrift at 29 after the nightclub stint, he decided he would pick up golf again, but would approach it differently.
He started studying Buddhist psychology, and picked up his clubs again in the summer of 2017.
“I didn’t know what my game was going to be like,” he said. “Everything I learned in Buddhist psychology was the opposite of what I had read in sports psychology, so I knew I was going to get better or worse. I didn’t know which one it was, but it was going to be a change for sure.”
He ended up playing the best golf of his life up to that point, lowering his scoring average by three strokes.
He advanced through the first stage of qualifying at Southern Dunes in Haines City, Florida, then San Juan oaks in Hollister, California and through the PGA nationals final stage.
Since then, he has made three annual trips to India to study Buddhist psychology. He also realized he had lost interest in living the life of a competitive professional golfer.
At the same time, his mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He moved to Park City to help her, and left travel golf behind.
He set up his property management company, S.D. Property Management, which he describes as a full-service winter management company, and started teaching as a pro at Jeremy Ranch.
Now he’s focused on enjoying the game and enjoying the life he has built in Summit County.
“I just took a very different approach to the game,” he said. “Ever since then, my game has just continued to get better year after year … It’s been kind of interesting.”
A sense of normalcy
This season, he took second in the Saltwater Classic in Riverton, Wyoming, in May, and he qualified in June for U.S. Open sectionals at Big Canyon Golf Course in Newport, California, where he finished middle of the pack.
Then came his win in Provo.
He had taken third in the tournament last season after competing in it for eight years.
This year he said he just “happened to play well in the last round.”
It was a brisk, windy day and DeWald suspected a score of seven or eight under would give him a shot at a podium finish. He was five under par going into the last round of 18, and finished the 54-hole tournament 12 under and after some aggressive moves panned out.
“I wasn’t hitting it all that great but I was managing my game really well,” he said. “I made a few good putts early on. I think I made four 15-to-20 foot putts on the front nine. I got ahead of the game then started to hit it well and got aggressive when the opportunity presented itself.”
His victory secured a $4,000 cash purse and a large trophy. He said the victory was sweet, but that’s not why he plays anymore.
“I enjoy playing golf regardless – win or lose,” he said. “I was more just enjoying the day and how I was playing. Even if I would have lost, I still would have been pretty happy with the day.”
He said he will probably compete in PGA qualifiers again, but isn’t putting any pressure on himself to earn great results. If he qualifies for the majors, so be it, but he isn’t losing any sleep.
“I’ve been through a lot,” he said. “Now I’ve just settled here in Park City – a mundane life.
Mundanity, in these terms, isn’t necessarily a bad thing to him.
“Nice girlfriend, been with her for three years. It’s all settled down now.”
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.