MILL CREEK — Already in his young life, Aaron Lamb has experienced the terror of war and the tragedy of personal loss. With a maturity beyond his years, he has come to understand the preciousness of life and the abiding solace of hope.
He also has come to believe that now, more than ever, he needs to follow his dream.
The 25-year-old Lamb, a 2006 graduate of Mill Creek’s Jackson High School, wants to be a professional golfer. Though he never played golf in high school or college — he was, in fact, cut from his Oregon high school team as a freshman — Lamb insists he has the desire, the determination and, most importantly, the game that will one day take him to the PGA Tour.
“I’m confident I can do this,” said Lamb, who lives today in Monroe. “The only question is, when? But there’s no doubt in my mind that it will happen.”
Every professional athlete has a unique story, but few are as remarkable as Lamb’s. After his family moved to Mill Creek in 2004, he played two years of football and baseball at Jackson, mostly in backup roles, and then enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after graduation.
Over the next 4 1/2 years, Lamb served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Assigned mostly to security patrols, he knew men who were killed and injured. He had his own brushes with death, including seeing a rocket fired at his armored vehicle — fortunately, it missed. He became accustomed to mortar attacks and the sounds of gunfire.
Then in 2011, his father was diagnosed with terminal esophageal cancer. The two men played and talked a lot of golf in the last months of his dad’s life, and by the time Lamb was discharged from the Air Force in August he knew he wanted to be a pro golfer.
He is convinced it is the same dream his dad once had.
“My dad and I were nuts for golf, and the only reason I went back to golf as strongly as I did is because of him,” Lamb said. “Without him, I wouldn’t have this love for golf. And it took my dad dying for me to chase this dream as hard as I am.”
Since returning from overseas, he has poured himself into the game. With money he received from the Air Force, he attended a golf school in Arizona. He began working with a private coach. And he committed himself to a rigorous practice regimen to make up for the years he missed while in the military.
“I have to catch up to the country club kids and the guys who played college golf,” he said. “I have to catch up with their experience. I really have to prepare myself mentally and physically, and I have to get the confidence that I can beat those guys.
“It makes me nervous because, yeah, I’m going off the beaten path here. But I also take a lot of pride in the path that I’m taking.” Ultimately, he added, “I don’t want to turn heads with my story, I want to turn heads with my golf game.”
While still an amateur, Lamb entered a few Gateway Tour events in Arizona. He played poorly and vowed that he would focus on practicing to raise his game before he resumed tournament play. He returned to Snohomish County to be with his mother, and he began training at Everett’s Columbia Super Range.
Lamb, who has a plus-2 handicap, hits his driver about 310 yards, his 3-wood about 275 yards, and his 5-iron about 210 yards. But the strength of his game, he believes, is his wedge play.
“That’s what I’m good at,” he said. “My dad used to say, ‘You have the greatest touch around the greens.’ And I don’t know where I got it. It just came naturally.”
Lamb turned pro in January when he signed endorsement deals procured by his agent, Heather Deranek of Seattle. In time, he wants to enter events on the NGA Pro Golf Tour, which holds tournaments in the southeast, and eventually he hopes to attend the PGA Tour qualifying school.
“I want to make this a living,” he said. “There’s no other path. There’s no Plan B, and that scares me. But I’m also confident I can do this. It may take until I’m 30, so I may need to be patient. But I’ve got time, and I’ve also got the passion and the drive.
“Golf is what makes me happy, and I have to do what makes me happy.”
Finding success in pro golf can be a difficult, even forbidding journey, Lamb acknowledged.
“But I’ve seen war,” he said, “so I can handle the golf course.”