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Rock star Sean Mackin on parallels between golf and the violin, stories from rounds on the road and more

It’s rare for an entertainer to admit to performance anxiety, but Sean Mackin isn’t like most entertainers. I mean, how many rock band violinists can you name?

Mackin doesn’t get anxious when he’s on the stage performing for thousands of fans with his longtime band, Yellowcard. After decades on tour that’s the easy part. But after more than 40 years on the golf course, it’s the par 3s that make him a little nervous at times. After all, Mackin’s played some of the country’s best courses and has teed it up with some of the best musicians of the 2000s, but he still hasn’t made that elusive hole-in-one.

He has, however, made a pair of double eagles. Like I said, he’s not like most entertainers.

Mackin doesn’t remember the name of the course where he made his first albatross, after all it was in the early 2000s and he was just tagging along with some members of NoFX and Bad Religion while on the Warped Tour in Chicago. He does remember hitting a pretty good push-draw 2 iron about 220 yards uphill to the green on a par 5, though. But after five minutes, the group couldn’t find his ball.

“I go, ‘Oh I’ll just drop’ and Jay Bentley from Bad Religion, like one of my heroes, he’s like, ‘Hey, just check the hole man.’ And it was in the hole,” said Mackin. “They’re hooting and hollering, I didn’t even see it go in. The rest of the day was a blur. To this day, like 20 years later, that whole crew still calls me double eagle or deuce. So that’s pretty awesome.”

The second came at Cimarron Hills, a Jack Nicklaus course north of his home near Austin, Texas. Mackin cut the corner with a 3-wood and hit a sawed-off 9-iron from 140 yards that slam dunked in the hole.

“I hear it from the fairway and I tried to be cool about it too, but I heard it and the club went in the air and I did the run around thing and I’m just like, ‘Man, I got two double eagles, no aces, that’s just perfect for my story,’” he recalled with a laugh. “So I think they only come once every 20 years, so hopefully I’m ready for the next one and I’ll play it cool then.”

Growing up in Florida, Mackin’s family had a membership at Marsh Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach, just down the street from TPC Sawgrass. He plateaued as a teenager in both tennis and soccer, but really found his groove with golf. A back-to-back junior club champion, he then played for the golf team at Fletcher High School while he attended nearby Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. He was raised to play the violin inside, and golf outside.

“My mom didn’t really care if it was cool, which is funny because later it turned out to be pretty cool,” said Mackin, who still goes home to play the member-guest with his dad. The pair even won the thing in 2018, when the final day was on his father’s birthday.

Despite his day job, Mackin isn’t the guy that throws a speaker on while he plays. For him, “golf is a community thing.” But his job does often remind him of his favorite hobby. Both require discipline and each features a learned section and a performance section.

“Violin is pretty discipline-focused. The way that you place your hand or your technique, your bowing and your fingering, your shifts and your positioning, I have to do all these drills warming up with a violin,” he explained. “I think it’s the same way with golf.”

While on stage Mackin can tell when he’s out of tune or just off tempo. The same happens in golf; you must play your way through it. All of those experiences have made Mackin quite the player in both disciplines. He’s been as low as a +3 handicap and due to rust and an injured shoulder from swing speed training (that’s how much of a golf nut he is) he’d probably shoot somewhere in the mid-70s right now.

Last summer, Yellowcard went on tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Ocean Avenue”, their fourth album and hit single that has amassed 347 million streams on Spotify and 55 million music video views (remember those?). This summer the band is riding that wave of momentum into yet another tour, this time with fellow stars of the 2000s, Third Eye Blind. Mackin couldn’t afford to play in the van-and-trailer Yellowcard years, but these days he loves getting on the course while out on tour.

“It’s great because I get up early, get to hydrate, get to be in the sun. It gives the guys some space away from me, gives me my own thing, but a lot of times it’s just a network of friends and people that I’ve played golf with over the years that I rarely get to see,” said Mackin of his rounds on the road. “As soon as tour dates are announced, friends are texting me, ‘Hey, what’re you doing on this day?’”

He once bought a scooter on tour that he would ride on with his golf clubs strapped to his back so he didn’t have to worry about getting a lift to the course or range. In 2015 the band got stuck in Southern California traffic and he had a tee time at the South Course at Torrey Pines. He took an Uber from a Shell gas station, jumped out and had to run to the third hole to meet his group. On last summer’s tour he tipped the bus driver to drop him off at a truck stop where his buddy picked him up so they didn’t miss a tee time.

“If you have the golf sickness like I have, you’ll go to great lengths to play,” said Mackin.

Mackin is brand loyal to TravisMathew and Callaway, so much so that he refers to his Callaway rep connections as his “fairy godfathers.” So, what’s better: a new golf club or instrument?

“I’m gonna cheap out, I’m gonna say it’s a tie,” he said. “I get so much joy when I get a new golf club. I told my wife she can’t buy me golf clubs because I don’t want it to be the wrong thing. I’m crazy like that. (Clubs and instruments) are the two things like in my life that are so special.”

“When I have a chance to be graced by the fairy godfathers and I see a Callaway club, there’s so much joy that comes from that. It is the same because my love for music started from my family,” he explained. “It was a gift from my mom. My love for golf is the same thing.”

If you’re a fan of music, go see the Summer Gods Tour later this year, and if you’re looking for a fourth when the show is in town, hit up Mackin on social media. He’ll have his clubs with him and he’s ready to play.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek




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