European (working) vacation for Texas club pro

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“Two things can happen,” he said. “We can make some money. Or we can go broke. And we’ve been there before.”

Lucinda caddies for him in the summer until she has to go back to her day job teaching children with autism, and working two nights a week at Texas A&M where she is an instructor on how to teach children with disabilities.

The only time Thelen ever traveled in his previous job was to Ireland and Wales for the PGA Cup, a Ryder Cup for club pros. That was as part of a team. Now, he and his wife have learned to book hotel rooms on the Internet, figuring out which rooms are close to the golf course and whether they need a rental car. With one TV channel in their hotel room in Switzerland, they wound up watching “Jaws” in German.

There was the time Thelen woke up in the middle of the night in France upon hearing his door open, only to see an elderly man standing there. “I’m speaking English at him, he’s speaking French at me and we’re getting nowhere,” he said. The man presumably was given the wrong room key.

A friend who came over to caddie for him in Portugal had dry skin. They went to buy lotion and, not being able to read the label in Portuguese, bought liquid soap.

“After three days, he looked like a lizard,” Thelen said.

On the golf course, it’s the same game he started playing at age 6 growing up in Minnesota. Winning feels the same in Switzerland as it did at the Club Pro Championship. The difference was looking up at the leaderboard and seeing his name alongside guys like Langer and Woosnam.

“I look up at the board at the Club Pro Championship, I know most of those guys. I have dinner with them. I knew after so many years that I could win out there,” he said. “But in my second year on the European Senior Tour, getting to play golf with guys I grew up watching … I didn’t know if I could win.”

With back-to-back wins, Thelen now has made $144,711 this year and is second on the Order of Merit behind Senior PGA champion Roger Chapman. He wants to try Q-school on the Champions Tour in America this year. The prize money is higher. The travel is easier.

Whatever happens, he knows he has a tour to call home, even if it’s thousands of miles away.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see the world and different cultures,” Thelen said. “I’ve loved golf since I started playing at 6 years old. This is a dream, something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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