1. Can you recount a memorable Haverford experience or faculty member?
My experience at Haverford was so overwhelmingly positive I have a difficult time highlighting just one specific experience or faculty member. The beauty of Haverford is not only the depth but also the breadth of the opportunities it provides for students. Over the course of my dozen years there, I learned countless invaluable lessons and skills but will attempt to summarize as follows: my math and science teachers taught me to analyze and think critically; my English and history teachers taught me to speak, write, and present articulately; my language teachers taught me to appreciate and accept different cultures; my art teachers taught me to channel and embrace my inner creativity; my athletic coaches taught me to set goals and work hard with others to achieve them, and also to expect to win but to be gracious regardless of the outcome; and my peers taught me the value of relationships and the importance of giving back to those less fortunate in the community. Through my desire to excel in all of these areas, I learned discipline and time management. What else could a young man ask for in an education? I am forever grateful to my parents for prioritizing their children's education and to all those at Haverford who took the time to care for my development and "prepare me for life."
2. What first sparked your interest in golf, and how did your interest in the game evolve during your time at Haverford?
My parents introduced me to golf when I was very young, and although I took to the game immediately, it was at first not high on my priority list of athletic pursuits. When I turned 12, two things happened that changed my life: Tiger Woods won The Masters and made golf "cool" in the process, and I met a new Haverford student named Tug Maude ('01), who I thought was pretty "cool" himself. I looked up to Tug, not just because he stood 6'4", but also for his natural golf ability and the ease with which he made friends (and girlfriends). I started tagging along with him to the golf course when he got his driver's license, which was an exciting taste of "freedom" for a 14-year-old with four siblings and two working parents. Then I started signing up for the same tournaments Tug entered and really enjoyed the challenge of individual golf competition. Shortly thereafter, Tug asked me to leave the lacrosse program to join him on a golf team that played, at the time, in the same spring season and struggled to attract talented athletes. I grappled with the decision but ultimately complied and was very proud to play some part in turning around that program over the following five years. My golf ability was later a meaningful contributor to my admission to Princeton and remains my primary extracurricular passion, so I owe a lot to Tug, who is still one of my closest friends, and to Tiger Woods as well!
I am forever grateful to my parents for prioritizing their children's education and to all those at Haverford who took the time to care for my development and "prepare me for life."3. What role does golf play in your life today?
I feel very fortunate to have invested at an early age in a lifelong game, and my passion for golf still permeates into every aspect of my life. Besides being my main competitive outlet, which keeps me disciplined and goal-oriented, golf has enabled me to connect with other high-achievers, including my boss and mentor of the past eight years, Stu Francis, who I first met on the golf course as a college sophomore. After beginning my career in New York, I moved to San Francisco to work with Stu and have since benefitted immensely in business and golf from his mentorship. Also, by staying active in the competitive amateur ranks, I have gotten to know many of the rising stars in the game, one of whom last year became my first professional athlete client.
The game has also given me an avenue to connect with and help some of the under-privileged youth in San Francisco. Several years ago, I joined the board of The First Tee and saw an opportunity to create a mentorship program, similar to the Bryn Mawr Tutoring program I was introduced to at Haverford. I've since invested a lot of time, emotion, and energy to building out this program, which pairs the chapter's most engaged students with the accomplished young professionals and golf enthusiasts attracted to the city. I've also been mentoring a high school student, Reyhan, as much off the course as on it, and I'm proud to say that he will be the first one in his family to matriculate in a four-year university this August!
4. What advice would you share with the current students at Haverford?
The first piece of advice is: a fulfilling life is built on relationships and experiences, not material possessions. My wife and I still rent a small apartment, share an eight-year-old car, and besides perhaps my golf clubs, don't own anything we would be devastated to lose. This "asset-light" lifestyle gives us the flexibility to spend time and resources developing relationships that enrich our lives and benefit our careers, as well as travel the country and world competing and experiencing some amazing places.
I urge students to take the time to really get to know the people around them and learn what they care about, what concerns them, what experiences have shaped them, etc. Even more importantly, find ways to help them and their families and make their life better. People notice when you show genuine interest in and compassion for their well-being and will reciprocate down the road. The strength of your relationships, particularly within such a resourceful community such as Haverford, be it with peers or older alumni, will be invaluable to their future. And remember to keep in touch; you never know who will offer your next exciting job opportunity!
If you treat people and conduct your daily affairs with unwavering focus on the principles taught at Haverford, such as honesty, integrity, respect, discipline, and transparency, you will enjoy success in the long run.
The second piece of advice is: set lofty goals and pursue your dreams, but learn to love the process and the journey, not the destination. It's healthy as a young man to have a vision for how you want your life to play out, and to stretch yourself and dream big, but in most all cases that dream will evolve and the reality will look different than the vision. In my case, I dreamed at Haverford of being an orthopedic surgeon who treated professional athletes. For a number of reasons, that dream has evolved over the past 15 years, but I could not be happier with my current path. The key is to embrace, rather than resist, that change and focus on the daily things you can control, like your attitude and work ethic. If you treat people and conduct your daily affairs with unwavering focus on the principles taught at Haverford, such as honesty, integrity, respect, discipline, and transparency, you will enjoy success in the long run.
John Sawin '03 was a Lifer at Haverford. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Princeton University while starting all four years on the Ivy League championship golf team. John has built a career in finance, first as an investment banker with Barclays, and now as a wealth advisor with Evercore Wealth Management, where he spends most of his time helping technology entrepreneurs transition the equity they've built in their companies into a diversified investment portfolio and prudent estate plan. When not working, John can usually be found on a golf course, where his record of competitive success has distinguished him as one of the top mid-amateurs (over 24 years old) in the country. John lives in San Francisco with his new wife, Therese.
Photos courtesy of John Sawin: John with his mentee Reyhan at the Trans Miss Amateur played at the Olympic Club in San Francisco; John with Nelson Hargrove '09 (left) holding championship flags at the 2014 Pennsylvania Amateur at Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh.
- The Big Room Blog