Bird doctor, practice owner, professional golfer, world traveler.
Steven Shaw, DVM, has accomplished a lot in his 62 years, and he doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.
The owner of Broadview Animal and Bird Hospital in the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills spoke with Veterinary Practice News about his life as a veterinarian and as a golfer on the senior tour.
Veterinary Practice News: Why not be a weekend golfer? Why compete?
Shaw: I started very late, when I was about 35. I wasn’t able to join a country club until we had furniture in the house, and once I joined, I started taking it up.
I used to be a professional tennis player. My father was a tennis pro, so he started me at 3. I played the Asian tennis tour while I was in the Philippines. And then, when I was building up a veterinary practice, I took up golf.
From there, I had proper training and established a sound foundation with frequent lessons from several swing coaches, physical trainers for stamina, flexibility and strength, and a psychologist/hypnotist for the mental aspect of the game.
All this allowed me to excel at a much faster level of play that would take others years to get to.
VPN: You were raised in White Plains, N.Y., and went to veterinary school in the Philippines. Why Asia and why veterinary medicine?
I had worked for a vet since I was 12 years of age, but I couldn’t get into Cornell. I was in medical school in Puerto Rico and then got accepted into the university in the Philippines, so I transferred out of medical school.
VPN: How successful are you on the European Senior Tour?
I try to play three major events over there, but I have to qualify for them. In January I was in Portugal, where I was doing what’s called the qualifying school. What you’re trying to do is get a tour card so you have the right to be in the main draw of a tournament every single time. I have not achieved that yet.
VPN: No qualifying card?
I’ve never earned a card, but I’ve earned status based on what I’ve done in previous years in the Q. school.
VPN: Where else do you play?
I’m on two other tours—the Sunbelt Tour, which is primarily on the East Coast of the United States, and another European senior tour, which has multiple two- and three-day tournaments before and after the major tournament. This makes the long journey more accomplished.
VPN: Do you earn prize money?
On the Sunbelt Tour, I cashed maybe $15,000. If you add everything up, probably $25,000. I am just glad I have my veterinary career to support my golf career.
VPN: The prize money can’t come close to covering expenses.
I have had several sponsors over the years and have earned their support based on my playing abilities and the quality of tournaments I play in. Titleist for clubs, Cleveland Clinic Sports Health for personal trainers, clothing and bags, Elanco for all golf attire and accessories. Finally, I represent Sundog eye-wear. I really don’t have much cost involved. I haven’t paid for an airline fare in, I can’t tell you how long. I’m a travel agent on the side, so I get 50 percent off on car rentals and hotel fees.
VPN: Caddies work for pay and maybe a percentage of the prize money.
That’s probably my biggest expense.
VPN: And that wipes out any earnings, right?
That was never the issue. What I’m doing is all that counts. When I turned 50 and turned pro, the level of play was not nearly what it is now. And you see that even on the regular PGA tour. I mean, everyone is shooting good scores now. And every year, someone now 50 is coming in, which makes it harder and harder for me. But my game is only getting better. I’m hitting it farther, I’m more consistent. Experience is everything, not how far you hit the ball.
VPN: Do you support a family, or are you single?
I’m married. My daughter is a professional golfer, Stephanie Shaw. She went to Florida Southern College on a golf scholarship.
VPN: Does your wife golf?
Zero, but she has been my biggest supporter in what I do and has unselfishly allowed me to take on this second career, which at times puts a strain, as you can guess, on our personal lives.
VPN: Does she travel with you?
Only half the time, because it’s boring for her. Most of the time my daughter will go and caddy for me.
VPN: You mentioned hypnotism. Please explain.
There’s a fellow in England named Andrew Fogg. He works on relaxation—takes your mind off everything, which allows you to focus on target golf. You visualize so that all you picture is the green or the flag or your target or wherever you want to go. It helps tremendously, just closing your eyes, visualizing everything, relaxing, just letting go and letting everything happen on its own.
VPN: Do you consult with him by phone or face to face?
Both. Whenever I’m in Europe I’m with him, and he’s caddied for me a few times. We do have phone conversations where he puts me in a trance and gets me to do what he wants, and then he snaps his fingers and I’m out of it. It helps me get into the frame of mind that I need to be in.
VPN: When are you at Broadview Animal and Bird Hospital?
From April to November I’m in Ohio. I am in the practice for a 3½-day work week, which allows for four to six hours of practicing for five days of the week. Mondays and Tuesdays are my 12-hour days and are days of rest from golf to clear my mind. I am a member at Firestone Country Club and I have three different courses to practice on. This helps with the style of course that my next tournament is to be on.
VPN: How busy are you as a vet, and who assists you?
I grossed $700,000 last year myself [in a three-doctor practice]. I have a huge and caring support staff that works with my clients and golf schedule. I am thankful and fully trust my staff as they take care of our clients’ needs and our services, allowing me to have a clear mind on the golf course.
VPN: How is the hospital managed when you’re away?
The vets [Drs. Lisa Perry and Mary Cerny] understand that this is what I do. They understand that when I’m gone they’re going to take on extra hours. We have probably 10 techs who are a huge part of the practice and help the practice run.
VPN: When overseas are you in communication with them?
I am left alone. The entire hospital understands my needs for complete concentration and only calls me in an emergency situation. Europe is six hours ahead, so if I am needed it is now in the evening there while it is still day hours at home.
VPN: What was your best professional round and tournament?
My best round is 66 competitively. The best tournament event was when I qualified for the Senior British in 2007 but did not receive a qualifying spot in the main field. I birdied the last hole to qualify.
VPN: For most professional golfers, golf is their career, so they need to earn money. For you, is golf a hobby?
I wouldn’t call it a hobby. Whatever I do I take it to the nth degree. I’ve never been happy with average. I would not say I was a natural player. I worked extremely hard.
VPN: Some veterinarians probably think, “I wish I had your life.”
You know what?
When you have a bleeding animal on the table you’re as calm as can be. You just take the hemostat and clamp it.
But that 3- or 4-foot putt that means something, I wish I had that kind of calm mind frame. Look at the tournament scores and see what a difference one or two strokes means.
VPN: Any golf injuries?
I’ve had two meniscus tears. I have had three Lasik eye surgeries over eight years. My vision is at 20/15, which allows for reading greens and slopes and seeing breaks that you can miss with lesser vision.
VPN: Three Lasik surgeries?
My astigmatism keeps coming back.
VPN: Realistically, what’s the best finish you see for yourself at a tour event? Are you going to win someday?
The biggest thing is not necessarily to win. My goal is to play in the U.S. Senior and the British Open—two majors back to back. That’s my goal. It’s not whether I win. I am not at that level because you would have had to be playing your whole life, right? That’s an unreachable goal.
VPN: What does it take to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open?
It’s one round to qualify. You get about 15 courses to choose from.
VPN: When you think of where you have played professionally, what memories stick out?
Playing St. Andrews, playing world-famous courses competitively, especially in England and Scotland, and being treated as a true professional, not a want-to-be-type person. Above all I feel I am respected in the professional senior golf world for my ability, my performance and my dedication. This is what people who do this for a living have earned, and I am part of their association.
VPN: Do you know of any other veterinarians who are professional golfers?
No, I’d like to believe I’m the only one. I’m the only doctor I know of on the European tour. The only other one that was famous was Gil Morgan, an ophthalmologist. I make sure when I play overseas that they introduce me as “Representing the United States, Dr. Steven Shaw.”
VPN: What’s going to happen first—you withdraw from professional golf or veterinary medicine?
As long as I improve, I play golf the following year.
VPN: What do your clients think?
When the clients come in the room they don’t talk about their animal. They ask, “How’s your golf game?”
VPN: Do you have a lot of golf memorabilia on the clinic walls?
Not really. I offer free golf tees to clients. We have some Titleist balls and different things around. But you know, I try and keep it separate. I have two different careers. That’s the way I look at it.
VPN: Some people might say that all the travel, all the golf, gets old after awhile.
It doesn’t, because I started so late. If I had started when I was 3 or 5 or 10 and did it every single day, I might have burned out at 50. I started late, so I’m still on fire. Now, if it was tennis, that’s a whole different story. That’s too hard of a sport for me. I can’t run around and do that anymore.
Originally published in the July 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today!