How did golf course architect Beau Welling become one of the most powerful people in the sport of curling?

Beau Welling admits he’s quirky. He embraces it. Stop Welling — a golf course architect who helped his pal Tiger Woods put the finishing touches on both highly acclaimed Bluejack National outside Houston and Payne’s Valley at Big Cedar Lodge near Branson, Missouri — and you’re likely to get an earful on a topic that might surprise you.

For example, Welling is known for his love of Sasquatch, and even had someone dress up as the mythical creature at his wedding a few years back to peer in through a window. And his wide array of interests don’t stop there.

Welling, who grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, owns a degree in physics from Ivy League Brown University, and he also studied Irish literature at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and is quick to evoke Oscar Wilde or James Joyce when it suits the conversation.

But when Welling, who still maintains a deep Southern drawl, started to actively follow the game of curling during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, what had started as a passive interest became an obsession.

Architect Beau Welling speaks on what will be the fifth tee at the Travis Club in Austin, Texas. (Photo: Errich Petersen for Travis Club)

“The more I watched, the more fascinated I got,” Welling told Golfweek when on-site for the official groundbreaking of the Travis Club in Austin, Texas. “It fits my brain. It’s strategic. And it’s a Scottish game that shares many qualities with golf. Both games are steeped in integrity and honor. In both games, you call your own fouls and there’s a degree of physics. So the science of it all just fascinated me. The friction and trajectories. There was a lot for me to chew on.”

Between the 2002 and 2006 Olympics, Welling found himself working on a few projects in Canada and that only helped to fuel the inquisitive fire he’d already been slowly building.

By the time the next Winter Games were played in Turin, Italy, Welling had become a bona fide fanatic. He estimated that of the 80-some hours of coverage NBC Sports had of the sport that year he consumed nearly all of it. Welling took vacation from a project he was working and learned everything about the sport he could.

“They all think I’m losing my mind in the office,” Welling said, as he’d then worked his way up to the position of executive vice president for Fazio Golf Course Designers.

Welling even researched many of the American team members and found an interesting similarity. Unlike other countries from around the world whose teams were stacked by various regions, the American team was comprised largely of members from one small town — Bemidji, Minnesota. Welling realized the U.S. National Championships were to be held that year in the same town, the home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. And when a work assignment he had scheduled overseas was canceled, perhaps fortuitously, Welling says, he decided a field trip was in order.

“This starts to feel like a calling, a sign from God, that I’m supposed to go to this,” Welling said. “I look online and you can buy tickets, but I see the time has lapsed, so I’m worried about this. I get my longtime assistant on the case and she has a thicker accent than I do. She gets someone on the phone and says, ‘Hey, my boss just loves curling and he comes in here every day talking about it and I don’t know what the heck he’s talking about it, but I just know he’d love to come up there and is there any way you can help me get him a ticket?’

Moderator Stephen Reynolds, left, Gil Hanse, and Beau Welling, during an event in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by Tim Schmitt/Golfweek)

“The guy on the phone says, ‘Do you mind if I ask where you’re calling from?’ and when she says North Carolina he asks why anyone from there would interested in curling. And she says, ‘Well, he’s from South Carolina.’ And they got me a ticket.”

When Welling arrived, he was greeted by a blizzard, yet he still made his way to the event, and was welcomed with a seat on the glass underneath a handwritten sign with his name on it.

“I think they all wanted to see if this nut job from South Carolina was really going to show up,” Welling said.

He quickly ingratiated himself with friends, family and coaches, and by the time he left, he was looking to make a bigger impact on the game.

At the conclusion, the president of USA Curling named Welling the official “Southern ambassador” for the sport and he even took part in a parade through town.

“Everyone was so nice,” he said. “That Midwestern nice. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get bored so I had only planned to stay for a day or two, and I ended up staying nine days. People took me ice fishing, out for dinners and drinking. The town even threw me a birthday party.”

Soon after, he got a call from the president of the USA Curling Board, Georgia West, asking if he’d bring some fresh ideas to the board. He agreed and his role got even larger when he was elected to the role of president of the World Curling Federation board in 2022.

It’s a position that demands some of his time, although he’s been able to balance the gig with his full-time job as a course architect. Welling designed one of the two courses at Fields Ranch, the new home of the PGA of America in Frisco, Texas, and he’s got lots of other work in the pipeline.

But he still has an affinity for curling that has him plotting and planning, trying to push the game to new heights.

“I love it more than ever,” Welling said. “I can’t get enough. And to think that I would get to the point where I’m at, especially since I knew almost nothing about this growing up, it’s been an incredible experience.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek