Calhoun golf becomes game changer for couple

Decatur Daily
By David Elwell Sports Writer Jun 2, 2017 or 256-340-2395. Twitter @DD_DavidElwell
Picture by Jeronimo Nisa/Decatur Daily

One year ago, Sarah Christopher was a recent graduate of Elkmont preparing to continue her education at Calhoun Community College.

Shawn Pickens was a member of the Madison Fire Department and considering a career change.

Today, they are Mr. and Mrs. Shawn Pickens after a whirlwind romance that had them meeting last August and getting married Feb. 8.

"Wow, it's pretty amazing to think about how quickly everything happened," Shawn said.

What brought them together was the golf program at Calhoun. Shawn, 26, played on the men's team that finished second in the state and just missed advancing from region play to the national tournament. Sarah, 19, battled back from shoulder surgery to play late in the season for the women's team.

Calhoun athletic director Nancy Keenum got the OK to start the program last year with the goal of giving more opportunities to area athletes. Matchmaking was not part of the plan.

"We've had several marriages of former athletes through the years," Keenum said.

An example is former baseball player Tripp Jameson and softball player Shelby Miller, who recently became engaged.

"I'm not aware of any being married while they were still here competing for Calhoun," Keenum said.

Craig Bocking was Calhoun's original golf coach. After recruiting the teams, including Sarah and Shawn, he handed the program over to Richard Morgan and Dave Snyder last fall.

"Golf's a great way to meet people," Bocking said. "You can make relationships that last a lifetime, but this is a little different."

Shawn, who is from Sheffield, took lessons from Bocking. One day during a lesson, while Bocking was recruiting for Calhoun, he jokingly asked if Shawn had any college eligibility left.

"I said as a matter of fact, I do," Shawn said. "I was interested in a career change and this seemed like a good way to get started."

Sarah had been using dual enrollment while in high school to take classes at Calhoun. Her grandfather and father play golf and got her started. She played at Elkmont through her junior year.

"I heard Calhoun was having a hard time finding girls to play," Sarah said.

When Sarah told Bocking about her golf background, it was welcome to the team.

Sarah and Shawn met at the team's first practice. It started with a conversation during lunch. The first date was three weeks later. The second date was a trip to Tuscaloosa on Sept. 24 to watch Alabama beat Kent State, 48-0.

"We spent 12 hours together that day and had a great time," Sarah said. "I think we knew something special was happening."

Shawn proposed in December. They got married at a wedding chapel in Mentone. Both graduated with their associate degrees from Calhoun. The plan was to move to Tuscaloosa to continue their education.

"West Alabama's got a new golf coach and he called asking about Shawn," Morgan said. "He also said he was looking for players for the women's team. I told him I had a package deal for him.

"I'm really proud for Shawn and Sarah. Not only are they good golfers, they are really good people. "

The couple is moving in August to Livingston where West Alabama is located. He plans to major in finance. She wants an accounting degree.

"Life changes in a hurry," Shawn said.