Why Lt. Col. Dan Rooney is uniquely suited to answer this one question about golf

Are there any commonalities between being a fighter pilot and playing golf? If there’s anyone who can offer a definitive answer to that question, it’s Lt. Col. Dan Rooney, arguably the game’s most unique figure.

If you’re not familiar with Rooney’s impressive resume, here’s a quick snapshot of his multi-hyphenate career: First and foremost, Rooney is an Air Force F-16 fighter pilot who has completed three combat tours of duty in Iraq. In addition to his military service, Rooney is also a Class A PGA professional, an author (his new book, Fly Into the Wind, was released this week), and the founder of both the Folds of Honor foundation and Patriot Golf Day, charity initiatives that benefit the families of our fallen and disabled military heroes. It’s clear that Rooney knows a thing or two about sacrifice — and performing under pressure.

In this week’s episode of GOLF’s Subpar, Rooney joined hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz to talk about his incredible background, his new book, the impact of his charitable endeavors and his relationship with some of the game’s greats, including Jack and Barbara Nicklaus.

Rooney’s desire to be a pro golfer dates back to his childhood, but at age 12, after meeting a fighter pilot during a round with his dad. Rooney decided he wanted to do both. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Rooney achieved his goal — and more.

And, oh yeah — he has an answer to that question about the commonalities between flying fighter planes and playing golf, too.

“It’s both about hitting targets,” Rooney says. “It’s about being able to be incredibly nervous and under pressure and still execute. I think the reason I’m addicted to both is because I’m a single-seat fighter pilot. In golf, there’s no referee, there’s nobody to pass the ball to. And the end of the day, it is you against yourself, and when that works out, very few things as rewarding in my life have I ever experienced.

“Both things are difficult and rewarding in their own ways,” Rooney concluded.

For more from Rooney on his truly one-of-a-kind life, check out the video of his full Subpar interview below.

Jessica Marksbury


As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.