Viguerie trying to follow in Hossler's footsteps
SEASIDE, Calif. — It was an exciting start to the summer at Mission Viejo (Calif.) Country Club, and now that the membership has gone through the hubbub once, maybe they’ll have the chance to end the summer the same way.
Two weeks ago, the club had reason to closely follow the U.S. Open, which was played up the Pacific coast in San Francisco, because one of its members qualified for the field. It wasn’t just any member — but the feel-good story of the week, 17-year-old Beau Hossler, who had low-amateur honors in his grasp until the final few holes.
This week, Mission Viejo’s head professional, Matt Viguerie, is trying to create more excitement over a major as he tries to qualify for the 94th PGA Championship in August. The top 20 finishers at this week’s PGA Professional National Championship earn berths in the field at Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s Ocean Course. Unfortunately for Viguerie, it will be an uphill climb after opening with a 5-over 77 in his first PNC start.
“Last week it was crazy,” said Viguerie, whose professional résumé is dotted with clubs on a Who’s Who of California clubs; he’s worked at Torrey Pines, Spyglass Hill and Pasatiempo. “We had a Beau Burger as a special at the club and Bill Schellenberg, his caddie, is a good friend of mine, so we had a Billy Beer special, too. The members really support players; all they wanted to talk about was Beau at the Open. It was a very cool week; we’re very proud of him.
“We went up on Friday and watched Beau play. We were there when he took the lead in the Open; there were about 40 members who went up. We were high-fiving, hugging one another, taking pictures of everything . . . just a great thing to be a part of.”
Viguerie has tried to qualify for the PNC every year since 1999, and even this year, when he finally achieved success, it wasn’t without one last challenge.
“Three of the last four years I was an alternate,” he explained, “and it was always heartbreaking. This year, when I made it, everyone was congratulating me, and a guy holes a bunker shot on the last hole to get in in front of me. So then I had to go to a playoff after I thought I had already made it.”
Viguerie was well aware of the Bayonet and Black Horse courses before they were renovated in 2007, back when they were part of the Fort Ord military base and the Bayonet layout had the reputation of being one of the most difficult courses in the state.
“It’s just amazing to see it now,” said Viguerie. “It’s so different. It was always so difficult, so you’d go play anywhere else and think, 'Wow, this is so easy.'
“Bayonet still has some bite, but it’s a different kind of difficult. I almost think the greens are more difficult because they’re tiered and they’re firmer than the old greens. The old 15th green here used to fall off the world; it probably had 10 degrees of slope, which you’d never build today. But playing a practice round, the guys I’m playing with are going, ‘Wow, look at this green. It’s crazy.’ And I wanted to tell them, ‘This is crazy, but the old green was crazier.’ ”
The excitement around the Open cut into Viguerie’s practice time for the PNC — “It was kind of like trying to cram for the final exam,” he said. “But still, to make it here makes it special.
“I know so many players who have made it into a PGA Championship through this event, and so people tell me, ‘You deserve to be able to play in one PGA.’ It’s great just to have the opportunity.”