Among the many difficult tasks of a club professional is rising to the occasion competitively when he earns a chance to play against Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and others in a PGA Tour event. It’s a daunting proposition, to be sure, and even more so in a major like the PGA Championship.
“There’s nothing easy about it at all,” says Michael Breed, head professional at Sunningdale Country Club in Scarsdale, N.Y. “The crowds are bigger than anything the club pros see in section events, the greens are faster, the rough is deeper and the course is longer.”
It’s also intimidating beyond belief.
“No matter how much you may try and tell yourself differently, you know your game doesn’t stack up,” says Bob Ford, head professional at Oakmont Country Club and Seminole Golf Club, who will be a contestant in his 10th PGA at Baltusrol Golf Club next week. “You just have to hope you catch lightning in a bottle that week.”
Hope is about all most PGA club professionals have when they get out on the PGA Tour, and that’s because the gap between their competitive playing abilities and those of Tour members has grown drastically over the years. It was not unusual in the past for a club pro to occasionally win a PGA Tour event. Tom Nieporte of Winged Foot did it at the 1967 Bob Hope Desert Classic. But not anymore.
“And that’s not because top playing club pros aren’t as good as their predecessors in that regard,” says M.G. Orender, a longtime PGA member and immediate past president of the association. “Actually, they are playing as well as they did 10 or 20 years ago. It’s just that the touring pros have gotten to be so much better, and so much better prepared in all aspects of the game. And you can’t compete successfully against that if you are working 50-hour weeks at your club.”