SUNRIVER, Ore. — With 312 players, the PGA Professional National Championship never is short of interesting storylines.
And when the 46th PNC got under way Sunday at the Meadows and Crosswater courses at Sunriver Resort, there was a bit more spice added to the mix because of the first-time entries of two well-known players: Jim McGovern, a former winner on the PGA Tour, and Sam Randolph, a former U.S. Amateur champion and runner-up.
McGovern, 48 and now the head professional at White Beeches Golf & Country Club in Haworth, N.J., played fulltime on the PGA Tour for seven straight seasons beginning in 1992, less frequently for the next decade and then went back and earned his tour card in 2006 — 16 seasons after his rookie season. Among his noteworthy achievements, he won the 1993 Shell Houston Open in a playoff with John Huston, had two other top-10s that same year and finished 27th in earnings. He also won three times in 1990 on what was then the Ben Hogan Tour.
On Sunday, a cool, overcast morning with its share of on-and-off showers, McGovern was 3 over after his first seven holes, steadied himself with a pair of birdies on the back nine and finished with a 1-over-par 72 on the more forgiving Meadows Course.
“I played OK,” he said. “I started off poorly, didn’t putt very well, didn’t have the speed down, and maybe the rain had something to do with that a little, but I left everything short on the front. I started playing better here at the end, so maybe there’s a light at the end of the clouds here.”
After he put his PGA Tour days behind him, McGovern took 18 months to go through the accreditation process to become a PGA professional; he finished in May 2012.
“I haven’t played much the last three years,” he said, “a couple of Section events, the Met Opens, the State Opens and things like that. I was trying to get my schooling done for the PGA and that was pretty much my number one goal. I got that done pretty quick, and I was never a great student, so I’m just happy it’s over. I did all three steps in about a year and half, which was a bit of a grind, but it’s great to have it done. It’s great being a PGA professional, and I can’t thank enough the other members of the Section. They’ve welcomed me right from the start.”
Of course, it’s not possible that McGovern can work on his game as he did in the days when he played the tour fulltime. Even considering the scaled-back playing schedule, his priorities include all the unending responsibilities of running a golf shop.
“No question about it,” he conceded. “But I kind of have my expectations of what I expect of myself. Am I expecting great things? I don’t think I put the effort in, or the time, but my job is for my membership now. That’s really what I concentrate on: giving lessons, running tournaments, selling shirts. And it’s a good thing. I enjoy it.
“Preparation-wise, I tried to do a little bit to get ready for this, but to get ready for any major golf tournament, you have to be sharp. I felt pretty good about where my game was, but you always have those little edgy moments and that’s pretty much what I fought today. Mentally, it’s probably a little harder; physically, I know what to expect out of myself and I try not to bite off too much.”
McGovern will turn 50 in February 2015, and until then he’ll face the inevitable questions about a possible return to competitive golf.
“It’s one of those things, as I get closer to 50, I feel pretty good about things,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get to 50. I like anticipating, or having something to look forward to. . . . In all honesty, 50 is going to be 50. Would I like to do it? Yes. Am I going to chase it? No, I’m not going to do that.”