McGovern revisits PGA Championship, just for week

Jim McGovern during the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla.

When his two rounds at the 96th PGA Championship were complete, Jim McGovern turned it into a vacation of sorts. When in Louisville … well, you tour the Louisville Slugger Museum.

Rounds of 83-74 behind him, McGovern was accompanied by his wife and four children, which is a far cry from the way things were the last time he was at Valhalla Golf Club. That was 1996, McGovern’s prime playing days on the PGA Tour. Only the oldest two of his four children were there. Of course, they were only toddlers and the other two weren’t even born, so it’s not like there are touching remembrances of dad’s last PGA Championship as a member of the PGA Tour.

But this time around? Even though it went only 36 holes, McGovern is sure the kids will at least have memories. “I’ve loved going to their games the last few years, so hopefully they can tell stories of watching dad play during a fun week,” McGovern said.

As delightful a personality as has graced the PGA Tour, McGovern, 49, is long removed from the highlight to his career, a playoff win over Jeff Maggert and John Huston in the 1993 Shell Houston Open. He was committed to his PGA Tour duties, a 32- to 35-tournament guy in those early years. When his results dropped off and he lost his card, McGovern carried his passion over to the Nationwide Tour.

In 2008, McGovern was 43 when he regained his PGA Tour card. Funny, though, while he returned to the big leagues, his enthusiasm didn’t. He concedes now that it was a lonely year, that his heart wasn’t in it. One more year on the Nationwide Tour, in 2009, convinced McGovern that he needed out. In 2010 he called it quits, became the head professional at White Beeches Golf & Country Club in Haworth, N.J. and this born-and-raised and very-proud Jersey Boy has never looked back.

Having qualified for the PGA Championship by finishing T-16 in the National Club Pro Championship, McGovern had the chance to reunite with dozens of old friends. That part of the week was pure joy. But packing his bags to make the trip and grinding away to try and compete?

“In all honesty, I’m not sure I would say I miss it at all,” he said. “I go home to my wife and kids every night. I do not miss the travel at all.”

He also got a front-row seat to today’s PGA Tour and shook his head. “I can’t believe how talented, how young, how strong these kids are.”

That ’96 trip to Valhalla was his last PGA Championship as a touring professional. He did play in four other U.S. Opens after ’96, but his best major efforts remain what he did much earlier. He was T-5 in the 1993 Masters and T-13 at the ’94 U.S. Open. Wonderful memories, all of them, and McGovern feels blessed “to have done a lot of things” and traveled to a lot of places.

But the job at White Beech, the nights at home, the chance to coach and attend youth sports? “I couldn’t be happier,” McGovern said.

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