The PGA Pro Championship Rounds Out Field for PGA Championship
I’ve been looking at professional golf all my life, so why does this leaderboard appear in May of 2019 without a single name that I recognize? They ought to be out there on tour, shouldn’t they? The winner, Alex Beach, finished the four rounds at ten under. That’s touring score, right? Who are these people, and do women have them, too?
Actually, although I lose track of them on the calendar from time to time, I do remember them as a body of professional golfers, even though I don’t see them patrolling the fairways of Augusta very often, or catching a plane to Timbuktu for a new mega-event somewhere out in the world. When I noticed the results of the 2019 PGA Pro Championship, it occurred to me (again) that the stars we see dueling it out every weekend represent only the tip of the iceberg. There is another entire world of excellent players who love to play tournaments on a professional level, but for any of a thousand reasons, prefer to stay home.
The old adage that “those who can’t…teach” is pure baloney. The group of golfers representing forty-five sates in Bluffton, South Carolina, were playing for some alluring perks, such as the Walter Hagen Cup, cash prizes, and exemptions in major tournament. However, that is not their daily professional fare. And, what does Walter Hagen have to do with it? The path of the amateur was prized above all else in early American golf, loosely translating to “lover of the art.” For many years, the thought of competing all over the world every weekend would have sounded crazy. Only a few would have survived it financially, without a day job back home.
However, the love of golf runs strong in the pro brain, touring or not. The way to remaining immersed in the game is to be one of those terrific players who manage, teach, and merchandise golf organizations in addition to practicing and playing. Hagen was such a player. I feel certain that he never imagined a high-stakes tour moving throughout the world according to season, catching ships and planes by seconds, arranging for his entourage for constant transatlantic crossings , and saying farewell to the family for months at a time.
The club pro and the teaching pro are the keepers of the game – for us. It’s great to see Tiger win on Sunday, but he can’t help us get a tee time, a lesson, the right equipment, or play on a well-ordered golf course. However, the man or woman who can get us those things can also play great golf, and they do it with some regularity, even in tournament play. Among the field last week chasing the $550,000 purse, the greatest effort for most went into scoring among the lowest twenty. That group of elite finishers get to appear in the PGA Championship a little later in the year.
For someone intending to enter the touring world, a lot of prerequisites bar one’s way, including a fair amount of start-up money or external support. Family men or women must make critical arrangements for the entire lives of children and partners. That means home, school, and everywhere else they go. Travel plans in modern golf are complicated, and who do we think they study with, each other? No, they prepare with any number of notable teacher/coaches, the type of pro who put Jack Nicklaus’ and Arnold Palmer’s games together. However good one is, he or she can’t easily stand outside and watch the self perform. Even the greats have entire staffs of high-level helpers.
Not everyone is well-suited for touring. People who can do it for the better part of the year amaze me. I am good for about three weeks away from home. Then, it’s either my own bed or a local asylum. The club pro has the advantage of a contiguous community, a stable environment that doesn’t change so drastically, with friends inside and outside of the game. They teach the great and not so great, depending on their location. They keep the game of golf available to everyone, and just like the wanderlust crowd out on tour, they love the fierce competition of a great tournament.