Hello faithful Town Crier golf fans. I'm sorry I've been so busy with golf here at Cimarron I haven't had time to write a golf article all summer long. I promise that I will start writing soon. Meanwhile, below is a great article about the PGA Championship being played this week.
Until Next time you can find me at the Lesson Tee where I have been most of the summer.
Will Borowski, PGA
The Club at Cimarron
At the P.G.A. Championship, the Pros Play With the Pros
By BILL PENNINGTON
New York Times
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. - There are golf professionals, and there are professional golfers. The former teach lessons, run local tournaments and take cash for greens fees and other services at the pro shop counter. The latter travel the world on a pro tour, usually have a personal coach or two, and frequently cash some hefty competition checks.
The two groups mingle marginally, if at all. Except for one week a year.
Since the P.G.A. Championship is sponsored by the organization that represents the roughly 28,000 American golf club professionals, 20 spots in the field of 156 are reserved each year for working everyday club pros.
And so you have scenes like this from Wednesday's final practice round when Luke Donald, the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world, waved toward Stuart Smith, a club pro from Reno, Nev. Donald wanted Smith, who was waiting in the ninth fairway, to hit up to the elevated ninth green where Donald stood.
"I saw him wave and as I got ready to swing I thought, It's going to make headlines if I hit a poor shot and nailed him in the head," Smith, 43, said. "But that didn't happen, and you know, when I got there he had a big smile on his face and was shaking my hand."
Then there was the scene on the practice putting green when Brian Cairns, a teaching pro from the Fox Hills Golf and Banquet Center in Plymouth, Mich., badly misjudged the ultra-speedy green at the Atlanta Athletic Club and knocked his first putt way past the hole. The ball rolled and rolled until it was close to where Phil Mickelson was practicing.
As Cairns sheepishly retrieved his wayward ball, Mickelson turned and said, "Club pro, right?"
But Mickelson also offered his hand to shake.
"He congratulated me for getting into the tournament and talked with me for a while," said Cairns, who is 47. "That was really flattering. I think the tour pros welcome us. They know we are part of the event."
It has been this way for more than 40 years as the P.G.A. of America has always made room for some of its own. In 1968 there were 64 club professionals in the field. The number was reduced to 40 in 1980, 25 in 1995 and 20 in 2006.
The club pros qualify by being one of the top 20 finishers at the P.G.A. Professional National Championship. This year's group ranges in age from 29 to 55, with nine playing in their first P.G.A. Championship, one of golf's four majors. They come from all over the country. But wherever they hail from, the club pros see their presence as symbolic. They are delegates sent from the greater working golf community: club-swinging envoys tethered to the other 28,000 toiling away at private and public golf courses, driving ranges and other golf complexes.
"Maybe some of the touring pros don't like it that we get 20 spots," said Danny Balin, an assistant pro from Greenwich, Conn., and the youngest of the club pros in the event. "But I think the majority of them know that while they get most of the attention and help make golf popular, we are the ones at the grass-roots level keeping the game going by getting people out there and teaching them to play better.
"Golf probably doesn't grow without either of us."
Scanning the biographies of the 20 club pros who will tee off in Thursday's first round, it is clear there was no one path to the 2011 P.G.A. Championship. Balin, who did not start playing competitive golf until he was 22, rises at 5 a.m. every day so he can practice for two hours before he starts an eight-hour day of lessons or other club-related work. He practices for another two or three hours afterward. Smith, meanwhile, had an active competitive background, including playing professionally overseas in his 20s, but now says he plays on average just 27 holes every two weeks.
Balin qualified at the four-round club professional national championship by shooting 63 on the final day, leaping from 34th to fourth. Smith was in fourth place with nine holes left to play, then shot 41 on the final nine holes, carded a final-round 78 and finished tied for 12th.
Craig Stevens, 50, from nearby Sandy Springs, Ga., has become a local favorite. He will have his son, Chase, who is also a club pro, caddying for him. Friends of the family plan to come to the tournament wearing T-shirts that read "Team Lumpy," a tribute to the elder, and slightly rotund, Stevens.
Sean Dougherty of Overland Park, Kan., was hoping his trip to this year's P.G.A. Championship would provide a boost to his home club, the Milburn Country Club, where the historic clubhouse was gutted by a fire eight months ago.
The record of the club pros in recent P.G.A. Championships has been spotty. Only seven have made the two-day cut in the last five years. Work weeks that usually last six days at most clubs and include dozens of lessons and multiple other responsibilities do not make it easy for club pros to hone their competitive games.
"I'm a teaching pro," Cairns said. "I want to do well this week and I'm proud of my competitive record, but nothing is more rewarding than helping somebody play better and enjoy the game more."
Smith recalled that since he qualified in June for the P.G.A. Championship, his duties have not changed much at the Somersett Country Club in Reno. He has often been too busy to practice much golf.
"I've had members see me and say, 'Do you think Rory McIlroy is preparing for the P.G.A. by setting up the scoreboard for the men's invitational?' " Smith said with a smile on Wednesday. "Another member said, 'I bet Tiger Woods isn't getting ready for the P.G.A. by jumping in a cart to go handle a slow play issue.'
"And they are right about that. But I love what I do and I don't want to stop doing it. While I'm here this week, I'm going to try to hit the best shot I can every time I'm over the ball and I'm going to have fun. And I'm pretty sure I'll be successful at both."