I'm a 1994 graduate in finance from St. John's University, and had originally believed that I would be making my niche on Wall Street. That summer, I wanted to realize some goals, such as playing in the U.S. Amateur and winning a couple of our area amateur championships. I was able to win the New York State and the Westchester Amateur that spring.
I was fortunate to qualify for the U.S. Amateur at Sawgrass (in Ponte Vedra, Fla.) later in the summer. Once that was over, I didn't know what to do -- pursue golf or go to Wall Street.
I decided on golf, because that's the lifestyle that would make me the happiest. I worked two years at Mt. Kisco (N.Y.) Country Club, and then (PGA Professional) Charlie Hicks gave me the opportunity in 1999 to come to The Saint Andrew's Golf Club and be the first assistant, and it's been a great marriage ever since.
For my first major championship or Tour event, to be representing the more than 28,000 men and women professionals of The PGA of America, is very special.
I think as kids all of us have sat on a putting green with our buddies at one time or another and have said, "I've got this one to win the PGA Championship or the Open, or to qualify for a big tournament." That's kind of how that putt felt on the second playoff hole at Verona (in the PGA Professional National Championship, June 25).
I had about 18 to 20 feet to go to realize that dream as a kid that we all have.
I was relaxed on that putt. Over the years, I've tried to work on staying in the present, focus on just what you should be focused on. As long as I can strike the shot without thinking about any distractions or any outcomes, I'm pretty happy.
That's actually what happened on 18 (at Turning Stone's Atunyote Golf Club) when I hit it into a bunker (in regulation play). I focused on what I needed to focus on, it just didn't work out for me, and that's why I didn't get too upset.
My son, Kevin, a 16-year-old, is a tennis player, but he's also been my caddie for several years. He's a senior in high school this fall. He's very good in understanding how to caddie and what it takes to do a good job in tournament play. He's got plenty of caddie experience.
He's a great guy, my best friend and he will keep me feeling free and easy this week.
We decided to stay away from some of the big crowds today. We had a big surprise when one of my members, Ruben Meyer, showed up on the 10th hole. We took him inside the ropes, and he followed us the rest of the day. We hooked up with Jerry Haas, Jay Haas and (PGA Professional) Jim Kane (of Lawrence, Kan.) and had a great day.
The family is all here -- my wife, Ursula, daughter, Emily, 14, and my brother, Peter, is flying in from Delray Beach, Fla. He's a former golf professional and now in interior design. I also have a cousin coming in tomorrow.
Getting prepared for the PGA Championship took good planning.
I wasn't sure what to expect, but we have a few players in our [Metropolitan PGA] Section that have played in the Championship before. I talked to them about preparation, and got some great advice from Ron Philo (Jr.), our National Champion. Craig Thomas and Mark Brown all pitched in with some great advice, too, and I got out here early. I played a practice round about three weeks ago, which they recommended, and it really paid off.
I made some different line-up changes for my bag, based on what I saw here. So, it was a valuable experience coming out here early.
I think just where you need to place a tee shot at Medinah is so important. If you have a dogleg hole, you can't just bomb it out there. You've got to place in on the proper side of the fairway so you can have a look at the green.
If you're on the wrong side of the fairway, you're going to have to negotiate some trees. Length is not going to be so much a factor out here as position will be. Beyond that, putting and surviving the greens; the greens are small and tough. You have to place it on the right side of the greens. If you get aggressive with putts, it's going to be important.
Medinah reminds me of many Northeast courses in that the trees overhang the fairways, and it's fairly tight and there are a lot of doglegs. But, it's a lot like the Northeast, so I'm fairly comfortable out here.
Just to get here is quite a story. I had been struggling most of the year with my putting, and I worked with my caddie back home, Jack Huff, on my putting.
He is a junior golfer and member at our club. I took him up to Turning Stone (for the PGA Professional National Championship), and I got untracked the first two days and got it to 6-under-par. But the final two rounds, I was struggling a bit and able to survive the playoff.
I would have had my son on my bag at the PGA Professional National Championship, but Kevin was busy working in an Appalachian Reconstruction project.
I'm glad he's here with me this week, and we're anxious to get the practice rounds completed. Wednesday will be a day of practicing the short game, playing a few of the tougher holes and just getting settled about what our plan will be for the opening round.
I see the tents, the grandstands filling even for practice rounds, and my adrenaline is flowing.
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