Scully completes his transition from the gridiron to golf

Tiger Woods turned to Medinah Head Professional Mike Scully for some wisdom on his scouting trip a few weeks ago. (Photo: AP)
Tiger Woods turned to Medinah Head Professional Mike Scully for some wisdom on his scouting trip a few weeks ago. (Photo: AP)

Mike Scully grew up 30 minutes from Medinah dreaming of a career in professional football. When that journey was cut short, he got into golf, and this week reaches the peak of his career as the PGA Championship's host professional.

Bob Denney, PGA of America

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Less than 30 minutes from the steps of Medinah Country Club's majestic clubhouse, PGA Professional Mike Scully once fostered a dream of competing not on golf's ultimate stage in a major championship, but rather on the gridiron.

That was when Scully was a talented prep football player at Mount Prospect (Ill.) High School, and who carried his dream to the University of Illinois, where he played on a Big Ten Championship team and in the 1984 Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

The dream went a step further for Scully -- then a 6-foot-5, 325-pound offensive lineman -- who signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins in 1988. Things were indeed looking up.

But, after spending one year as a backup to a Pro Bowl center, Scully's gridiron journey faded just as quickly. A combination of injury and what he termed a "horrible training camp," resulted in his being cut by the Redskins. Scully followed with brief stints with the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks, and in 1990, a short term with the Bologna Towers in Italy.

Scully carried a college degree in hospitality management, and after the NFL disappointment worked at his father's Chicago steel company. During that time, he spent two years coaching football at Buffalo Grove High School under his former prep coach, Rich Roberts. But it was not what Scully wanted or where he wanted to devote his career.

The son of John Scully, a 4-handicap golfer, Mike decided to change his job search at a golf facility. He was hired in 1994 as the fourth assistant professional at The Forest Club in Fort Myers, Fla., and trained under PGA Director of Golf Jim Butler.

Three years later, Scully proved that he had made the right career decision by displaying his skills on the course, defeating his father for the first time.

"It was a big moment for me," said Scully, now a svelte 253 pounds. "It helped make me think that I had made the right decision that attempting to get a little white ball into a hole 4 1/4 inches in diameter was a lot smarter idea that getting beat up in football."

Scully was elected to PGA membership in 1999, the same year that his father suffered a massive heart attack. Scully took time off to help his father get back to health. In 2002, Scully was promoted to PGA head professional at The Forest. That same year, he made a trip to Medinah to address club members about joining The Forest for a winter membership.

One year later, Scully was named to succeed Mike Harrigan as the 12th head professional in Medinah Country Club history. The club's roster of previous head professionals includes one name that continues to hold a major niche in both PGA of America history and major championship lore.

"When I came to interview, I looked on the wall and saw a photo of Tommy Armour," said Scully of the renowned Silver Scot and famed instructor whose victory in 1930 made him the last European-born PGA Champion. "When I was named head professional, my name got up on that board and across from Tommy Armour's name. That was very special to me."

Scully said that his Medinah experience continues to evolve.

"The members here are all passionate about the game of golf," Scully said. "They have been extremely supportive as their golf season was trimmed in order to allow the Championship to be held here."

The 88th PGA Championship this week will cover some 350 of the 750 acres on Medinah's massive parkland grounds.

"I was very fortunate to be given this opportunity," said Scully. "I wasn't here in 1999, when the first PGA Championship was played at Medinah. The club members that were tell me that today the infrastructure is three times bigger. I've said it before, looking at all the tents that have gone up, it's like the circus is in town.

"It has been a great experience being part of the team in preparing for the PGA Championship. I watched as they built the foundation, how a small city has been built on this property. The construction was completed in about two months. It was amazing to watch and we are all looking forward to the week ahead."

Celebrating its 90th anniversary, The PGA of America was founded in 1916, and is a not-for-profit organization that promotes the game of golf while continuing to enhance the standards of the profession. The Association is comprised of more than 28,000 men and women PGA Professionals who are dedicated to growing participation in the game of golf.

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