Local Knowledge: National Championship

The par-4 seventh hole on Black Horse offers views as compelling as the hole is challenging.

Pat Jones, the PGA Head Professional at the Bayonet and Black Horse courses, sits down with PGA.com for a special Q&A.

By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer

SEASIDE, Calif. – Pat Jones is the PGA Head Professional at the Bayonet and Black Horse courses, which play host to this week’s 45th PGA Professional National Championship on the breathtaking Monterey Peninsula.

Before the start of the premiere event for PGA Professionals – where the top-20 finishers earn a spot in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in August – we sat down with Jones to get a little local knowledge.

There won’t be many low scores out there this week, but Jones provided some insight on where players could pick their spots. He also told us what it’s like to host such a prestigious event, spoke about how impressive the players are and also handed out a little advice. 

PGA.com: Thanks for joining us, Pat. You’ve been the PGA Head Professional here at Bayonet and Black Horse for just over a year and a half now. As a PGA Head Professional, what’s it like to host your Association’s premiere event for PGA Professionals?

Jones: We’re very excited to be hosting the 45th PGA Professional National Championship. It’s a great honor. Obviously, it hasn’t been to the west coast for some time, so it gives us an opportunity to showcase Bayonet and Black Horse here on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula. 

We know all of the 312 players are going to have a good time and at the end, we’ll have 20 of those players advancing to the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. Hopefully when the players go back home, they’ll see their families and members and tell them they had a great time here, it was beautiful and they enjoyed courses and hopefully they’ll come back some day.

PGA.com: There’s a huge misconception when it comes to your profession. People hear that you’re a. “PGA Professional,” and immediately assume you play a lot of golf. That couldn’t be further from the truth. With that in mind, can you explain to our readers just how impressive it is that the guys here are able to compete at such a high level given the limited time they have to dedicate to their own games?

Jones: I think there were over 4,000 entries for this tournament and these are the 312 who qualified. They’ve got some serious game for guys who really don’t get to play all that much golf. These guys are Directors of Golf, General Managers, Teaching Professionals – last week they were at their courses doing inventory, giving lessons, doing a junior camp, and in five more days, they’ll be back there doing it again. These are the best of the best in our field. If you look down the list, some of these guys have played before. We have four guys this week that played in the U.S. Open. I met one of them personally, Brian Gaffney. What a great guy. He’s a true professional and he’s told me it’s hard, but he feels confident that he’s going to do well and it just shows that the PGA Professionals playing this week – while they don’t have a lot of time to play – they are still very high caliber players. 

PGA.com: I’ve spoken to a bunch of players and the general consensus is that there aren’t going to be a whole lot of low scores out there. In fact, many of the guys expect that the winning score will be some where around even par. You know these courses as well as anyone. Where – if at all – are the scoring opportunities?

Jones: I would say the easier of the two courses would be Black Horse. The first seven holes on Black Horse are holes that are short. No. 6 is a driveable par 4. There are a couple of other holes that are short. No. 7 is pretty short. I saw a couple of guys in the practice round go for No. 7. It’s risk-reward, so there are opportunities there.

There are also opportunities on Bayonet. I would say probably from holes 3-8, you could make some birdies out there. Hole No. 2 and No. 9, I think par would be nice and you might even get a stroke on the field there. 

Once you make the turn and play through 10, 11-15 is, “Comeback Corner,” and it’s called that for a reason. You’re looking for pars on those holes and if you make birdie on any of those holes, I think you’re picking up strokes on the rest of the field. It’s tough golf, but it’s fair. 

In the January issue of Golf Digest, we were ranked the 21st most difficult golf course in the United States. When you look at the list of those courses, I think something like 11 of the top 20 have hosted major championships. We feel we’re in good company there. I think the courses will show their teeth at certain times and we hope that these professionals will make some birdies.

PGA.com: Have any of the players come to you this week asking for advice on how to play certain holes, which clubs to hit, etc.?

Jones: I’ve spoken to a handful of guys. Should I hit driver? Where should I hit the ball on the green? Which way does the green break? That kind of stuff.

I’ve shared as much information as I can. At the end of the day, if these 312 guys had the chance to play here as much as I have, sure, they could go out and shoot under par most of the time. These guys are only getting one or two shots at it before they actually go out and play, so I’m just trying to help the best I can. Sometimes pin-seeking isn’t the best choice, but when you’ve got to make some numbers, you’ve got to go seeking.