By Marino Parascenzo, Special to PGA.com
LIGONIER, Pa. -- Jim White, a slim and easy-smiling PGA Professional out of Lincoln, Neb. , is a national champion. He won the Callaway Golf PGA Senior Club Professional Championship last year. But who knew?
That makes White, 55, the Club Professional Prophet-Without-Honor in his own hometown.
"Our paper didn't cover it," White said, grinning, "and so nobody knew about it."
Not so around the rest of the country. When he arrived here at Laurel Valley Golf Club for this week's 66th Senior PGA Championship, he might have worn out his hand. Guys from everywhere came up and said nice going, and this included his old friend, Oakmont Country Club professional Bob Ford, who finished second to him.
"The most fun for me was to come to a tournament like this and be acknowledged by my fellow club pros and even some tour pros," White said. "It was one of those 'I can't believe I did it' things."
Apart from the sheer joy of winning the championship -- and more, of proving to himself that he could win it -- the title hasn't affected his life. He's still a PGA Master Professional, director of operations at Wilderness Ridge Golf Club and owner of the North Forty Golf Course, both in Lincoln. This will be his third Senior PGA. He missed the cut in 2001 and 2002, and tied for 17th last year, shooting 75-72-69-71, for a 3-over-par 287 total.
Over his career, since turning pro in 1972, White has played in seven PGA Championships and three U.S. Opens. And in three years on the PGA Tour, 1977-79, his best finishes were a third place in the 1977 Oklahoma City Open and 34th in both the Bob Hope Desert Classic and the Memphis Open in 1978.
Still, he's the club professional from Nebraska, with its limited golf season, facing the cream of the Champions Tour who have been playing in the hottest competition and in good weather since early in the year.
"That's the way it is, and that doesn't bother me," White said. "Golf is so weird. If you find the right swing key, who knows? I'll be happy. I hope to get comfortable in the pressure."
White figures Laurel Valley, a par of 72 and 7,078 yards, ought to be a good test -- not overly long and with excellent, puttable greens.
"And expectations?" White added. "You don't put any expectations on yourself. You just hope you can make some good swings under pressure for 36 holes, and play the weekend."