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PGA Master Professional Bob Ford uses on word to explain his ability to play competitively while running two clubs: "Luck."(The PGA of America)

Ultimate Balancing Act: PGA Club Professionals wear two hats

By John Kim, PGA.com Coordinating Producer

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Many of the legends of the game are set to tee it up this week for their most prestigious event, the 69th Senior PGA Championship. They've been practicing non-stop, working with their coaches, psychologists, equipment reps, agents, etc., in order to make sure their game is in tip-top shape. But some of the participants have had to prepare a completely different way -- by giving lessons, by ordering merchandise, by fitting clubs for others, even juggling work schedules for their staff.

There are 39 PGA Club Professionals competing in this week's Senior PGA Championship, and they have come via different routes and different backgrounds to end up here, but they all have one major point in common: They all have full-time jobs that take them away from working on their own games. It may be the greatest secret in golf, certainly one of the most intriguing questions of the game: How do you balance a full-time job and the ability to compete on a world-class level?

"I don't know if you ever really find that balance," said Chris Starkjohann, a PGA Teaching Professional at Hodges Golf Center in Escondido, Calif. "My philosophy has always been, when I'm working, I don't think about playing. When I'm playing, I don't think about working. Otherwise, you can lose focus very quickly and then both sides of the equation suffer."

Starkjohann is a two-time winner of the Senior PGA Professional Championship and a six-time winner of the Southern California PGA Section Player of the Year.

"Luck," is how Bob Ford, the PGA Director of Golf at Oakmont Country Club and PGA Head Professional at Seminole Golf Club, explains his ability to do both.

Ford is a PGA Master Professional and works at two of the nation's most high-profile courses and has maintained a stellar playing career, including being a seven-time winner of the Tri-State PGA Section Championship, a four-time member of the PGA Cup team, and has competed in nine PGA Championships.

"I was lucky to get both jobs and I've been lucky to be healthy and have some talent and a love for playing and competing that has given me so much satisfaction," he humbly stated.

Bill Britton, a long-time member of the PGA TOUR and now the PGA Director of Instruction at Twin Brooks Golf Center in Tinton Falls, N.J., relies on his past playing experience to help him make up for the time he can't devote to his playing now.

"I've been fortunate to have been playing golf most of my life," Britton said, "and now when I do what I can - which really doesn't amount to that much - to work on my game, it's some of the good things that I've learned and developed that help me in these situations."

Britton also notes that great support from his home facility helps as well.

"When I was out on TOUR, you had your family, sometimes some friends, following you and cheering for you. But now," he explained, "you have an entire club and they take great pride in what you do and how you perform."

"The members at my course have been great," said Tommy Brannen, a PGA Master Professional and the PGA Head Professional at Augusta Country Club in Augusta, Ga. "If I play well, they are very happy for me and for the club and if I don't, they still have a lot of great enthusiasm about my representing them and the course in venues like this."

Several of the PGA Club Professionals made note of the pride of their membership when a representative from their course made national news by competing in a major championship. But all were quick to add that the delicate balance wasn't really an equal balance.

"I love to play and compete," Brannen noted, "but my job is to manage a golf operation and make sure that others have a great time."

And thus, there seems to be no definitive answer as to how some golfers can maintain such an elite level of play while working full-time off the course. But come Thursday morning, the explanations won't matter. Each player has one goal in mind, to play to their best ability. And the accolades and checks and awards that come with that will be greatly enjoyed. Then, for the 39 PGA Club Professionals, they head back to work next week making sure others can enjoy their games.

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