PGA Professional Bob Ford (right) is right at home playing with stars such as Andy North. (Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America)
Consummate PGA Professional defines success for a week and a career
In addition to regularly competing with the game's top seniors, Bob Ford is also the PGA Head Professional at not one, but two of America's greatest clubs. How does he succeed in what one of golf's most unique double lives?
John Kim, Coordinating Producer, PGA.com
PARKER, Colo. -- A swarm of fans greeted the trio of golfers as they finished up their final practice round prior to the start of the 71st Senior PGA Championship. There was two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North waving to the junior golfers calling after him. Golf icon Tom Watson smiled politely as dozens of flags and hats were thrust at him to sign – which of course, he signed as many as he could.
And then there was the unassuming gentlemen in the TaylorMade Pittsburgh Steelers hat, the PGA Club Professional who had joined these legends of golf at the most prestigious event in senior golf. Who was he?
The man is Bob Ford and, in his own way, he might be as big a name as there is here at Colorado Golf Club this week.
Ford is the consummate golf professional, but many know him as having one of the most interesting and exciting dual personalities in golf. Is he a tremendous golfer who happens to have one – actually, make that two – of the most prestigious Head Professional jobs in the country? Or is he the preeminent PGA Head Professional who also happens to own one of the most fantastic playing records of the last three decades?
As the PGA Head Professional at Oakmont Country Club (Oakmont, Pa.) and Seminole Golf Club (Juno Beach, Fla.), Ford oversees operations at two facilities that are consistently ranked in the top 10 in America. One man, two top-10 clubs. Many golf professionals would consider being on the staff, much less the man in charge, at one top venue to be career-defining. Ford has to manage not just two facilities, but two of the most demanding and revered venues in the world.
As a player, Ford has a resume that could rival many of the names you read about each week on the Champions Tour. He’s played in nine PGA Championships and three U.S. Opens, is a 10-time Tri-State PGA Player of the Year and twice won the PGA National Stroke-Play Championship – among a host of other honors and awards. He has been asked to play rounds with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and a host of other top touring pros.
So which is it?
“My first love of life is working,” Ford said after his practice round. “Being the Head Professional at Oakmont first and then when Seminole was nice enough to ask me to be there as well, those jobs are my passion. I love to play, that’s certainly a passion as well, but I’m first the Head Professional at Oakmont and Seminole. I’m not a player at the level of these guys, I appreciate the opportunity to come out and play but my job comes first.”
As one might imagine, Ford is asked frequently about his thoughts on how to succeed in a variety of fields in golf. His answer has remained consistent over the years.
“There’s no one formula for success, but as a rule I’d say that it’s people and their personalities -- their charisma, their charm, how they relate to others, I mean, those things can really get you far in life,” he said. “This holds true no matter what your vocation, but it certainly holds true in golf.
“There are many aspects to being a successful golf professional, but from my perspective, being a good player does not necessarily mean you have what it takes to be a good PGA Professional,” he explained. “It’s a great bonus -- I love to play and I want others to love to play. But it’s more important for you to be a good person than a good player in my opinion. To me, that’s what brings success in this field.”
But make no doubt, those are not mutually exclusive and Bob Ford is Exhibit A.
“I wouldn’t say I’m playing against these guys this week,” Ford remarked in his trademark modesty. “I’m playing with them, but they are playing more against each other. My hopes for the week are, like most of the club professionals here, to make the cut and be able to play all four rounds. I’ve done that before so it’s not outside my expectation level and you hope to play good on the weekend.”
This week marks Ford’s fifth Senior PGA Championship. He will be one of 40 PGA Club Professionals competing this week at the 71st Senior PGA Championship. Top PGA Club Professionals from years past include Chris Starkjohann, who tied for fifth in 2009; Bill Britton, who tied for 16th in 2008; and Jeff Coston, who tied for 19th in 2007. The low PGA Club Professional will take part in a special presentation along with the tournament champion at the conclusion of play.