'Club' professional

Valhalla PGA Head Professional Keith Reese spent much of the last several months working on preparations for the Senior PGA Championship. On Sunday, though, he got to enjoy the tournament from inside the ropes.


Keith Reese (blue shirt) shook hands with playing partner Tim Parun after they finish the final round at the Senior PGA Championship. (Maggie Ray)

By John Kim, Coordinating Producer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Just another day in the life for PGA Head Professional at Valhalla Golf Club, Keith Reese, right?  After all, other than helping oversee operations for the final round of the most prestigious event in senior golf, with a worldwide audience watching and focusing on his golf course, what else was there to worry about? Oh, how about playing in front of that same audience and a large, raucous gallery to boot, as a participant in a major championship!

On Saturday night, PGA Managing Director of Championships Kerry Haigh called Reese and informed him that the odd number of players for Sunday’s final round meant there was a single player due to tee off first.  This meant that pending the decision of that player (in this case, Tim Parun, a PGA teaching professional from Sail Ho Golf Club in San Diego, Calif.), a non-competing playing marker would be needed for the final round.  The primary purpose of a playing marker is to keep score for the competitor, but a playing marker can play along to keep the player at a normal pace of play (as opposed to a walking scorer who would only keep score).

Reese had been aware of the potential need for a playing marker and had tried to prep himself for the role, though his work at Valhalla in recent weeks centered mainly on course operations and preparations prior to the Senior PGA Championship.

“I was hoping to be that somebody,” Reese admitted with a laugh. “But yeah, very nervous, too.  It’s not everyday that someone announces your name – and you hear applause, and then you have to hit a shot. That was a little different, but it was great.  I really got a sense of what these guys feel, the adrenaline rush and high you get when you hit a good shot and people applaud.  It’s a new thing for me and I could see how it could get addicting.  It was really nice.”

And though Reese has been at Valhalla since 1996, he acknowledges that this was a bit of a different course than he’s used to seeing.  But then again, this isn’t the first time Valhalla has hosted a major championship, so Reese has played the course at just about every set up that can be made here.

“I have played the course at that distance and the rough wasn’t too bad this week,” he stated, “The greens were a little faster than I’m used to, of course. The real difference was, if you missed in the wrong spots today, you had very little chance to recover.”

Reese’s nerves got the best of him on his front nine, where the pressure of a major championship gallery and conditions bested him and he shot a 10-over 46.  But on the back nine, Reese took his course back, firing a 2-under par 34 to end up with a more-than-respectable 80 on the day.

And as to whether his success might inspire him to qualify to play in one of these Senior PGA Championships, Reese noted, “Well, I need to turn 50 first. I guess I cheated a little on that, I’m still 46.  But this was an experience of a lifetime, I couldn’t be more grateful and appreciative.”

But as is almost always the case, there was no rest for the weary.  Within 90 minutes of Reese putting out on 18 and shaking hands with Parun, he was back at work grabbing some chargers from the cart barn to power up some carts up by the clubhouse.

“Life goes on and we have to get ready for the end of the week when we reopen for our members,” he stated.  “But it’s been a fantastic, unforgettable week.”