TRAVERSE CITY -- Scott Hebert once shattered a neighbor's window after smacking the tar out of a golf ball.
He probably would have gotten in less trouble had he hit the ball with a golf club instead of a baseball bat -- but kids will be kids, right.
Now 47 years old and the PGA golf pro at the Traverse City Golf and Country Club, Hebert is slightly more responsible when it comes to choosing what implement he'll use to hit that little white ball.
Come Aug. 10, Hebert will make those decisions as he competes in the 99th PGA Championship, the year's final major, at Quail Hollow Golf Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"I'd love to play it like a kid, like some of the juniors I teach, and go out there and just freewheel and have fun," Hebert said. "But I've got a little too much gray hair and a little bit too much wisdom to know that I will have to plod my way around there. It's an awful long golf course. I'm going to have to use all of my smarts as well as my ability to play golf to have some success there."
This will mark the fifth time Hebert has competed in a major championship and the first since the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. Hebert's first foray into majors territory was in 2007 in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
"That was really an eye-opening experience," Hebert said. "I was fresh off of playing golf professionally and was only a couple years removed. I knew a lot of the guys, but that atmosphere was nothing like you could imagine. The buzz is just unbelievable. Anyone who is anyone in golf is there."
Hebert has yet to play the weekend of a major as he did not make the 36-hole cut in his first four attempts. He came close in 2008, but back-to-back bogeys to close out his second round left him on the outside looking in by just one shot.
"To say that you ever get comfortable -- for a club pro to come in there -- would be unrealistic," Hebert said. "The golf course is right on the edge of fair. If you're off just a little bit, you're off a lot. You've got to be able to control your ball. You've got to be able to control your emotions.
"I'd love to go into it with low expectations. I'm a club pro. I work in the business. I don't play a lot. But it's easier said than done."
The 2008 PGA Professional National Championship winner and eight-time Michigan PGA Professional champion, Hebert hopes to draw on his 30-plus years of experience to settle in early at Quail Hollow.
"When I go to a Michigan event, I'm kind of the big fish there. So my expectations of myself are a lot different than they are when I go to a tour event or a major event. You'd like to say they're the same, but they're just not," he said. "It really tests where you are physically with your game, and then you have to deal with the emotional side of it of, 'Boy, this is for something that's important to me.'"
Although the game is the same, Hebert said golfing in a major is a "different experience."
"If you took a two-by-four and laid it across the ground, you could walk across it no problem," Hebert said. "Put it a hundred feet in the air, the same two-by-four, it's a whole new ballgame. It's that same mentality. If you can get comfortable with it, then it's just golf. But the trick is to get comfortable with it and make it about the golf instead of, 'Wow, this is a worldwide stage.'"
Getting off to a good start would go a long way to ease any buzzing nerves.
"When it's going well, then it's just a game and you're playing it just like I would when I'm playing tennis or baseball with my kids in the frontyard. It can be that easy," Hebert said. "But getting there and getting yourself in that spot when the fairways are lined with people is a hard thing to do."
The biggest hurdle will be making the cut. Hebert said if he does that, he'll "really be able to enjoy it and absorb it all."
Making the cut will also ensure a nice payday when Hebert sinks his final putt of the tournament. As for what he'll do with those earnings, Hebert said that is already out of his hands.
"That's for Mrs. Hebert to decide," he said with a laugh. "She may give me a couple dollars of it, but that'll be it."
This article is written by Brendan Quealy from The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
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