For the past four decades, the National Car Rental PGA Assistant Championship has brought together hundreds of talented PGA Professionals for one of the most competitive events on the calendar. And come Oct. 27, for the 21st consecutive year, PGA Golf Club’s prestigious Wanamaker Course will provide a stout test for 132 PGA assistant professionals and apprentices from around the country, each more eager than ever to claim victory.
Defending Champion Andy Mickelson, an apprentice from Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville, Illinois, has his sights set on another first-place finish this month in Port St. Lucie, but can’t complain much with how his year has been going since he won the Championship last October.
“It really was the biggest win of my career,” says Mickelson, who outdueled PGA Assistant Professional Adam Rainaud of Black Hall Club in Old Lyme, Connecticut, in the final round to cap off a 16-under-par, 272 winning total.
“You’re playing with some of the best club professionals there are in this Championship. The win last year really gave me a sense of validation and belonging that I can play with the best of them.”
Making his debut last year, Mickelson didn’t set too high of expectations or circle where he should finish. Instead, he treated it like a vacation, and that relaxed mindset provided him with the best four days of ball-striking the young director of golf can remember.
“I just try and take every shot as it comes,” added Mickelson. “It’s hard to do, but you really have to approach big events like these with little to no ex- pectations and stay true to a solid mental approach.”
After his win last October, Mickelson reeled in an even bigger fish, winning the TaylorMade National Championship — an event which only 40 of the 2,200 TaylorMade staff PGA Professionals and apprentices qualify for — at Pebble Beach earlier this year in March.
More success followed this summer as Mickelson won an Illinois PGA Section Stroke Play Event, is at the top of the Illinois Section Assistant Player of the Year Points List and tied for fifth in the Illinois Open. He will look to feed off these successes later this week at PGA Golf Club.
“It’s really just been a dream 12 months and I’m very happy where I’m at,” says Mickelson. “It will be hard to go into this year’s event with no expecta- tions, but I’m just going to have a good mental plan and recall the memories from last year. It will be hard to forget those.”