Category - Major Events
Brian Gaffney Leans on Major Experience at KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship
By Vinnie Manginelli, PGA
When you’re a PGA Professional heading to your first major, nerves, butterflies and uncertainty might dominate your psyche.
But, when you’ve played in five PGA Championships and earned Low PGA Club Professional honors at the 2015 event at Whistling Straits, you can pay more attention to your own game and the task at hand.
That's what Brian Gaffney faces this week in the 2023 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Fields Ranch East Course at PGA Frisco. The PGA Head Professional at Essex Fells Country Club in New Jersey secured his spot in the PGA Tour Champion’s second major of the year with a T-7 finish at the 2022 Senior PGA Professional Championship at Twin Warriors Golf Club in New Mexico last fall.
As he prepares for the first major championship to be held at PGA Frisco, Gaffney knows what he’s getting into and what he’ll see.
After all, he’s been there before.
Mentally, he’s strong. But with limited competitive action thus far this spring, he’s been striving to get his game ready for major championship play.
“How well you do is always about how prepared you are,” Gaffney says.
He says he’s optimistic. He feels good and fit. He says he practiced a lot before and after the Senior PGA Professional Championship last fall and gets to the club at the break of dawn on most days to get his practice in, before the responsibilities of a PGA Head Professional and duties as a dad to two teenagers take over his day.
During the event, Gaffney says it’s important to him to do the right thing, stay out of the way and play his own game. He says you don’t want to be “that guy.” There’s no autograph-seeking or star-gazing. That’s not why he’s there. He admitted that it could be awkward in a locker room full of tour professionals.
“You know who they are, but they have no idea who you are," Gaffney says. "By the time the tournament starts, we all still have to play golf. Once I show that I understand the intricacies of tournament golf, we coexist just fine.
For me, it becomes about playing my own game, and one that may be very different from the tour professionals in my group.
Brian Gaffney, PGA
He understands that club selection and distance might differ greatly once on the field of play. Coming to terms with that mentally can be a huge asset physically. And as a result, Gaffney has beaten some big stars on golf’s biggest stage. Look back at the final leaderboard from the 2015 PGA Championship and you’ll see the names of some legends of the game — Tiger Woods included — far below Brian Gaffney’s.
Gaffney says there’s great pride in representing his fellow PGA Professionals on such a grand stage. Although playing well and shooting a good score is important, it’s just as pertinent that he represents the PGA of America well by being professional and personable.
He admits that it was cool to see Michael Block do what he did last week at Oak Hill. That was Gaffney less than a decade ago at Whistling Straits, and entering this big week in Frisco, he understands the rare opportunity that he’s earned.
He teaches, runs tournaments, serves his members and so much more. Walking the fairways with the likes of Langer, Harrington, Duval, Els, Furyk, Singh and Stricker is not lost on him. He knows his place in the field and has some hefty goals.
Can he make the cut? Can he finish in the Top 50? Top 25? Gaffney says PGA Professionals come into their own later in life, after decades of learning the business of golf and building a career.
With that, he thinks Top 25 is within reach, and as a fellow PGA Professional who’ll be watching on TV rather than in person as I was in Rochester last week, I’ll be rooting for him, and the entire 35-man Corebridge Financial PGA team of PGA Professionals.