Paul Claxton thought he knew what the role of being a full-time PGA Professional entailed. After all, as a longtime touring pro who’d played for years the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour, he’d been around golf, and golf facilities, his entire life.
Ten years ago, his tour days behind him, Claxton took a Head Club Professional job at Richmond Hill Golf Club in Richmond Hill, Georgia. New hours. New life. Entirely new perspective.
“I have a total new respect for any club pro who is doing this job for 25 or 30 years,” said Claxton, 54, from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, where he is one of 39 Club Professionals in the field competing against the top over-50 players in golf.
Claxton pretty much does everything at Richmond Hill. He is the club’s Professional, its General Manager, spends hours on the lesson tee ... “and I’m the janitor, too,” he says with a quick smile. He is at the club more than 60 hours most weeks, which doesn’t allow for too much practice time as he readies to take on the Bernhard Langers and Ernie Elses of the senior set.
“There’s a big difference between being a club pro and a playing pro,” Claxton said. “Big difference.”
Claxton is here at Harbor Shores, a Jack Nicklaus Signature design not far from which has played host to four previous Senior PGAs – the scheduled 2020 edition was canceled due to COVID-19 – having won October’s Senior PGA Professional Championship presented by Cadillac on the Wanamaker course at PGA Golf Club in Florida. Claxton started the fourth round two shots back, fired a closing 2-under 70 to tie PGA Coach Mark Mielke, and prevailed in a playoff.
It was a nice victory for Claxton, who made 429 Buy.com/Nationwide.com/Web.com/Korn Ferry Tour starts, making $1.8 million in career earnings. He also competed over four seasons on the PGA Tour. Given his new work schedule, hoisting a trophy to earn his way back to Harbor Shores was a quality result.
“I had a good week with the putter,” Claxton said. “Those golf courses down there (in Florida), I’ve played them a good bit, but I’ve never really gotten hot with my putter. I just had that good putting week, and things came together for me.”
Claxton made the cut at Harbor Shores in 2018, when Paul Broadhurst won, his week highlighted by a second-round 66. So he knows the course, and now that he only plays part-time, is excited to be teeing it up with something on the line this week. He finds the experience valuable, both as a player and a coach.
Claxton tells many of his pupils to seek out a coach who is a player, too. Certainly with more than 500 career starts across two significant tours, Claxton knows what it’s like to be under the gun and needing to perform. He won twice on the Web.com Tour, and lost another in a playoff to future Ryder Cup competitor Matt Kuchar. When he teaches, Claxton wants to be able to translate his playing experience to his pupils.
“Being able to make a putt when it counts, and knowing what goes through your mind ... most people have never experienced that,” Claxton said. “Being able to hit a tee shot in play when you have to, it helps to have the experience of doing that. Being able to make a par on the last hole to make a putt, or to win a tournament, most people have read about that ... but everybody out here this week has done it.
“I’ve done it too. That adds a lot, I think. I always learn from these guys. I’m always learning something, and I log it away in the ol’ toolbox (pointing to his head), and I pull it out when I’m teaching. Makes me a more well-rounded teacher.”
Claxton goes off the first tee Thursday at 1:56 p.m. alongside Roger Rowland and Kirk Triplett. He can’t wait.
“I’m a part-time golfer now. Any time I get to play in a real nice tournament like this one,” he said, “it’s a real bonus.