Game Changers

PGA Member David Young's Interest in PGA Championship Sunday will be to Follow his Shining Son

By Jeff Babineau
Published on

David Young,PGA and his son Cameron Young at the 2022 PGA Championship.

PGA Master Professional David Young sat alone on the stone wall outside the massive clubhouse at Southern Hills Country Club, returning a few texts from friends and members on the eve of the final round of the 104th PGA Championship. 
Young is 61 and has been the Head Golf Professional at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough, N.Y., for 20 years. Like many talented coaches gathered here this week, he has a notable interest in a student who happens to be in the field and is doing very well in his PGA debut. That pupil would be Cameron Young; he happens to call his coach by another name: Dad.
David Young hits his tee shot on the tenth hole on the Coore Crenshaw Cliffside Course during the first round for the 31st Senior PGA Professional Championship.
David Young hits his tee shot on the tenth hole on the Coore Crenshaw Cliffside Course during the first round for the 31st Senior PGA Professional Championship.
Cameron Young shot 3-under 67 at Southern Hills on Saturday in conditions that would keep most sane people indoors for the day. On moving day, Cameron did some moving in the right direction, leaping from T10 to solo fourth. It was rainy early, then cold, and always windy. That was all fine with Cameron. He has won some of his biggest trophies in the bad stuff. His mom, Barb, woke up Saturday morning, looked outside, and thought, “This is a good Cam day.” 
It was. And it was a pretty nice day for his father/coach, too. When you are a PGA Professional going on 35 years, and when your son has grown up with high respect for, and a front-row seat to, the long hours the job can entail, there’s a certain poetry to him being in the hunt at the PGA. Saturday’s scoring average was 72.5, and bogeys and others lurked everywhere, but Young just kept climbing. For David, it was pretty special to watch. When his son ripped 4-wood onto the green at the 296-yard 17th hole and coaxed in the 24-foot putt for eagle, Dad, a mild, quiet sort, jokingly said his vertical leap had to clear at least 3 inches.
Cameron (71-67-67) will start Sunday four shots behind leader Mito Pereira, with only two other players (Will Zalatoris, Matt Fitzpatrick, both at 6-under 206), between him and the lead. Opportunity is knocking.
“If we were to pick a venue for this, this would certainly be at the top of the list, just growing up as a PGA Pro and having Cam grow up around it,” David said. “Obviously, this major means a lot to him and to me. All the years I tried to qualify for it and never did. I did get into the Senior PGA one time, at Bellerive (in 2013). This means a lot to our whole family, the PGA being a special one to us.”
Justin Thomas, the ninth-ranked player in the world and 2017 PGA champion, is coached by his father, Mike Thomas, whose own father, Paul Thomas, was a lifelong teaching professional. When Justin won at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow five years ago, he became the ninth son of a PGA Professional to capture the PGA. Chick Harbert was the first in 1954. Jack Burke Jr. is on the list. Dave Marr II. Raymond Floyd. Davis Love III, who won under a rainbow at Winged Foot. Thomas was the last. 
“It would be nice to notch that 10th one,” David said, sitting on that stone wall, “if not this year, some year anyway. It’s just going to be nice to have a chance going into the last day.”
For the Youngs, it never seems to get complicated. David said he and his son are a lot alike, for one. David showed a fiery side and temper flares when he played, and when Cameron does that, starts getting frustrated, David completely understands from where it derives. 
“It’s a really, really easy relationship for us,” David said. “It’s not real tricky. First and foremost, he’s my son, and most of the time is spent in that relationship. Every once in a while, we’ll do a little work if he needs to. And mostly it’s him tinkering, finding something that he thinks works, just making sure it makes sense, and looks OK, and makes sense from a mechanics standpoint.”
Cameron Young plays a shot from a bunker on the 16th hole during the third round of the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club on May 21, 2022 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Cameron Young plays a shot from a bunker on the 16th hole during the third round of the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club on May 21, 2022 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Cameron has played solidly all season – he has three runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour as a rookie – but he didn’t perform well at last month’s Masters. He shot a pair of 77s and went home. He and his father got together afterward, made some very minor tweaks, and Cameron has been back on a good road. Post-Augusta, Young tied for third at RBC Heritage, and tied for second at the Wells Fargo Championship. His good play has carried over to the PGA, where Young has driven the ball so effectively, and so long (he leads in Strokes Gained: Off the tee, gaining 6.269 strokes on the field) that it would be hard not to be in contention. 
“A lot of these tough holes, there’s not much left if he hits a good one,” David said. “And he’s been hitting a lot of good ones. So that’s a big part of it. I’m surprised on how quickly he’s gotten kind of comfortable out here. He feels that he belongs, and that he can compete. That’s the main thing, getting out here and not just ‘thinking’ you can, but ‘knowing’ you can. I think Riviera (where Cameron placed second in a loaded field) flipped the switch on that.”
David didn’t get to compete in a PGA Championship, but he worked 18 championships as a member of the PGA of America's Rules Committee. He has seen plenty of players lift the Wanamaker Trophy. Imagine getting to see your son do it? Everywhere he turns at Southern Hills, he sees friendly faces. It's not lost on Cameron how special Sunday at Southern Hills could be, not only for him, but for his only coach, who has been teaching him about golf – and life – since Cameron was in diapers.  
“It's because of the PGA that he has had the job he had for the last many years,” Cameron said late Saturday. “Without that, at Sleepy Hollow I don't start playing at four years old or earlier. I don't have the access that I did growing up. I started playing in PGA junior events when I was nine, eight, something like that.
“For me, I've been given so much access to golf because of that organization. So, to kind of have the chance to go from local PGA junior tournaments, national PGA Juniors to Junior Ryder Cup (2014), to even play in a PGA Championship is really cool for me. It kind of has been with me my whole way through.”
While Cameron Young is telling his story to assembled print and television media members some 100 yards or so down the hill, David Young sits by himself on that stone wall, his feet dangling and resting after a long day of walking and watching his son. Sunday will be a big day. “I think he’ll love it,” the coach says of his pupil. A reporter comments to him he must be a proud man.
“You know, that’s what everyone is asking me, how proud I am,” he answers, pausing. His voice is low. “I really don’t know how to answer that. I’m not a man with the right words, I guess. I’m not a writer. I’m much more of a numbers guy, a math guy. So maybe 12 out of 10?”
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