I was a nervous Nellie before the first round of the PGA, and I
had reason to be. I'm a shirt salesman (a.k.a. a club pro) who
was playing in his first Tour event, which happened to be a
major championship. On Wednesday night all I could think about
was, What if I shank it on the 1st tee? What if I throw up in
front of 10,000 people? It didn't help that I had spent
Wednesday afternoon on the range beating balls next to Tiger
Woods. Watching him made me feel like a 25 handicapper.
On Thursday morning my first shot was--thank heavens!--down the
middle, and I drained a four-foot birdie putt. I looked at a
leader board, and my eyes popped out: Mark Brown was at the top.
I fell back to earth by bogeying the 3rd. However, I made one
last appearance when I birdied 10, 11 and 15 to reach three
under. That's when Jean Van de Velde, one of my playing partners,
asked how many Tour events I'd played. "What are you talking
I replied. "I sell shirts for a living." Jean said, "Geez, you
got to get out here. Your swing is 10 times better than mine."
Friends have told me I should try the Tour, and I have won
the New York State Open and the Met Open this year and was second
at the national Club Pro Championship. But I'm no dummy. I know
the Tour is infinitely more competitive than the club-pro
circuit. Still, hearing encouraging words from a Tour pro was a
huge boost. It's hard to imagine myself on Tour because I'm so
immersed in my job. Anybody who thinks club pros play golf from 9
to 5 should spend a day with me stacking shelves, arranging tee
times and giving lessons.
Reality set in on Friday, when I followed my opening 71 with
a 77 to miss the cut by a shot, but no matter. My competitive
juices are flowing. Coming in second at the Club Pro exempts me
into the second stage of Q school. I hadn't planned on making use
of that perk, but I'm probably going to now.
Mark Brown, 34, is the pro at Tam O'Shanter in Brookville, N.Y.
COLOR PHOTO: JAMIE SQUIRE