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April 1, 2016

Celebrating the PGA Centennial Continued

A collection of great practice range memories from 100 influential PGA members and industry experts

“After spending most of my day teaching at the Conway Farms Learning Center, it was amazing to watch, a single day later, one of the game’s greats, Tiger Woods, warming up in the same spot before the 2013 BMW Championship.” – Jeffrey T. Mory, PGA director of golf, Conway Farms Golf Club, Lake Forest, Illinois

“I am enjoying watching my children grow up learning so much about the game of golf on the range. It is amazing to see golfers we don’t know come up to the kids, offer encouragement and help with their swings.” – Celeste A. Olson, Merchandise Manager, Kapalua Bay Course, Lahaina, Hawaii

“I grew up working at a driving rangeon Saturdays, which allowed me the chance to hit balls for free during the week and pick up a few lessons from the PGA Professionals working there. Some of my fondest memories are picking the range on a tractor and hitting balls under the lights during the summer. We’d aim for the ‘lonely pine’ at the far end of the range and were sure one day we’d hit the ball far enough to reach it.” – Stephen Youngner, PGA head professional, The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island (South Carolina)

“Nothing breaks up the day better than a leisurely cruise in the picker.” – Stephen Clancy, PGA head professional, Granite Links Golf Club, Quincy, Massachusetts

“Many of my fondest golf memories are of my father and hanging out on the range. Spending Sundays on the range late into the afternoon with the setting sun.” – Ed Kageyama, PGA, Hawaii & Asia-Pacific Regional Manager, Billy Casper Golf, Lahaina, Hawaii

“I remember working the range at the 2004 Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla when Tom Kite arrived to warm up. He wanted to video his swing and couldn’t get his video camera to work. He turns to me and says, ‘Any chance you know how to work this thing? I just want to take a look at my swing!’I spent the next 45 minutes filming and listening to him talk about what he was looking for in his swing. Definitely one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me in golf!” – Brandon Stooksbury, PGA director of instruction, Idle Hour Club, Macon, Georgia

“I remember watching a young Tom Watson. After he played a practice round he went straight to the range and proceeded to hit more than 75 balls with a 6 iron. At all times he had two balls in the air, meaning he only paused between shots long enough to set another ball! I thought this was impressive. The next time I was on the range, I tried this ‘Watson drill.’ I made it to about ball 12 before I was out of breath and wondering what was the point. I tried to Monday qualify for the Australian Open back in the 1980s and he played. That year was at Royal Melbourne, and he won. Must have been the drill!” – Lawrence Auer, PGA head professional, Azalea City Golf Course, Mobile, Alabama

“My favorite family time is spent on our practice range with my wife, who is also a PGA Professional, and our two young boys. We like to go up just when the range is getting ready to close for the evening. The boys run around and hit balls to the target greens while mom and dad chip a few to stay sharp.” – Matthew Creech, PGA director of operations & head professional, Mayfield Sand Ridge Club, South Euclid, Ohio

“It was in 2008 we were spending the winter at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida. My daughter was not yet three years old. She picked up her U.S. Kids 7-iron with a split grip and hit the ball about 25 yards, and had the biggest smile on her face.” – Michael D’Agostino, PGA head professional, Penfield (New York) Country Club

“I was never a huge fan of the range when I was younger. That is, until I watched our top high school player spend more time on the range than I did on the course. I watched him hit shot after shot with what seemed like ease, shaping each one with a purpose. If I were going to have any success in my future, I’d have to make an effort to improve on the range. I was able to play in college and eventually become a PGA Professional.I learned a lesson on the driving range from someone who never said a word.” – Daren MacKinnon, PGA assistant professional & director of clubfitting, Pine Oaks Golf Course, South Easton, Massachusetts

“When I was a kid,I used to pick up the driving range by hand with a shag bag for $3 a night with my best friend Colby Cowan, who is also now a PGA Professional. About once a month we would come in and tell PGA Professional John Evans we were done. If he didn’t think we did a very good job he would get in a cart and look for balls on the range and he would charge us a nickel for every one he found. I think there were probably nights we ended up owing him.” – Jared Barnes, PGA head professional, Cedar Ridge Golf Course, Cedar City, Iowa

“There I am, hitting balls prior to my first round at the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla. Jason Day’s caddie strolls up to the open stall next to me and flops down Jason’s golf bag. I’m instantly even more nervous, which I thought was impossible because I already couldn’t feel my hands and it was tough to breathe. Jason walks up, takes a look over at me and gives me a nod and starts ripping wedges. I look over at him holding his finish and his six-pack is popping out of his shirt. I then rip a shot and look down, and my belly isn’t even allowing me to see my belt. That was the moment I realized I was in trouble.” – Michael Block, 2014 PGA Professional Champion

“I love hitting balls on the range and watching the sunset.The peacefulness of those moments is lasting, and it’s a great way to end a day. There’s also nothing like experiencing the joy of a beginner making contact with a golf ball and seeing it go in the air for the first time! When that happens, you know you’ve affected a person’s life.” – Dennis Johnsen, PGA head professional, Pine Meadow Golf Club, Mundelein, Illinois

“My greatest moment at the driving range was at the 2013 LPGA Q School with Megan Grehan. Right before her final round with everything hanging in the balance, her warm-up session was terrible. I forced her to stop hitting and we went to hitting super delicate chips, just to get her feel back and take her mind off technique. She shot 67 and got her card.” – Virgil Herring, PGA teaching professional, Westhaven Golf Club, Nashville, Tennessee

“I grew up working at the local course, exchanging my range-picking services for golf privileges. We top dressed quite frequently. I still have the original blades (Mizuno MP-14’s) that I wore the chrome off the bottom from spending so many hours hitting balls on the sand-based range.” – Jameson Wallace, PGA general manager, Chambersburg (Pennsylvania) Country Club

“The day before I passed my Playing Ability Test, I remember hitting different short irons to range buckets at 50, 75 and 100 yards. It helped me find a great rhythm with my swing and prepared me to play very well.” – Josh Richter, PGA director of golf, Boyne Highlands Resort, Harbor Springs, Michigan

“I grew up at Mission Hills Country Club and was a very active junior golfer and range rat. One time I was on the back of the range hitting balls. In front of me was John Cook working with his teaching professional and speaking to Fred Couples. Behind me were John Daly and Laura Davies hitting monster drives– not together, by the way. Johnny Bench and George Brett were there along with Mac O’- Grady, who was giving a lesson to another PGA Tour player. I was definitely a member of the cool club!” – Eric Lohman, PGA general manager, Monarch Beach Golf, Dana Point, California

“I will always cherish the last golf lesson my father gave me on September 9, 2015, two weeks before he lost his battle with cancer. He loved the game of golf so much, but he loved people more. His name was Tommy Hale.” – Emil Hale, PGA director of golf, Boot Ranch, Fredericksburg, Texas

When I was a first-year assistant, our shop closed at 7 p.m. That left me enough time to squeeze in a few holes in-season, but nowhere near enough time to quench my thirst to get better. That meant hitting the Wendy’s drive-thru window on my way to Cantiague Park Driving Range, which at the time was open until 1 a.m. Those were the days.” – Dom DiJulia, PGA, Owner of DiJulia Golf, New Hope, Pennsylvania

“I took my first real golf lesson on Easter Sunday in 1976. That day prompted my interest in the golf business.” – J.B. SanGiacomo, PGA general manager, Owl’s Creek Golf Course, Virginia Beach, Virginia

“I was playing in Port Elizabeth in South Africa, and my caddie of 15 years, Stanley, was shagging balls. The train runs all the way up the side of the practice range, which is a narrow strip of fairway. I was hitting 4-irons and a train came by and somebody threw the contents of a chemical toilet out the window and plastered Stanley with it. It was all I could do to stay upwind of him for the rest of the day. It was a God-awful thing, but something that sticks out in my memory.” – David Feherty, NBC On-Course Analyst

“I truly enjoy walking the range giving some pointers, having fun conversations and fostering relationships.” – George Ancuta, PGA head pro at Knoll Country Club in Boonton Township, New Jersey

“When I played all the time, I was kind of focused on practicing. But I do recall one time practicing at the local driving range and watching a future PGA Tour sensation – I won’t mention his name, but he was 15 or 16 at the time – trying to hit the police helicopter flying overhead. He really had no chance to hit the helicopter, but the fact that he thought about it was amazing to me.” – Scott Chaffin, PGA general manager, Mile Square Golf Course, Fountain Valley, California

“I wandered into a local range in Maui, paid for a small bucket of golf balls and got a loaner golf club. The guy handed me a bent 5-wood, told me not to hit the range balls over the high net at the end of the range and then laughed at me. I saved the best range ball for my last shot. I called to the range guy and then blasted the ball over the net. It was one of my best 5-wood shots ever!” – Grant Rogers, PGA director of instruction at Bandon (Oregon) Dunes Golf Resort

“As a coach, I enjoy how much fun it is to play games with our junior golfers and how their parents want to join in. I’m lucky enough to see that quite a bit. I will always remember, when I was a junior myself, the first day I could hit my driver past my dad and the look on his face.” – Mike Fay, PGA director of player performance at Boyne Golf Academy in Harbor Springs, Michigan

“I remember the days, when I was a junior golfer, when my father and I were the last ones off the range as the sun fell behind us.” – Kevin Ginoza, PGA director of golf at Waikoloa Beach Resort Golf on the Kohala Coast, Hawaii

“A couple of years ago, I was warming up with Vijay Singh. We were getting ready to play Hapuna Golf Course. Then he grabbed his iPhone and turned on Adele –I don’t recall which song, but he was fascinated by it – and we must have listened to it three or four times before heading out.” – Josh Silliman,PGA director of golf, Mauna Kea Resort, Kamuela, Hawaii