By Vinnie Manginelli, PGA
Torrey Pines Golf Course is a public facility in La Jolla, California. Host to the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open, the South Course is a storied layout that presents an annual test of skills to the best golfers in the world.
Growing the next generation of golfers during the other 51 weeks each year is PGA of America Director of Golf/Head Golf Professional and Quarter Century PGA Member, Joe DeBock. DeBock is a Golf Range Association of America (GRAA) Elite Growth of the Game Teaching Professional and a leading coach and instructor in the game. He shared some time recently and is the subject of this month’s edition of Five Questions.
Golf Range Magazine: Where and when did you get your start in golf? Did you play golf in high school and college?
DeBock: I grew up in Gardnerville, Nevada, which is located in the Eastern Sierras, and my parents got me started in golf when I was 12 years old. As my skills progressed, I played a lot of junior golf tournaments and enjoyed four years of varsity golf in high school. I’d go on to play collegiate golf at Butte College in Oroville, California, where I would represent the Roadrunners for two years.
Golf Range Magazine: When did you know you wanted to be a PGA of America Golf Professional?
DeBock: I knew I wanted to be around the game the very first time I picked up a golf club. Playing on the PGA Tour, becoming a PGA of America Golf Professional and working in the business was always the path I sought to follow. I continuously worked at golf facilities and played competitively. That journey brought me to my current long-term position at Torrey Pines Golf Course. Along the way, however, I have played in several PGA Tour events, competed at PGA Tour Qualifying School, played the Sectional finals of the 2008 U.S. Open Golf Championship and won many PGA Section and Chapter tournaments.
Golf Range Magazine: What’s trending in programming and instruction at your facility?
DeBock: Over the years we have had many wonderful and diverse teaching programs. Although our facility still offers many of these programs, our current trending teaching efforts and programs are with large golf outings and large clinics performed at our practice facilities. We address groups from 10 people to 300. When you host a lot of PGA Tour events, big amateur tournaments and U.S. Open Golf Championships, your course gets very busy.
We have two full-size hotels on the property and are a very busy tourist destination with a lot of guests. For those guests not playing the course, we had to find a way to offer similarly fantastic golf experiences, which we did with our clinics. Our Sip & Swing Clinics provide a history of the course and its championships, picture-taking opportunities with our Torrey Pines U.S. Open Trophy and stellar instruction at putting, chipping, bunker and full-swing stations. Plus, the clinics are fully catered with food, beverages, music and awards!
We do a lot of these clinics, and many of our guests find them just as enjoyable as the experience of playing the course. I have introduced so many new golfers to the game of golf by providing these clinics and have to say that this is one of the best ways that I have grown this game!
Golf Range Magazine: What is your favorite part of the game of golf? The business of golf?
DeBock: I am very proud that our golf course was able to bring the U.S. Open to Torrey Pines in 2008. That tournament was one of the greatest golf championships ever when Tiger Woods outdueled Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole Monday playoff.
While it takes some very influential people, groups and communities to host a major championship, it also requires many different individual roles to make it possible. I believe the roles I played were definitely needed to land this championship. I was the first point of contact during the first site visit with the USGA and was involved in early rounds of negotiations regarding our operations. I remember presenting all the reasons at the first site visit why we should host this championship. I said Torrey Pines would be the best championship ever, and as it turned out, I was right!
We’d host the U.S. Open again in 2021, where Jon Rahm would return to the site of his first PGA Tour victory (the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open) and win his first major championship.
Golf Range Magazine: What does the future hold for you as a proven leader in golf coaching and instruction?
DeBock: I am still working as the PGA of America Director of Golf and Head Golf Professional at Torrey Pines and still focus on private lessons and large group outings. But as the years go on, I definitely make a lot of time to spend with my family. Honestly, with all of my years as a golf coach, I feel very secure and confident with my teaching skills. I know I can be extremely helpful to anyone seeking to play better golf and enjoy the game more. That feeling is my greatest pleasure and accomplishment.