PGA Championship 2019: Long Island club pro in mix thanks to swing tip from wife
FARMINGDALE, N.Y — Jason Caron arrived at Bethpage Black on Thursday morning as an under-the-radar club pro. He’s one of five professionals from New York’s Metropolitan section who qualified to play in this week’s PGA Championship, but his peers had received more media attention heading into the first round. This year marks Caron’s first appearance at the PGA, but you wouldn’t know it by how he played.
Caron cruised to an even-par 70, with three birdies and three bogeys. On the beast that is the Black Course, Caron’s score was good enough for T17 when play was complete.
Caron came into this week trending up. After finishing 4th at the PGA Professional Championship in South Carolina (which qualified him for this week’s PGA), Caron won the Met PGA Head Pro Championship, shooting 67-67 (10 under par) in Connecticut, then shot a six-under-par 64 to claim medalist honors at a local U.S. Open qualifier at Rockaway Hunting Club. The secret to his success?
“Last year, my wife gave me a tip, getting my hands a little more in front of me,” Caron said after his round. “It just kind of clicked and it’s been working great, and I carried it over. That’s all I’ve been doing. We haven’t been practicing much. The play has been good so my confidence is there. I think that’s what it’s all about.”
Caron’s wife, Liz, is a teaching pro at the Mill River Club in nearby Oyster Bay, where Caron is the head pro. In her amateur days, when she was Liz Janangelo, she was the NCAA player of the year at Duke University and notched two wins on the Symetra Tour after graduating. Liz played on the 2004 Curtis Cup team alongside Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie and Brittany Lang.
“Liz has played in 11 majors,” Jason said. “You should interview her!”
Liz was onsite Thursday, walking 18 holes with the couples’ oldest daughter, Caroline, who is 6. When I told Liz that Jason had credited her tip with his good play, she laughed. “Jason always says if I had his mind and he had my swing, we would be a perfect team,” she said. “He just handles the pressure so well.”
Caron has plenty of professional playing experience. He played two full seasons on the PGA Tour in 2000 and 2003, and was on the Web.com Tour from 2001-2010. But the PGA Championship experience this year feels totally different from the week-in, week-out Tour grind.
“I’m not really taking anything for granted,” Caron says. “I’m just having fun. I would love to qualify for events, like the major stuff. That’s all I have any interest in. I want to watch [daughters] Caroline and Julia. I don’t like being away from them.”
Caron has a deep familiarity with the course. The New York State Open is held at Bethpage Black each year, and Caron estimates he’s played the course over 30 times in competition. In the last seven years, only three club pros have made the cut at the PGA Championship. Caron is in good position after one round, and has no plans on shaking things up on Friday.
“I’m not going to change anything,” he said. “I’m going to have a beer and some wine tonight, and have whatever we have for dinner. I have soccer practice today at 5:30, so I’ll go to that. I have nothing to lose. I’ll just go play, and hopefully it’s good enough.”
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