Brian Gaffney is the head professional at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, New York. He is the first club pro to make the cut at a PGA Championship since 2011 and was the only one to do so in this year’s event after shooting 71-73. Gaffney followed with a 78 Saturday, and rebounded Sunday with a closing 71 to finish 71st. This is a look at his experience at Whistling Straits in his own words.
I forgot my golf shoes this morning for the final round of a major championship.
I was driving to the course for my 7:45 a.m. tee time, and I realized I was shoeless. Luckily, my brother was driving in a separate car behind me, so we pulled over and he offered to run back to the house to get them.
Every aspect of this week has been so surreal. All of sudden all of these emotions come through that you’ve been holding back all week. I really wanted to shoot under par, and on the last hole, my caddie said, “You know you’re going to make this.” And the putt went in. The feeling was one of pure relief.
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As I was walking down to the 17th green, the fans were yelling, “Go get ‘em Brian.” I looked up, then everyone in the two big bleachers started clapping. I thought, “These people have no idea who I am, but I’m loving this.” So I took my hat off, then gave them a few fist pumps. I wanted to give them a little recognition. On the final hole, they were cheering so, so loud. They kept getting louder and louder, so I was fist-pumping again. I felt this strange emotion, I don’t know if it’s relief, exhaustion or what, but I got back in the moment and made the putt.
This course is so challenging. It’s really amazing: The really difficult holes, I played great. It’s the easy holes I messed up. That made all the difference.
After my round, I was sitting with my family and Sean Foley came up to say a quick word of congrats. When is that ever going to happen to me? I’ve written this before, but my interactions with Kevin Streelman are what I’ll remember most from this week. When I saw him on the range, he gave me a wink and said, “Nice job.” After my round, someone told me he walked behind me and gave me a fist pump of congrats without me even knowing. At lunch in player dining, I went over to say thanks, and he took the time to talk with me about my week. That was really cool.
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No one comes to my tournaments back home. I’ll just call them at the end of the day and tell them how I did. It’s so great to share this week with my wife Allison, my father, my brother and my childhood friends.
What did I learn this week? First, I learned how to keep the smaller details organized. When do I need to be out of the rental house? When should I pack my stuff? Getting will call passes for people, the lay of the land with the locker room, all of those little things. I would love to be the ambassador for the PGA and conduct a webinar for all 20 guys who qualify next year. Only use new clubs if they will help you hit the shots you’ll face that week. Don’t come here to get new clubs and be wooed into wearing a different type of clothing. We’re on our own here in this type of environment. There’s no structure. People can get in your circle and complicate it, and it can be hard to block out all the noise. I think that’s something I could pass on.
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I might be the first one back at Quaker Ridge Tuesday morning, just to prove that I’m dedicated to my job. I might not get a lot done the first few days, but it will be great. After a week off without a tournament, I’ll play in the MET Open at Winged Foot.
As low club pro, I got to hang around and be a part of the trophy ceremony on the 18th green with Jason Day. How cool is that? This entire week has been such an honor, and I hope I represented my club and my family the best I could. As I walked off the final green, my shoulders just finally gave out, and I wanted someone to hug me without having to hug back. I just needed to be squeezed.