Local pro Gregory headed to PGA Championship
A Burleson golf professional has earned the rare opportunity to compete with professional golfers in one of the most prestigious events in the game.
Greg Gregory, assistant pro at Hidden Creek Golf Course, is one of 20 golf professionals who will compete along with 136 professional golfers in the 99th Professional Golf Association Championship, Aug. 10-13, at fabled Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C.
Gregory, 44, qualified for the tournament – considered one of the Tour’s four major tournaments – by finishing tied for ninth place among the 312 players at the 50th PGA Professional Championship June 18-21 at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Oregon.
The PGA reserves the top 20 spots at the Professional Championship for entry into the PGA Championship, a chance to win the Wanamaker Trophy and a share of $10.5 million in prize money.
The PGA Professional Championship is for those who earn a livelihood in the business of golf such as public or private golf course head pros, assistant pros, teaching pros and college head coaches, Gregory said. (Visit pga.org, employment, career planning.)
“There are a lot of good golfers out there, they just don’t play on Tour,” Gregory said. “Although the winner in Oregon, Omar Uresti, played on Tour.”
Uresti, 48, a teaching pro in Austin, earned a first-place prize of $50,000 and became the second-oldest PGA Professional Champion, behind only Sam Snead, who was 59 when he won in 1971.
Gregory had rounds of 70, 73, 71 and 74 for a four-day total of 288, even par, even though he bogeyed two of the final three holes. He qualified for Sunriver at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas.
“I am very thankful to the city of Burleson and the staff at Hidden Creek for accommodating my request to play in Oregon,” Gregory said. “There was a lot of shuffling of schedules so I could be away and I am grateful to (director of golf) Dave White and (head pro) Mike Krsnak for making it happen.”
The HC staff are happy for Gregory.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment,” Krsnak said. “We’re all very proud of him.”
Earning a birth in the 2017 PGA also qualifies Gregory for the 2018 PGA Championship next August at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.
Fellow Texan Jimmy Walker is defending champion of the PGA Championship. Other previous winners include Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan.
Gregory’s parents, Sheri and David Gregory, live in Burleson and are planning to be in Charlotte.
Gregory, who lives in Joshua with his wife, Kristi, was born and raised in Everman and attended elementary and high school there. He played golf at the University of Texas at Arlington for four years while earning a degree in marketing.
He turned pro in 1996 on the same day as Tiger Woods and, at Q School, missed qualifying for the PGA Tour by one shot. He started playing mini tours, played on the Web.com Tour from 2000-2003, then stepped away from the game for six years to be home with his daughter.
Expenses on the Web.com Tour are about $1,000-$1,500 or more per week for caddie, air fare or gas, accommodations and food, Gregory said.
“Entry fees at the lower levels are very high because there are no corporate sponsors,” he said. “Players are competing for their own money. At the big leagues, the sponsors are corporate.”
Gregory stopped playing golf for five years, returned to the Web.com Tour, then decided to enter the business of golf and give back to the game as a club pro.
He became an assistant pro in Fort Worth in 2009 and was friends with former Hidden Creek assistant pro Chase Smith. When Smith went to a head pro position in Houston, Krsnak contacted Gregory about the opening in Burleson
The business side of golf, known as golf professionals, also requires PGA certification and includes directors of golf, tournament directors, teaching pros, pro shop managers, food and beverage managers, and others who serve the business of golf and are eligible to play in the PGA Professional Championship.
It took Gregory five and one-half years to qualify as a Class A professional, which made him eligible to play in tournaments held Monday and Tuesday throughout North Texas.
“It was tough, like going back to college,” Gregory said.
The Monday and Tuesday tournaments have higher entry fees because the golf professionals are, again, playing for their own money, Gregory said.
“The higher you go on the tournament scale, the lower the entry fee because the Tour tournaments have corporate sponsors,’ Gregory said. “There are no sponsors for the Monday and Tuesday tourneys.”
The PGA Championship is considered the best field in professional golf, Gregory said.
“It’s even stronger than The Masters or the U.S. Open because it includes the top 136 Tour pros,” he said.
Gregory has never visited Quail Hollow, but will be able to play practice rounds Sunday through Wednesday prior to the first round on Thursday, Aug. 10.
He is eligible for a share of the record $10.5 million in prize money.
“You don’t go thinking about the money or trying to make money,” Gregory said. “You go there just trying make shots. You just try to play the best you can, make golf shots the best you can and get around the course without any distractions. If you make money, that’s great. If not, it’s a great honor to play.”
Gregory must still decide on a caddie.
“I am agonizing on that one,” he said. “I’ve already received my player packet and noticed that each player gets a Mercedes courtesy car.”