Head Pro At Quaker Ridge Golf Club Triumphs At PGA Championship

Brian Gaffney went home with the trophy for low club pro at major tournament, the first club pro to make the cut since 2011.

Brian Gaffney is intense. How intense? His idea of relaxation is driving a Formula One racecar at 145 mph over Sebring International Raceway! 

That’s why it was no surprise when the head pro at Scarsdale’s Quaker Ridge Golf Club made it to the winner’s circle with Jason Day at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits this weekend. Gaffney, 44, won the trophy for low club pro in the season’s fourth major tournament.

His appearance was anything but ceremonial.  “I didn’t want to just be the club pro who got into the tournament and then played lousy,” he says. “I felt great about being on the leaderboard during the first round and was very happy with the finish.”

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Gaffney made the cut with strokes to spare and finished with a one-under 71 on Sunday’s closing round. 

“I felt good because I knew I had made the cut and would be playing on the weekend,” he says, “but I kept thinking that I’d left a lot of shots out there.”

How intense is that? Gaffney was the only one of 20 club pros who got to play on the weekend.  His first two rounds also outshined this year’s British Open winner Zach Johnson, as well as Padraig Harrington, Jimmy Walker, Graeme McDowell, and Tiger Woods.  Still, he thought he could have played a little better!

From the crowds shouting his name, to nearly showing up for the final round without his golf shoes, Gaffney says the whole experience was surreal. “My dad, my brother, and my wife were there. The members of the club couldn’t have been more supportive,” he says.

Saturday’s round was a big disappointment. Early in the round, he and his playing partner Chesson Hadley were told by officials they were behind pace by four minutes and needed to make it up. That just put extra pressure on an already-pressured game, resulting not so much in bad swings as minor mental miscues. 

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“On the sixth hole, I think it was, I was off the fairway down a steep slope, leaving me a blind shot to the green,” he says. “My caddie climbed the hill and gave me a line that I marked with a tower in the background. After I took my swing, the crowd was silent. I thought I’d hit it perfectly, but I’d lined up to the wrong tower so I missed the green.”

None of that mattered much on Sunday, though, when Gaffney collected his championship trophy. An interesting side note is that Met PGA pros have won three of the last four low club pro trophies. Greg Bisconti of St. Andrew’s won in 2009 and Rob Labritz at GlenArbor was the champ in 2010—at Whistling Straits. Gaffney was the first club pro to make the cut since 2011.

This may have been his first win, but Gaffney is no stranger to major tournament golf, having competed in the US Open in 2012 and PGA Championships in 2012, 2009, and 2000. Still he’s a club pro and recognizes the difference between his life and those on the PGA Tour. “We don’t get to compete under those conditions,” he points out. “Even the tour pros play in a major four times a year. I have been there, what, once every three years?”

Gaffney loves his day job, though. “I got home at midnight Monday and wanted to be the first person in the shop Tuesday morning.” He was there at 6:30 am, checking the day’s tee sheet, catching up on hundreds of congratulatory emails and phone messages, and getting ready to greet a constant stream of members wanting to shake his hand.  The media (including me) were there, too. “I don’t really know how many interviews I did Tuesday,” he says.

The highlight of Gaffney’s first day back home at Quaker Ridge, though, was joining a 14-year-old member to play a few holes at 6 pm before heading home for a little rest.

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