Jack Seltzer felt pretty good about qualifying last year for the 2012 PGA Professional National Championship. After all, the 61-year-old had shot a 1-under 71 for his third and final round at the Eagle Eye Golf Club in Bath Township, Mich., to make it into the event by a stroke. Even though his drives often were 40 yards shorter than other competitors’. Even though it had been 19 years since he had last qualified for a PNC, which is the showcase tournament for PGA club professionals.
Seltzer felt a real sense of accomplishment when he considered what he had done. But what moved the man who now works as an instructor at the Kendall Golf Academy in Ypsilanti, Mich., even more deeply was the realization that he was not going to the championship alone. For there on that same list of qualifiers, four strokes better and a bit higher up the leaderboard, was his 33-year-old son, John.
That means the Seltzers are in Northern California together this week, vying with 310 other players at Bayonet Blackhorse in the Monterey Peninsula town of Seaside for that prestigious title. No father-son duo ever has played the same year in the PNC, which is being contested for the 45th time. And no one appreciates how unique and special that achievement is better than the Seltzers.
“It’s a dream come true,” says Jack, who first put a golf club in John’s hands when his son was 2 years old and still remembers when the kid beat him for the first time, at age 15. “It’s a big, big deal for me.”
Son John, head professional at The Polo Fields Golf and Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich., is just as enthused. “It’s not something I ever expected to happen,” he says. “Especially with Dad being 61. He’s a great player, but it was quite an accomplishment for him to qualify for the PNC at his age. He’s the one who got me interested in the game. He’s the one who taught me how to play. Now, we are playing in this tournament together.”
This tournament is turning out to be quite a family affair for the Seltzers. Jack’s caddie is his daughter Stacey, while John’s is his finance, Amanda, who carried for him at last year’s PNC. Other friends and family, including Jack’s wife of 40 years, Pam, are making the trip. Father and son played practice rounds together in the days leading up to the tournament. And two days after the PNC is over, John and Amanda are getting married, in a private ceremony at a restaurant in the Carmel area, with a total of 20 people in attendance.
“My family and most important friends are going to be out here for the tournament, so we thought it made sense to arrange the wedding at that time as well,” John says. “It will make the trip out here that much more special.”
The Seltzers have had lots of time to plan the wedding, and to think about playing in the PNC together. They secured their spots last August in the Section Championship at Eagle Eye. Father and son found themselves in the same group for the third and final round, and it marked the first time they were paired in competition.
“They were taking the top 12 for the PNC, and John and I were both tied for 35th at that time, at 148,” says Jack. “We were the first group off of No. 10 that day, and we figured it would take 68 to qualify.”
John Seltzer played lights out, shooting a 5-under, bogey-free round of 67. And, in many ways, his stellar play made it easier for his father.
“I was watching him, as any Dad would watch his son, and enjoying how well his was hitting the ball and scoring,” Jack says. “That meant I wasn’t paying much attention to my game. At least until I got to the last hole. Then, I realized I was 1 under.”
As one of the first players in, Jack Seltzer had quite a bit of waiting to do before he could be sure of his fate. Three hours, to be exact. He noticed the course was playing hard. And he saw that the scores were high. High enough that his 71 got him in.
“I’ve been able to do some very cool things in golf,” says Jack Seltzer, reflecting on a career that has included playing in 15 PNCs as well as five PGA Championships and eight Senior PGAs. “But I have never experienced anything in golf as good as this.”