To earn your PGA Class A Certification, at some point you have to pass your Playing Ability Test (PAT) through the PGA of America. It’s offered about once a quarter in Arizona, and take it from me, it’s not easy.
By design, the test is as much mental as it is physical. It’s 36 holes in the same day, back-to-back rounds, and you have to shoot a target score. Today’s event was held at Ken McDonald Golf Course in Tempe, and the target score was 154 (+10). That’s two scores of 77 on a 6,300-yard course whose Par is 72.
There were 46 players in today’s field, including ten who are currently attending the Golf Academy of America. Seven of those ten, including me, are in our 4th and final semester. Overall, it was a very good showing by the GAA. Five of the seven 4th Semester students who took the PAT (my classmates) passed it, and seven of the ten current GAA students who took the PAT passed it.
Coincidentally, one recently-graduated Golf Academy grad in the field, Jake Miller, passed with scores of 65-64-129 and has a legitimate shot to play golf professionally.
Instead of the usual shotgun start, we had tee times. The first group went off at 7:30a. My tee time was 9:09a, and going in, I thought a little later tee time would be a huge advantage. I would get to sleep in a little later and get to tee off when it was a little warmer.
Then I saw some of the people who were playing. One guy hit two balls out of bounds left on the short, 346-yard Par 4 opening hole (no more than a 4-iron off the tee) and had to come back and re-tee, all but erasing the nine-minute gap between tee times. Let me ask you something. Why would you willingly pay $160 to take the PAT without knowing you have at least a chance to pass it?
Two balls out of bounds was just one of the reasons why it took our threesome about an hour and 15 minutes to play the first four holes and a little over an hour to play the next five. We finished our first round at 1:53p, just in time for the lady in the grill to hand us our boxed lunches as we headed back out to the first tee to wait some more. Our 2nd Round teed off at two o’clock sharp, and we walked off the course at 6:23p, just in time to see the sun disappear behind the clouds.
It was a little chilly to start the day, but temperatures quickly rose into the low 70s. I made the turn in 73 (+1), and then the wind picked-up and the temperature dropped. The plan I employed in the morning was completely out the window because of the change in wind direction. With just nine holes left to play, I still had seven strokes to spare. Then I hopped on the bogey train. All aboard!
Even though I could bogey out and still pass right on the number, there was a point when I started to wonder if I would ever make another par. But I did. I limped home in 79 (+7), and I passed… by two.
I’m proud of my accomplishment, but that said, I don’t ever want to have to take the PAT ever again if I can help it. Good thing the PAT score is valid for two years! No one can ever take this away from us, especially those of us who passed on our very first try. Here’s a list of all the Golf Academy students who passed:
PGA Playing Ability Test (Ken McDonald Golf Course, Tempe)
Brian Schamber 72-68-140
Tommy Martin 72-72-144
Andrew Tyrholm 78-66-144
Erin Sharpee 74-73-147
Dan Bubany 73-79-152
Corbin Disney 77-75-152
Brandon Sladek 75-78-153