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Tracking your son on the PGA TOUR

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Numerous tourneys as a youngster led to future long pro stretches

By Bobby Brockman

 

While watching John “J.B.” Holmes in last week’s PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, one might not see his father, Maurice, if they did not know where to look.
“When J.B. was younger and playing in junior events, high school, even college I made it a habit to stay in front of the group and help find golf balls when the players hit them,” Holmes explained his positioning earlier this week. “Even though as a professional there are a lot more people to spot errant shots I still find myself out front when he is playing.”
Some of the not being directly behind his son is probably also a sign of the of the many tournaments he’s observed.
“It is still stressful watching him play even though I feel I am better at it than when he was younger,” Holmes said. “You always want to see your children do well no matter what age they are.
“But, there is no comparison to the stress level to when he is playing compared to when I played baseball or basketball as you were involved and had a release for any pressure you were feeling.”
Holmes was a stand-out pitcher and also played on the Taylor County High School’s  1974 state tournament basketball team before a solid diamond career at Union (Tenn.) University.
“The nervousness is not as bad now as it was for me as when he was in junior golf and high school  but it is still a pretty good level when he is in contention.”
Holmes was sure J.B.’s best sport was golf, but it took awhile for his son to realize it.
“From the time he was really little I knew he had talent playing golf but I think it came in levels of accomplishments,” Holmes said.
“There has been a big thing made about him playing golf for the high school team as a third grader, and that is an accomplishment, but I didn’t think it was that big until he started beating high schoolers.
“Then when he started on the state’s junior tours and won the first four events he was in then you realize he is pretty good in his own age level. I think becoming a first-team all-state player as an eighth grader was the first time I thought that he is one of the better players in the state and still one of the youngest.
“Through all of this John still loved baseball the best and was good at it, but this also was about the time he realized that maybe he should concentrate on golf more and give up baseball.
J.B.’s next step was to get to play in college and that opportunity came in the form of a full scholarship to the University of Kentucky — something that was basically unheard of then. And, another hurdle was reached and goal accomplished.
“The next level was to see how he stacked up in the college game and in the SEC which was an outstanding golf conference  and he showed that he was going to be competitive as he placed eighth in his first college event.
“After a very successful freshman year he was chosen as one of the top five freshmen in all of college golf, then you start letting yourself see his dream of playing professional golf as a reality even though you knew there was still a long road to travel. 
“Probably the biggest thing to forecast his success as a pro is when he qualified for the U.S. Open as an amateur.  He was low amateur at that qualifying event and there were a lot of TOUR players in that field, I mean a lot and a lot of names you would recognize.
“When he made it through that qualifying event he came up and gave me a hug as I congratulated him he said ‘I knew if I could ever get a chance to play against them that I could compete with them.’”
J.B.’s college career continued with a lot of success and making the Walker Cup team to represent the United States and was chosen by the SEC coaches as the best player in their conference before turning professional.
“The scariest time I guess is when he turned pro and had to go through Qualifying School, but he basically breezed through all three levels and got his card and as they say the rest is history,” Holmes continued.
While J.B. has had enormous success, his schedule is still a hectic one that most common folks can’t understand.
“A typical week for a tournament will consist of him flying to the event on either Monday or Tuesday.  When he gets there and checks in he will usually hit balls and practice for a couple of hours and then play nine holes and maybe practice more on the range after that and then may work out.
“On the Wednesday before the event he may be required by the TOUR to play in an 18-hole Pro-Am with amateurs which sometimes takes four to six hours.
“Each day of the event he’s usually at the course a couple hours before his tee times to get stretched and worked out by a trainer plus work on any sore or injured areas before he plays.
“An hour before his tee time he goes and hits balls and practices putting for his round. The round could take anywhere from four to five and half hours. After the round then he usually goes and practices again especially on anything that he feels that wasn’t as sharp as he wanted during the round. He then goes back to the trainer to work out any injuries or tightness in his muscles to prevent injuries.
“His whole day may be eight to 10 hours. He does that four days in a row and then packs everything up and moves to the next event.
“Plus, his expenses go on whether he wins the event or misses the cut.
“This is a lifestyle that sounds glamorous, but you go live out of a suitcase for five weeks in a row and see how glamorous it seems.
“John has a good life, but it still is a job in a lot of aspects.
“He has got a lot more accustomed to the travel but when he first started he said that he would wake up in a hotel and try to remember what city he was in.
“It is tough that he doesn’t get to see family and friends as much as he would like to. For example, he has been home one time since Christmas and that was because the PGA was in Louisville and he got to come home for basically one day to visit family and then headed back to Florida to start practicing for the start of the playoffs, which could be four straight weeks as long as he plays well and he would be in New Jersey, Boston, Colorado and then Atlanta.
“Then he’s off for Thanksgiving and Christmas, all the time practicing for the beginning of the west coast swing with two events in Hawaii the first of the year. Then he would get a few weeks off and the 2015 season starts and he will play in California and then two weeks in Kuala Lumpur and China.”
While Holmes is J.B.’s mentor, he does not help out on the links as much now as he does in other things.
“John is grown now and my golf knowledge is probably going to be a detriment to his game instead of a help. His Mom (Lisa) and I are still there for anything he or (wife) Erica needs and I still help with some of his bookkeeping and bills as while they are on the road they still have the same bills coming in that everyone else has in maintaining a home and business and I try and help in a small way as a contact person to make sure some of those situations flow smoothly.
“We still have a really good relationship with John and he and Erica always make us feel welcome and wanted for visits or to come and watch when he plays. The biggest adjustment for me was that he grew up playing golf with me and those times are too few and far between any more.”
Holmes can’t predict on how long the 32-year-old J.B. will play professionally.
“I think he will play as long as he can and then maybe even on the Senior TOUR after that. That may change when he has children. He may want to play less and be at home more or just incorporate raising kids while still active on the TOUR like so many players and their wives do.
“I think as long as it can stay fun to play he will continue to work and stay out there.
“He will be the first to tell you that he is very blessed to be chasing a little white ball for a living and appreciative of where he was born and raised and all the support he receives from Taylor County and Kentucky.