A 61-year-old teacher at PGA Championship

It's a bit of a fairy tale as only golf can provide

by Andrea Gussoni
A 61-year-old teacher at PGA Championship
© Getty Images Sport - Warren Little / Staff

It's a bit of a fairy tale as only golf can provide. Through qualifying events, the PGA Championship, as we know, offers around twenty spots to PGA of America teaching professionals. Last year, Michael Block made headlines by playing exceptionally well (finishing 15th).

This time, even before the first drives are struck at Valhalla, the heartwarming story revolves around a 61-year-old pro from Oklahoma, Tracy Phillips.

Pga, story

Considered in his youth as one of the best junior golfers in America, Tracy Phillips nevertheless did not pursue a career on the professional circuits.

Blame it on a few injuries, but mostly on a problem that some pros have unfortunately experienced: the yips. Like the Breton François Delamontagne, it was driving yips that kept Tracy Phillips away from tournaments. For over 20 years, he completely stopped playing competitive golf.

"I was completely disgusted with my game," he explained in a confession to Golf Digest in 2020. "I tried playing in a few regional tournaments. I even attempted the Asian Tour. But I was spraying it everywhere. I decided not to touch a golf club in tournament play for 20 years." Alongside Michael Block at Valhalla After briefly trying out several professions (fisherman, caddie), Tracy Phillips became a golf instructor.

After 20 years of hiatus, he slowly returned to competition in senior events where his talent quickly earned him good results. The yips had vanished. And the fairy tale came true. In the qualifying event for the PGA Championship in San Francisco, Phillips clinched a spot by finishing in the 8th and final qualifying position.

The Tulsa-based instructor will therefore play in his very first Major at 61. He will be at Valhalla from May 16th to 19th alongside Michael Block, another instructor who lit up the tournament last year by finishing 15th, including a hole-in-one witnessed by his partner Rory McIlroy. Golf is truly a sport for a lifetime, where all dreams are possible, even after 60...