For J.R. Roth age is simply a number. The 62-year-old is in the field commencing this Thursday vying for the coveted Wannamaker Trophy at the 102nd PGA Championship. Playing on the big stage is not a rare occurrence for the Michigan-based PGA professional. He is competing in his 6th PGA Championship — the first coming in 1988 and the most recent happening in 2004.
Yes, he’s the oldest player in the field, but for Roth age is simply a number.
What makes the PGA Championship unique among the four majors is the connection between those playing the game at the highest of levels — via the PGA TOUR primarily — and those on the front lines serving regular day-to-day golfers. Roth works at the BOYNE Golf Academy in Harbor Springs, MI and will be among 20 other club professionals who earned the right to be at Harding Park alongside the biggest names in the sport. The PGA of America, the event’s organizer, has long set aside spots in its flagship event so that golf professionals, at various levels, can intersect with one another competitively.
Make no mistake about it — each of the 20 is not making the trek to Harding Park simply to ride the famed cable cars. Roth has had a long and storied record playing competitive golf in his home state and he understands thoroughly what kind of golf will be needed when play starts.
Born in Milwaukee – Roth grew up in Plymouth, Michigan. He was introduced to golf by his father Bob, and his mother’s brother, Tony Loncaric.
“My mom and dad — Bob and Dolores — gave me the opportunities to play all sports and encouraged my participation,” stated J.R. “I loved baseball, basketball and golf. Around the age of 14 I hit the fork in the road and committed to golf full speed ahead.”
In order to remain at a competitive high level, Roth has assembled a winning team that clearly has his best interests in mind. “My wife Maureen, has been a huge force in helping me with mental toughness, staying focused on the task-at-hand, and growth as a golfer,” says Roth. “She knows my game, has caddied for me in TOUR events, and was on the bag for me in 2011 helping me to my best finish ever in a TOUR event — the US Senior Open at Inverness in Ohio where I finished 15th.”
Make no mistake about it — being 62-years-old requires J.R. to take added steps in keeping his game at a high level, “Dr. Rick Jensen has had a huge impact on how I have organized my practice and preparations for tournaments and golf seasons over the last 25 years,” said Roth. “His one-on-one mentoring, his books, and just listening to him speak when I might call him for some words of advice have been so appreciated thru the years.”
Over the last two years, J. R. has been actively working with Michael Romatowski’s MACH 3 Speed Training which has helped him “move better” in his golf swing. “Developing speed, an awareness of where speed happens, golf specific strength, improved balance and an inner confidence that the intent of the speed creates efficiency in my swing under pressure has helped me to compete against younger talented golfers as I reach into my 60s,” said Jeff.
Gainbridge LPGA R1
The journey for Roth has been a special one. While no club pro has won the PGA Championship in recent years the possibility exists for one or more of the 20 club professionals to add a surprise factor with this year’s championship.
Teeing it up at Harding Park and playing alongside the best players in golf is clearly something Roth relishes, however, the daily interactions with those he meets at BOYNE Golf Academy are even more special.
“Being a PGA member for 37 years has been fabulous,” adds Roth. “How we as PGA members impact the everyday golfers to better the golf experience is the bottom line. The best thing about the PGA of America is how it has expanded job opportunities for men and women in the golf business over the past 40 years that I’ve been involved in the game as an apprentice and member.”
When Roth arrives at the first tee come Thursday he can use for motivation what another 62-year-old long time club affiliated professional accomplished at the 1974 PGA Championship. Sam Snead finished in a tie for 3rd at Tanglewood in North Carolina, a facility like Harding Park, is also municipally-owned. Can magic happen again 46 years later?
For Roth, boundaries are a line he’s prepared to cross — proving you’re as young as you feel.