BY CRAIG DOLCH-
As soon as he qualified for this week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, Patrick Rada heard the rumor:
The PGA of America was considering giving the Head PGA Professional at McArthur Golf Club in Hobe Sound the opportunity to hit the first shot early Thursday at Kiawah Island.
Rada, after all, grew up 3½ hours away from Kiawah Island in Anderson, S.C., and at 33 was making his debut not only in a major, but in a PGA Tour event.
Why not give him the honor of having the honor on the first tee?
Tuesday, the rumor became reality when the PGA Championship’s tee times were released, and Rada’s was atop the list. He will be first off No. 1 at 7 a.m. alongside Adam Long and Cameron Tringale.
“It’s going to be a very, very special moment,” Rada said. “Being in my home state is really significant to me. I’m going to have a great family contingent there supporting me. I couldn’t have scripted a better way to not only play in my first PGA Tour tournament, but also a major.”
It’s been an out-of-Hollywood story for Rada since he won a playoff three weeks ago at the PGA Professional Championship at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie to emerge with one of the final 20 spots given to PGA Professionals. It didn’t start well — he qualified for last year’s PGA Professional Championship, only to see the event canceled because of COVID-19.
That meant he had to do it again. Problem was, his second daughter was due during the South Florida PGA qualifier last September at Broken Sound in Boca Raton. Rada fully expected to get the call from his wife, and he was prepared to withdraw from the qualifier to be there for the birth.
Turns out Corinne was born the day after the qualifier, giving her dad enough time to qualify for another PGA Professional Championship. Now “all” he had to do was finish in the top 20 among 312 players to earn a spot in the PGA.
Rada was inside the top 20 in the final round of the PPC when he birdied the 15th and 16th holes on the Wanamaker Course. He then bogeyed the 17th and 18th holes, however, and his fate was in the air. Would he make a playoff?
Rada thought about a text he had received from McArthur Club member Bill Parcells — yes, that Bill Parcells — encouraging him before the final round.
“I felt like I would have an opportunity, and that’s all you can control,” Rada said. “Turns out I got the opportunity, and that’s all you can ask for.”
“He’s got so much game,” said Price, who has two PGA Championship titles among his three majors. “He could have made it on tour. Everybody matures differently. His game has really come on the last three to four years. He’s a wonderful player.”
Price’s advice to Rada for the PGA at the difficult Ocean Course — at 7,876 yards, the longest in major championship history — has been simple: Play your own game and try to enjoy the experience.
“Being able to have a relationship with Nick and play golf with him and pick his brain means a lot,” Rada said. “To speak to someone who has been to the top of the mountaintop is invaluable. He’s had a great impact on me.”
This week Rada gets to represent McArthur and the South Florida PGA at the mountaintop that is the season’s second major.
“Patrick is an unbelievable golf professional,” said Kevin Murphy, the Director of Golf/GM at McArthur. “He’s a great player, great teacher, great merchandiser and great with the members. They couldn’t be happier for him.”
And he even gets to kick off the PGA.
“Hopefully, I make a great swing,” Rada said. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. Obviously, the first shot is going to be one of many. I’m going to try and put my best foot forward with every shot and enjoy the experience from start to finish.”
Your honor, Mr. Rada. Play away.