Clem King swaps his business operator’s persona for that of a professional golfer with hopes of on-the-course success this week, and the transition is challenging.
His ball-striking is fine, but King, the Country Club of Lexington’s general manager, finds little time to hone the competitive edge needed in high-level competition. His biggest obstacle, he said, in the PGA of America’s Senior Professional National Championship will be the mental side.
“The (Carolinas PGA) Section championship and the Columbia city tournament are usually the only real competition I play during the year,” he said. “It’s so difficult to keep concentration at a high level without playing a lot competitively.”
King will join the 264-player field in Port St. Lucie, Fla., with an eye on earning a spot in the 2015 PGA Senior Championship. He said his chances “will boil down to my putter.”
“The mental side of the game is toughest for me at my age and at that level,” he said.
Now 56, he has qualified for this championship before, making the cut in California and getting in position for one of the 35 spots available in the “big” Senior PGA. But ... “I double-bogeyed the first hole and didn’t hit a bad shot, and it’s tough to keep your concentration after that happens,” he said.
Some in the field are retired or have jobs that permit frequent play. Others, like King, have a club or pro shop to operate, and business comes first.
“I come in and start putting out fires,” he said with a laugh. “In my six years here, I have had every intention of getting out and playing at least once a week with members, but this is a busy club with a lot going on.
“I don’t think I’ve played my own course more than four times this year. I just got out of a meeting to discuss a new maintenance building. We have the food and beverage part to take care of, receptions and such, and there is supervising the staff. There’s no off-season in the golf business.”
King sparkled at the University of Virginia and won the 1980 Virginia State Open, but the combination of coaching his alma mater’s golf team and raising a family led to the club business. He has been in the Midlands since 1989, working at WildeWood, Columbia, Camden and now Lexington country clubs.
He gets a taste of competition Sunday and Monday in the Palmetto Cup matches that feature teams of pros against top amateurs, then heads to Florida for practice rounds Tuesday and Wednesday.
He looks at the 72-hole tournament this week “as an opportunity I will try to take advantage of,” he said. “But at 56 and with other good players (turning 50) coming into the senior competition on a regular basis, my days are numbered.”