As Seguin’s own Chad Donegan made his way down the fairways and around the course at the PGA National Professional Championship, he thought back on his roots as a golfer, and all the people from his hometown that supported him along the way.
Donegan, 47, qualified for the championship this year for the first time, held April 28-May 1 at Belfair in Bluffton, South Carolina.
He joined more than 300 PGA pros from all over the country for the right to play in the upcoming PGA Championship with top touring professionals from the PGA Tour.
“Going down the fairways, I reminisced about my junior golf, my friend Biff, and all of my family at Starcke,” Donegan said.
“I am so thankful for all the memories I have growing up in Seguin at Starcke Park, and the opportunities it has afforded me to get where I am today.”
“I started playing golf at Starcke Park in 1980,” Donegan said. A little leaguer, Donegan started playing with the help of a friend’s father, who began teaching them the game after he had broken his kneecap while playing baseball.
“I started off in a cast,” Donegan said. “We started hitting balls in the neighborhood and eventually found our way over to Starcke Park.”
He joined the team at Briesemeister Middle School, then played for four years at Seguin High School.
“Our senior year we got to the state championship (in 1989), where we got third in the state,” Donegan said. “We had a really good team.”
He had been accepted locally at TLU, but there was a problem.
“They had a really good team here, so I knew I was going to have to sit for a while,” Donegan said. “I played a test round with the coach at St. Mary’s in San Antonio, and he offered me a scholarship.”
But after just one year there, he knew he wanted come back to TLU.
It was a good decision, as he played for three years with the Bulldogs, the last two with the team making the NAIA National Championship.
“We finished in the top eight as I recall,” Donegan said.
The pro played at TPC Sawgrass and Tulsa Country Club in his two national championship appearances.
After graduating with a bachelor’s in communications, he didn’t stray far from home to get his start in the golf business, returning to work at Starcke with longtime pro Frank “Biff” Alexander.
“He was kind of my mentor growing up,” Donegan said. “I worked as a range kid growing up, and part-time in the golf shop.
“After I graduated, and tried the mini-tour for a little while, there was an opening for an assistant pro. That was my first job as a golf pro.”
He was at Starcke for about six years, took a job teaching at a driving range in New Braunfels, before getting the head pro position at Landa Park in New Braunfels.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do, so the job was a godsend really, just right up the road,” Donegan said. He took over as the general manager there in 2008.
Donegan has worked hard on his game throughout his career, playing in as many of the Southern Texas PGA sectional events he can get to every year.
But Sundays are usually reserved for his regular game.
“Most of my time off, I’m playing with my buddies in the Sunday game at Starcke,” he said.
Donegan qualified for the national championship in September at Victoria Country Club in the section championship, shooting rounds of 68-77-68-213, to make the top five and get the invite to the national tournament.
“There were 312 players representing 41 sections of the PGA across the country,” Donegan said. “There are about 29,000 members of the PGA, so it was basically the top one percent.”
“I felt very honored to be a part of it.”
Although his two rounds of 77-76 were not good enough to make the first cut, it was still a great experience for the pro.
“It’s a classy, well-run event, a national championship,” Donegan said. “It’s run like a PGA tournament, and the top 20 will be playing next week in the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.”
“Absolutely it was my goal to make it there. It’s kind of our opportunity through the section level to play in the PGA Championship. I feel like I finally reached the pinnacle of my playing career.”
Longtime friend and Seguin resident Paul Smith was on the bag for the pro.
“This is the first one we’ve been together on the big stage,” Donegan said.
The practice has already begun for next year’s tournament.
“I’m already gearing up for this year’s tournament (the section championship) in September, because the national championship in 2020 will be local, at Barton Creek in Austin.”
Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at email@example.com