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home : sports : sports   April 29, 2016

7/30/2014 10:32:00 AM
Q&A: Tim Puetz

La Salle-Peru graduate Tim Puetz has spent his life pursuing his passion for golf. He is the assistant teaching professional at the Huntington Country Club on Long Island, N.Y.’s north shore. He’s also chasing a professional career as a player and competed in the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open in March.Submitted photo
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La Salle-Peru graduate Tim Puetz has spent his life pursuing his passion for golf. He is the assistant teaching professional at the Huntington Country Club on Long Island, N.Y.’s north shore. He’s also chasing a professional career as a player and competed in the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open in March.
Submitted photo
Jared Bell
NewsTribune Sports Writer

Tim Puetz has made his passion a profession.

A 2000 La Salle-Peru High School graduate, Puetz has spent the last nine years as a teaching golf professional and has played in numerous pro events, including the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open in early March.

A former winner of the NewsTribune Men’s Area-Wide Golf Tournament, the 32-year-old is currently an assistant teaching professional at the Huntington Country Club on Long Island, N.Y.’s north shore.

The NewsTribune recently caught up with Puetz to discuss his career, his future and winning the NewsTribune Golf Tournament as a teenager.

What are your duties and responsibilities at the Huntington Country Club?
I’m charge of all of our instruction. I run the ladies clinics and our men’s clinics as well as the junior golf programs that we have here, which are pretty extensive. We also have a program called ‘Practice with your pals’ which is a four- to five-person practice session that keeps me pretty busy. I also give private instructions and I have a pretty good following outside of the club that I teach off peak hours.

I stay pretty busy giving golf lessons, and part of my job as a teaching pro is to play golf with our membership and go to pro-ams. I take trips with them and we also do a year-long play with your pro competition where I play every Friday and Saturday with a different group of members and we have a season-long tournament, plus whatever tournaments I play in during the summer. It can get pretty crazy.

Since you’re so busy during the summer, is the winter your time to relax or go play down south?
There aren’t as many hours of daylight during the winter, which gives me an opportunity to rest (laughs).

During the winter, I still teach in Florida and am a freelance teacher at PGA National (Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.). I have a lot of my New York clients who will come down and stay in the resort and I’ll do two- or three-day golf schools for them. I travel a bit, too, and I play in a lot of tournaments in the winter. We play in our club pro winter series events, and I try to qualify for every tournament that I can and play on a lot of mini tours.

The wintertime is definitely very nice because the summertime is so busy, but I really love what I do.

As you mentioned, you play in events over the winter and last March you qualified for the Puerto Rico Open. What was that like?
It was a dream come true, and it was nice to see all the hard work pay off. It was encouraging because there’s not that big of a difference between the guys out there making all that money and a guy like myself, in my opinion. It gives you hope and makes you think that with some hard work and a couple of good breaks that could be me someday, and that’s really the goal.

It was also thrill for my family and all those who helped get me where I am at today. I couldn’t have done it without other people helping me along the way.

When you say there’s not that big of a difference between you and the pros, what do you mean?
Really, they are human and they hit bad shots, too. They didn’t hit the ball much farther than me and the striking isn’t that much different. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t playing against Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy, who I’m sure I would say, ‘Wow, they are on a different level,’ but it’s just a matter of catching a break, having the ball go your way a couple of times and getting a little bit lucky, and the next thing you know you’re out there.

I guess what I mean more than anything is just that it’s such a fickle game and there is such a fine line. There’s not this glaring difference (between them and me).

If you compare it to another sport like basketball, if you play in the NBA, all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Wow, these guys are way taller, they jump way higher and they are way faster.’ That wasn’t the case. I’ve played with guys like that before and I can do what they do, and that’s the beauty of golf. It’s more of a game against yourself. You don’t have to be the most gifted person physically to compete at the highest level, which I think is the neatest part of the game.

You won the Long Island PGA Championship at the end of the May, including winning the final match 5 and 4 over a close friend. How exciting was that to win?
When you play in these other tournaments, you are kind of nervous but you just have to say to yourself, ‘I’ve done this before when it matters the most in a PGA event.’ Knowing that keeps you a little more calm and makes you believe. So much of golf is just believing in yourself and allowing the good stuff to come out, and I really felt that Puerto Rico helped me with that. I’ve been on quite a roll up here and I’ve had a lot of really good finishes.

I know you want to attend the PGA Q School and the European Q School this fall. What all does that entail and what’s the path?
I’ve already signed up for the European Tour Qualifying School.

For the European Tour Qualifying School, there are three stages. The first stage is in Italy in September, and if you make it through that event you go to the second stage, which is in Portugal in November. If you make it out of that, you go to the final stage, which is in Spain in December. If you make it to the final stage, you’re guaranteed status for at least the Challenge Tour, which is like Tour (in the U.S. as it’s a developmental tour). If you finish in the top whatever at the final stage, you get your European Tour card.

The second round of the Illinois Valley Men’s Golf Championship, which replaced the NewsTribune Area-Wide Tournament, is Sunday and you won the NT Tournament in 2001. What do you remember about winning that tournament?
That was a huge win for me at that time.

I was 19 years old and I had to sleep on the lead after the first round at Senica’s Oak Ridge. That whole week it’s kind of a big deal in the area because it’s in the paper, so there was a lot of pressure on that second round. Then I had to go to Mendota and play against one of the guys who is most responsible for me taking up the game of golf, Fred Steele.

I watched him when I was 11 years old win the NewsTribune Tournament and I thought it was so cool. He was this shorter guy with gray hair that hit the ball farther than anyone and won this prestigious tournament. I remember thinking, ‘What a neat game. You don’t have to be the biggest guy to be the best.’ I just liked the way Fred handled himself and how much class he has. I think he signed his golf ball and gave it to me, but here I am eight years later playing with him and Jim Moskalewicz, my golf coach at IVCC, in the final round.

I remember Fred made a charge on the back nine. He put together a couple of birdies and we were about even when I hit it into the water on the 12th or 13th hole, but I ended up chipping in for par. On that hole, Fred had about a 10- or 12-footer for birdie and he three-putted. I ended up birding the next hole and had a three-stroke lead all of a sudden.

It was a big deal for me to win against all these seasoned pros. It was nerve-wracking, but I really think playing with Jim Moskalewicz had a calming affect on me. It was a win that I’ll always remember.

Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.

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