Jeff Fought hits out of a bunker at Big Meadow. photo provided
Jeff Fought hits out of a bunker at Big Meadow. photo provided

Jeff Fought, a Sisters resident and director of golf at Black Butte Ranch, has qualified to play in the 2013 Southworth Senior PGA Professional National Championship. The tournament will be held in Virginia October 10-13.

This prestigious event is for PGA golf professionals, not professional golfers. Unlike professional golfers who make their living playing golf, golf professionals work in the golf business.

As director of golf at Black Butte Ranch, Fought doesn't have much spare time to practice or play. He oversees two golf shops and two fine golf courses. His responsibilities include all golf operations, shop operation and merchandising, golf course condition, managing people and budgets, running tournaments, customer service and much more.

"I generally get to the golf shop around 5:30 in the morning six or seven days a week, working until 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Hitting balls and practicing afterward is the last thing on my mind," he said. "Especially the last few years. The golf industry was hit hard by the recession. It's been tough and we've had to work harder and be better to continue to grow the game."

Most of the players in this event aren't running golf courses. Most are teaching professionals who aren't responsible for the day-to-day operation of the facility and have more time to practice and play.

While his work schedule doesn't allow for lots of practice and playing, Fought is still one of the top players in the Northwest.

"I tried to be a professional golfer and make a living playing golf for two or three years," he recalled. "The travel, staying in cheap hotels; it would grind on you. They didn't have the big mini-tours like they do now where you can make a decent living."

So Fought decided to support his family by working in the business side of golf.

Over the years he learned the business while working at several golf courses, both public and private and also worked for a golf management company. Fourteen years ago he was hired to run the golf operation at Black Butte Ranch.

"My love is golf," he said, "and while I still love playing, my passion became running a great operation."

Fought qualified to play in the championship by finishing fourth in the local PGA section tournament: the Pacific Northwest PGA Senior Championship at Oakbrook Country Club in Tacoma, Washington. The national tournament is one of the biggest in which a golf professional can participate.

"It's a big-time tournament," he said. "It's an adrenaline rush. The last time, I got caught up in the whirlwind of hype and forgot to play my game."

Fought played in the same event in 2011.

"This time I'm not going to put extra pressure on myself. I'm going to play every shot and just enjoy the experience."

He's taking his son Jeffrey as his caddie.

"It's a special opportunity," he said. "I'm looking forward to going to Washington, D.C. with him, seeing all the monuments and sharing love for our country and its history. That's more important than the tournament.

"I love what I do," said Fought. "I love the people, the game and what it stands for. It's the greatest game of all."

The Senior PGA Professional National Championship is a four-day event held on two golf courses near our nation's capital. The 264-player field will be trimmed to the low 70 scorers and ties after the second round. The 35 low scorers in the championship earn entry into the 75th Senior PGA Championship held in May of next year. Results will be posted on www.pga

tournaments.com each day after play is completed.