“What did it feel like to take your first swing on the PGA Tour?” Ghaffar said.
McGirt held a smile as he tried to find the right words.
“It was pretty fun,” said McGirt, who first qualified for the PGA Tour in 2010 and recently regained full status for the 2012 year. “To be out there every week with the best players in the world on the best courses … there’s nothing like it.”
McGirt made the cut in 19 of 32 tournaments this year, earning about $530,000 while finishing 141st on the PGA money list. He also enjoyed some celebrity status as he was the last man in the FedEx playoffs, which earned him plenty of air time on the Golf Channel and during events.
Even though he made more cuts than any other rookie, he didn’t make the top 125 on the money list, and had to return to PGA Qualifying School to keep full status. He handled that with a 13 places finish in the grueling six-round event.
McGirt fielded questions from roughly 20 youths of the Jamie Locklear Golf Academy as part of a free golf clinic Tuesday afternoon at Pinecrest Country Club. Along with the academy kids, more than 20 other golf enthusiasts turned out for Tuesday’s free event, which went off without a hitch despite the rain-riddled morning.
From the moment McGirt began speaking, the kids were wide-eyed as they hung on every word the PGA pro spoke.
He spoke of his golf upbringing — choosing the golf course over the baseball field, winning his first tournament at 17 years old and competing for Wofford College, a school he jokingly said “nobody’s heard of” — and preached to the kids the importance of not just playing golf, but practicing. And doing lots of it.
“I can’t tell you how important it is to practice chipping and putting,” McGirt said. “It’s something you have to learn by repetition. Through doing it over and over again … A normal day of practice for me is probably about five hours.”
Locklear was pleased to see the golfers in his academy nodding along with McGirt.
“It’s awesome for these kids, it’s going to motivate them,” Locklear said. “It’s going to make my job a lot easier, especially for them to practice. They love to play golf but the practice … and obviously William has just always put the time in at practice.”
Following a Q&A session, capped by McGirt recommending TaylorMade golf apparel as he smiled and doffed his TaylorMade hat, McGirt and the attendees herded outside where he showcased a swinging session underneath the pro shop’s patio roof as he hit from a mat onto the rained-upon links with a variety of clubs.
With his irons, McGirt demonstrated hooking a shot as if his intended path was blocked by a tree, striking a ball low during high winds, and even showed his left-handed swing for when it is the only option.
He saved the driver for last to the approval of the onlookers egging him on.
“You want to see 220 (yards) and crooked?” McGirt said.
The he drove it straight and about 280 yards as the ball disappeared into the rain.
Reach Sports editor Kaleb Roedel at 910-272-6111 or email@example.com